No … no! I hate it when you get just a hint of something and have no means to seize the rest. Fragments of dreams, a fugitive memory too fleeting to grasp.
The first brushstroke, ultramarine … and … a mind-bending shock.
There’s something in that stroke. Something huge. A threat: a promise.
Someone’s screaming inside me: danger!
Yes, artists of all types know people are made of many people are made of many people… On a paradoxical, even humorous, note – they rarely agree.
I study the untouched area of canvas. My cramped studio, an old pantry, watches me … constricts. I glance, tense, at my paint-daubed easel, stand oil on the dead fly-covered windowsill, brushes in a paint-smeared jar. There’s no escape; that brushstroke pulls me back.
Part of me is repelled … burn the canvas … another part fascinated. I’m hungry to learn what’s happening.
OK, fascination is going to win. I know me: screw the risk.
Brush, palette – an old margarine pot lid – here goes. Three more brush strokes and my arms begin to shake. Sod them, that won’t stop me.
Sky it is… Blue. Ultramarine at the top, cobalt centre and cerulean on the horizon. Just the usual, but the painting isn’t. Who’s painting this … me? I don’t think so.
Well, maybe it is an aspect of me but not one I’ve seen before. No matter that my mind screams stop! Some part of me forces this on.
With a crumpled tissue I blend the paints and remove any trace of brush marks.
Titanium, slate grey? how did these appear on my palette? Oh, I vaguely remember putting them there.
A skull, a human skull, devoid of flesh and hair, appears under the sky. Empty eye sockets stare up into the blue.
A ribcage? What’s that about? This will never sell. This collection is for a commercial exhibition; flowers, pretty young women, seascapes … light through trees… It makes me shriek. 90% of my meagre income comes from decoration. Poor paintings – they’ll be bought to adorn living room walls and looked at once or twice. Maybe visitors with nothing better to do will gaze into them when conversation becomes screamingly tedious.
I know so many brilliant artists who can barely earn enough to eat, whose marriages have broken up because they can’t work at a ‘real’ job. I think of their works and want to howl at the injustice. It’s not like you get millionaire celebrity bus drivers or carpet layers; we’d be quite happy on that sort of money.
Hell’s teeth! my eternal whinge has distracted me. What on earth am I painting here?
I don’t remember doing the grass and plants that half-obscure the bones. Wow! didn’t think I could paint yarrow in such exquisite detail. The delicacy of the tormentil astounds me.
OK, whatever part of me is painting should have been at work right from the beginning of my career.
This one is going to a serious buyer.
How can I paint while my body fights so hard to stop? Fright and flight, fear-sweat, aching, trembling … and yet so calm within.
I yield like prey with no hope. The process of painting is in command.
I’ve painted my death, no, behind the paint, beyond, far beyond death – its struggles, and even life, long forgotten.
I know this place. I was here before. I came from here!
Absolute silence and stillness I could never comprehend while alive. Maybe that’s why I was once in all that whirl of distraction, noise and confusion and uncertainty and…
So I could return here and know perfection … and rest.
©Gary Bonn, 2016