I made a decision to do this, or something like this, last October when I heard the fat lady sing. I have heard her since, doing vocal exercises at the end of the long corridor or in an upstairs room in another part of the building. I have so far managed to cock a deaf ear to her melody. How this discourse will proceed I am not sure but I am hoping it will be as much fun as breaking sticks, really big ones.
At the time that I heard the lady warbling I was working through a preoccupation with a freshwater spring on the bank of a river not too distant from my house. It is an ancient place, the spring spills into an adjacent stone reservoir, which was probably constructed for the washing of clothes but has the appearance of a bathing pool.
In my illness a sense of panic briefly gripped me and with it came an overwhelming sensation from my childhood, that of lung bursting. air gasping. near drowning. In my pillow propped world during the middle watch my drifting mind would centre on my medieval pool, and my breathing memory would whip up the water. This pool was no longer one conjured by Cirlot, it was my Drekkingarhylur, my own personal water board, and no delicious Gail Strickland to keep me afloat in my drowning pool.
So what to do with the privileged knowledge that comes with this experience, do you reach for the fat and felt like Joseph. As a youngster eager for the RCA I flirted with a swimming pool and quantities of etched glass, but it all lacked conviction. Water was too complex and universal, at once profound yet full of cheap and easy metaphor. Water had not yet seeped into my bag. The information, privileged as it may be, is however commonplace. Men are clutching their chests and thudding to the deck every few seconds or they are being carted off with any one of a dozen different organ failures. Yet for each as that bulb flickers, those minutes, if survived, are a very singular experience, inexplicable, unimpartable, unique to them; so what to do with my thoughts?
Well I could rush to the barn and knock up a water board with oak planks, wire and a green plastic bucket or I could work up a sketch, a plan and commission one in marble from craftsmen in Malta, Milan or Hankow. The problem with this is that I belong to the wrong gang. Its always been a problem being PC, (post coldstream) and being BG (before goldsmith) has made life incredibly challenging.
The distress one has caused, seen, felt, the joy, danger, fear experienced, shared, whatever, should feed into ones practice. The practice is paramount, theres a mantra for you. Give a boy a mantra at the right moment and you could screw up his life.
My mantra, for what it is worth, was given to me by my first drawing teacher, Angus Macauley. Mac had been a Coldstream pupil, and although I took much of his Slade Coldstream teaching on board it was not a complete fit. What did pass through the pores however was the total necessity to scrupulously study, search, hone, trim, amend, check and probably chuck, well just completely exhausting. The coldstream product, always charming, often looks too tentative, quiet, unfinished, that's because every one is just knackered with all that constant reappraisal. The dot and line easily becomes mannered, and will seldom make you miss a beat, but in the hands of a master like George or Euglow you will forget you were hungry.
AGED AND AWKWARD