Sunday, 18 December 2016

A Hike Along Difficult Terrain

The talk so serious, 
For such a time.
Then his humour,
The penetration of those phrases,
A first for me, in this life.

A first for you?

Yes! That talk
His words,
Ah, those words…

You were intoxicated?

But of course!
Such a strange guide,
Then his path so difficult…

Of course I know
There were times
I didn’t follow; 
I accept it, I admit this.

But then, surely, but who…

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Human, All Too Human

His friends,
Pleasant little birds,
Are flying away.


His words
Too large,
Too imperious.

But why?

Think of a hawk
Raiding their territory
For prey.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Schauspieler Maske

We feel it; a cat curled up to a warm radiator.

Think of a door, a furnace behind it; think of heat pulsating through steel, which is turned into transparency, into glass. Out of this dark place, the basement of a building, its coal mine of a night, a tropical mirage.

Sitting in the auditorium while the actors cover us with warm blankets.

The eyes are closed. The mouth hardly open. Keep out! My face is shut to you. No one is allowed in here. Staff only! No cook wants the guests to see his dirty oven.

A gigantic lightbulb in a blacked out room.

Garish. The simple emotions the actor is creating in us. The colours burst out, like flowers through leaves. It is Spring; painted by God in his infancy.

Waves of warmth lap up and into the stalls.

Hair wild in the wind; each strand drawn with mathematical precision, with a pen, with a ruler. We think of chemicals bubbling inside a retort. Yes. This man a scientist, he is a technician, calibrating his performance with an exact measure, to each millimetre.

It is not easy being your own experiment.

The head pulsing with heat; the emotions carve bumps and crevices into the beautiful geometry of a young face.

Flames seeping through, wrinkles of heat cracking the smooth surface, which is melting… The human will out! A bud pushes through leaves; the mask giving way to the spirit inside it. This man will have his say.

Schauspieler Maske. A monument to movement.

The hair a carefully drawn storm. His head some pompous stone. The colours psychedelic swirls on a middle-aged matron; her mini-dress dancing in the dark, whose reds, green, whose yellows are flying off, spinning out into the air. 

A sculpture bursting its bounds. Klee defining his art.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Sister Speaks. The Palace Burns

Not so long ago,
Of some weeks only,
The summer palace
They so quickly built
Is in ruins.

His dreams, hopes, his mad desires…

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Rain, Steam and Speed

How often do we read the art critics and think: you’re making all this up; your words fantasies; a painting merely the spring board from which you jump into your imaginary swimming pool; four sides of an echo chamber containing nothing but secondhand screams, reverberating cries; the heavy breathing of Sigmund Freud. Poor Sigmund, thinking himself so natty in his tight bathing trunks, he crawls over a Kandinsky colour study in blue, pink and green. “Ow!” He has scraped his knee on a cracked tile. How many times do we think this? Too many times.

Splash! Yelling his head off, he’s having fun! fun! fun! Capering about, he soaks us with his ideas, as we sit demurely in our deck chairs, watching his words diving up and down, feeling them splatter the bright blue tiles, the red of our feet and thighs. “Fountains of joy bring the rain of pain” is my softly spoken response. Katerina wriggles, giggles, throws the magazine onto the floor. “I’m joining you!”

Here is a mythological reading that tells us something new…

Thomas argues, comes extremely close to showing, that this train represents Orion, whose destiny is to forever hunt but never kill his prey. Turner’s train always to stop short of the hare. Two centuries of thought have been overturned. A painting famous for depicting speed, the symbol of the modern era, is revealed to be its opposite; a work of classical art; action in stasis; its figures rooted to the past, in a tradition. The meaning not in the naturalistic rendering of movement, but in the myth that encompasses it.

In myth we discover the truth. These shapes are going nowhere. This is a picture only.

Katerina grabs Inigo around the waist. Twisting around his torso, she squeezes up and kisses him on the cheek; calling me to join them. Soon she is sitting on his shoulders, waving and smiling and shouting: “Come on. Come on!” I get up, shout back and run…

Monday, 29 August 2016


He’s fighting the window and it refuses; that’s right, old man, it refuses - can a window refuse? no matter, this one refuses - to open.

And his face, you say? Well, it’s raining. Friends for ten years; since student days; friends for ten years before he stopped, before he shut his ears, to all their chatter.

That talk; those wonderful asides; all that history - yesterday’s clouds, rain that now ruins everything.

