This is probably the largest painting I have made to date. At about 75 x 60 cm it is not huge by any means but it is at the outside of my comfort zone with oil painting. This image was based on a small invented landscape I did months ago. The photo – snapped with my iPhone in my studio – unfortunately does not do it much justice.
I am back in South Africa for some time, assisting with the memorial service for my father. Sifting through old boxes of keepsakes, deciding what to keep and what to give or throw away – it feels like I am moving though thick liquid.
Jet lag aside, the strange drifts of sadness and melancholy that sweeps my heart during the day makes me feel strangely alive and desperately tired at the same time. I recall reading about the painter Constable’s sadness after losing his wife. He wrote something like: “All is desolate and dark – still, the darkness is magnificent!”.
Perhaps these are the sort of things one should keep private; act like a ‘grown man’ in the spirit of Rilke’s poem:
But the grown man shudders and is silent. The man who has wandered pathless at night in the mountain-range of his feelings: is silent.
But I keep imagining someone coming across a blog post like this one – much as one finds a message in a bottle on the beach, and finding a strange comfort in it. And the thought of someone being comforted by my experience, gives me comfort too.
Lying awake at 2 am, I think again of Pessoa and his wonderful prose. He wrote:
To shrug off all duties, even those not assigned to us, to repudiate all homes, even those that weren’t ours, to live off vestiges and the ill-defined, in grand purple robes of madness and in imitation laces of dreamed majesties … To be something, anything, that doesn’t feel the weight of the rain outside, nor the anguish of inner emptiness … To wander without thought or soul – sensation without sensation – along mountain roads and through valleys hidden between steep slopes, into the far distance, irrevocably immersed … To be lost in landscapes that are like paintings … A colourful non-being in the distance …
Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)
Before my flight to South Africa, I wrote a friend and gallery owner who had invited me to exhibit at his gallery. I told him about the death of my father and asked to postpone our planning for the exhibit.
Wisely, he said not to worry about the practicalities but to focus on getting closure. He also mentioned: “when you return you may find your painting style had changed”. I am thinking that might actually happen.
To get closer to the truth, closer to that strange melody of caution and hesitation that has never left since childhood – if I cannot get that to show in a painting, why bother? What a wonderful opportunity to delve into the heart and love the questions inside.
Thanks for visiting. I hope you are happy and content.