Yet still he fights. With fists and curses. That damned window! Closed still. He watches through a storm of arms and hands the sad faces of his friends.

Through the glass, frosted by his tears, he sees…

He has one last go to pull it down; to grasp…The glass will not shift; the train leaves; and he sees… He sees his friends; they refuse, old man, to smile or wave; sculptured to the platform.

Alone in the carriage he cries at cows; munching grass, they look at him from the fields, ruminate on his passing by.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

1789 (or the Romans Return)

What you do think, you higher men? Am I prophet? A dreamer? A drunkard? An interpreter of dreams? A midnight bell? A drop of dew? An odour and scent of eternity? Do you not hear it? Do you not smell it? My world has just become perfect, midnight is also noonday, pain is also joy, a curse is also a blessing, the night is also a sun - be gone, or you will learn: a wise man is also a fool.

Did you ever say Yes to one joy? O my friends, then you said Yes to all woe as well. All things are chained and entwined together, all things are in love; if ever you wanted one moment twice, if ever you said: ‘You please me, happiness, instant, moment!’ then you wanted everything to return! you wanted everything anew, everything eternal, everything chained, entwined together, everything in love, oh that is how you loved the world, you everlasting men, loved it eternally and for all time: and you say even to woe: ‘Go, but return!’ For all joy wants - eternity!’
                                       (Friedrich Nietzsche)

A monumental sleep
Whose ancient dreams
Awake on tomorrow’s avenues.
The body snores, groans
Is moving…

Across the centuries
Great artists work
Peopling the streets 
With ill-remembered gods…

        A sprightly Cicero
Defeating an old tyrant.
Now the republic wakes, rises, 
Puts on it antique dress,
Its Brutus the guillotine.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Painter

His eyes are dangerous.

Like all hard men he is scared. Making enemies that will hurt him, he is peeping over the wall; worrying about his head, thinking will it stay there…

A criminal looking out for the police.

Wary of this street, the city, his own little world, a whole being is concentrated into a look; his gaze two gun barrels staring at some woman walking by… Bang! Bang!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Exciting Sights

War brings out the best in us. This is almost a truism. We think of the old folks reminiscing; always they return to a few exciting years when life was wild with fun. 1939 to 1945: what a great time that was! lost to them forever, except in anecdotes wrinkled with smiles. When youngsters we did not understand our relatives: why does death excite them so, why does it make them happy; surely they should be sad and scared? Confused, we went to the history books. They did not help us much. The mental atmosphere long since faded away, only the novelists can recapture these years; a period when emotion tuned to the highest pitch, and then sustained for impossibly long periods of time, people became perennially excited, euphoric, intoxicated… It was like riding the longest, most frightening rollercoaster in the world. Amazing! Exhilarating! Let me off! Don’t you dare! Oh, what a lark it is.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Clouds Look Different From Above

…all these modes of thought which assess the value of things 
according to pleasure and pain, that is to say according to attendant 
and secondary phenomena, are foreground modes of thought
and naiveties which anyone conscious of creative powers 
and an artist’s conscience will look down on in derision, 
though not without pity.
                             (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Alone on a mountain
He is laughing,
At this carnival of clouds,
A circus treat,
Dogs and dwarfs
Travelling to another town.

The sky’s majesty dethroned
Before two penetrating eyes.

He smiles
At his own conceit.

But pity overcomes him 
For those below
Struggling in the foothills.

What! Pitying fools?
He laughs at these sights
They will never reach.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Look Underneath

It has all the rudiments of farce. Yet there are few laughs here. For when these rudiments are reordered by magic - when reshaped by Estelle’s Square of Power - they produce a finely tuned domestic drama; the comedic mishaps becoming the ironies of man’s complex moral fate; where intentions, pushed out of shape by omnipresent circumstance, turn into their opposites; good producing bad, evil giving birth to saintly self-sacrifice.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


Improvised While Listening to a Speech by Nicholas Serota 
and Thinking of a Poem by Frank O’Hara
in an Old Music Hall
in Hoxton

Angela de la Cruz has produced a work of history. An impressionist piece, it suggests the spirit of this gallery; its large life crammed into little rooms, the restrained vitality, its relentless will, seeping out between the cracks of its old confinement; we think of a dam creaking, on the verge of breaking… The control panel lowers the water level; and pianissimo, its notes trickle through the door, into a crowd watching this clock eclipse the moon. We wait. Under Chris Ofili’s memories. Under an iconostasis illuminating this tiny triangle, the Pocket Park, a plaza awash with civilities; the harpsichord lost amongst their gathering tide, whose waves carry us off to Hoxton Hall.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Painful Time

Out of love comes superstition. Intense emotions make the feelings fragile, and this is made worse by our complete dependence upon the person who generates them, producing a desperate need for security, that increases exponentially when the lovers are separated; Bendrix fraught with anxiety because Sarah lives with her husband. Wild passions, mixed with this wretched need for a stability that can never be gained, awakes a mental turmoil that seeks magic solutions to this state, it is an illness, that cannot be resolved, will not be cured, until the emotional temperature cools. Charms. Occult words. Astrological charts. We need them all, if we are to survive such intense affairs.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Seated Woman

The face lost to the distance.

This hand. It is a palm! a tropical growth on a craggy dress; its planes of slate; its rocky mountainside. The leaves like sausage dogs, sniffing around the cheek and lip.

Her thoughts a hot air balloon.

The gas jet firing above, we do not hear the painter’s words: “move your head to…to…yes, to the side; and look up; yes…yes, and…up, up, up just a little more, look up towards that window. Wonderful! Now let the leg drop easily. And think of something beautiful; think of a Raphael; think of Botticelli, of the Primavera. Marvellous! Now create a painting in your mind. Draw it slowly, and very carefully; the window, do you see it? is becoming a frame, and inside there is a door; it opens slowly; and you are watching this door, you watch it opening onto God’s grace, the light of reverie, that carries you away, that takes you… That’s it! Fantastic! Keep it there. And… In your hand you are holding a cup, the hot tea seeping through the porcelain, warming your fingers, relaxing them; giving you a warm glow. That’s it. Yes, you are a picture! The brushes will describe you well. They will; oh yes, yes…they are!”

Monday, 2 May 2016

Sneaking In...

All are criminals. War does this to people. It stretches the moral order until it breaks. The rituals of peace being lost, the ideas linked to them disappear, freeing the inhabitants to build their own lives out of the rubble that remains. So much liberty! And love is its symbol. Love. The biggest, most sustained air raid to hit London during the 1940s.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Beautiful Collapse

At first we don’t see it. Then we do: it is Roe, he is a bore. This is what strikes us most, above everything else, above even…but we will come to that… Above all other things the hero of this book is an exceedingly boring chap.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

No No Mr Jones

You could work, you could say something, you could see where to climb, to fix what you said, you could see a clear flight of steps. You worked from bottom upwards, but suddenly this staircase was spiral, it had no end. You worked on, somewhere there was an end to these stairs, somewhere you could stand. Silence was long, had a leaden weight, so that you could feel this as you worked, from bottom upwards, you knew there was somebody about, someone in the forest of rounding stairs, someone who would watch. You would work on, and suddenly you came on him, he spoke, and you laughed, silence was broken, you had met one who understood your language.

A tour de force about a night in the Blitz is also an allegory about the artist in society; and we, the other residents in this boarding house, who watch Clem and Lena carry a painting up and down the stairs, are more likely to belittle than to understand him; what he does too strange, so bizarre, too eccentric to be easily understood.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Soft Power

Theodor Fontane tells it straight: Sidonie von Grasenabb is a “43 year old maid”, who likes to attack society for its immorality, and is particularly scornful of the young. 

Here she is different. Sidonie von Grasenabb is an attractive woman who living comfortably with her husband appears to enjoy extra-marital affairs - with both sexes.

Rainer: what are you doing?

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Crumbling Prison of Old Ideas

we strive to acquire one emotional
stance, one viewpoint for all life situations
and events: we usually call that being
of a philosophical frame of mind.  
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

Balanced finely on his heel tip
He swirls around
A lion on his back
His sword in the belly of its mate.

Two thousand years and more
He has killed this animal.
Today the carapace cracks,
Splintering, falling…

Armour and beast
 Flow as water 
  Down his back
   To rest as dust
     At his feet.

A smile drops out,
The last stone breaks;
And kicking aside the rubble
He walks into the sun.

I wait until he returns…

As a young woman, 
Her flamboyant skirts
A wild carousel
Swirling around her heels.

The lovers clap and sing.

Saturday, 19 March 2016


The man’s back: a cliff insouciant before a sea battering helplessly against it; we think of the White Cliffs of Dover grinning at the French. 

The man’s face is invisible. We imagine it relaxed, composed; a sailor sure of himself in charge at the ship’s wheel.

A ship making its steady way through turbulent waters.

We struggle to describe this sea; its wild mania refusing to be straight-jacketed by our sentences. The words flounder. Similes go overboard, and are lost.

The sailor is looking at the horizon. He has no need of our words; flotsam from another world, wrecked before he set sail, they are destined for some deserted shore.

Images are emerging. The waves are like… They are like…they are like a large herd loose on an undulating plain. Such monstrous beasts! mad heads shrieking at an angry sky; hooves stampeding the rolling water into a raging foam.

The sailor has tamed many a wild horse. He is happy here.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Midlife Crisis

It is the fantasies that condemn us. Like a dream continuing into our waking life, they pull us forever back into sleep; away from the world; its liveliness, its fun. So lovely these dreams; too lovely; their dazzling images an enervating drug, that weaken's the mind’s resistance, slowing it down, making it sluggish, that makes it dull. And so quickly: a sunlit street becomes a waterlogged marsh that grabs, that pulls, that sucks us down. 

At first so exciting soon these dreams bore us. The same old pictures repeating themselves day after day, it doesn't take long and we’ve had enough; are screaming: throw that damned zoetrope out! It is too late. Like horses in a carousel these dreams cannot run away. And we... We shout. We cry: let us off! let us off!  The attendant has disappeared; and the merry-go-round goes around and around, round and round, around and around and round.

Friday, 26 February 2016

“You Lightweight! You’ll Never Understand… Never!”

Walking slowly
He’s carrying a case

It is large and battered,
It bulges and sags,
Always it is passing by.

Everyday the same. One day…

Friday, 19 February 2016

Putting the Pieces Back Together Again

An artist should avoid the big themes. They are too vast for him. We imagine Atlas holding the earth on his shoulders when some jester suggests adding the moon. A few gods get together and…heave ho! up it goes. Our poor hero. He sighs. He creaks. Wobbling he slips…and…they all laugh as the old Titan runs after his bouncing balls.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Red Shawl

The face peers out, cautiously.

Out of a heavy mass of stone and its rigid geometry a woman is emerging. We imagine a dawn; a cherry tree sprouting on a rocky mountain side.

Yesterday’s ideas still hold her within their stark and weighty outlines.

Warily she looks around. Alert and vulnerable; a young guard on a watchtower, afraid of every sound; a bird cries; a squirrel runs along a tree… 

The body holds her down. To pull herself out of it, like a man out of a cave?

The eyes have moved. The lips are about to speak. Her expression forms. The once perfect circle is thickened by cheeks ripening into maturity. Already her head has shifted to the side; away from you the artist - the too solicitous parent. 

It is the shawl.

The shawl winds about her hair, snakes around her head, slivers over her chest to fall down her arms, where it slides underneath her breasts; that blossom under its touch.

Behind the red dawn, the blue and grey night.

The sun melts the hard and heavy forms of a frigid art. Soon the breasts will rise up, the arms fling themselves into liberating joy. And the stone, with a ripple and a swing, the stone will crack and splinter, and fall. Her skirt twirling above the rubble her feet joyfully kick and ecstatically crush.

Eve is reborn as a woman.

The frames - there are so many! - cannot hold her. Already she has outgrown the smallest one. Its blue a window: an invitation to a new day.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Flying High

Suspended in the air, we wait for the ground to float up to us. We wait and wait until…we are waiting no longer: we are flying! Max Steiner held aloft by the chords of Popul Vuh.

The song must end. Skis touch snow. Steiner’s hands are aloft. A huge crowd is cheering. An ecstatic Werner Herzog runs towards his hero…

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A Visit to the Zoo

So obvious! The source of its simple power. The symbol is like a passion; and like hate, and like love, such a passion, because so strong and so direct, overflows all sense - we feel the force but cannot comprehend its meaning. Symbols, it seems, do not have to be subtle or complex. Indeed, this play suggests that the more obvious the more difficult it is to define them. It is the very obviousness that makes the symbol vague; creating uncertainty and a feeling of mystery.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Osmotic Tendencies

How easy to turn the greats, the bona fide geniuses, into gods. How clearly we reveal our own poverty. How little, to use the language of today, do we understand what makes them great. In truth we must bring them down a bit; closer to our much lower level. Geniuses are men and women too. Their talents due not to magical powers, but to the ordinary attributes concentrated to an extraordinary degree.