A couple of days ago I learnt that I’d been accepted into Ning’s Artist Book 3.0 group and I’ve been busy uploading images to albums on my Ning personal page.
In the process of looking again at works I’ve not viewed in some time, I’ve found new significances.
Here’s a couple of pages from The Books of the Dead 1. I’ve added the word correspondences to these pages. The Dead in BOD 1 are family members – a younger brother and both parents – who died one after the other in a very short space of time (8 months) while I was living in Dubai and transitioning to Grand Cayman.
The deaths all but curtailed my artistic work, at that time and for a considerable period of time afterwards, as I had no choice but deal with their very tangled and entangled affairs, while cope also with the process of an immense domestic move from the Middle East to the Caribbean. I did not come through unscathed. But hey, here I am at 2 in the morning, the morning of my 65th birthday, writing this blog!
Correspondences is the name of a poem from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Here’s a pertinent excerpt (the second verse) from a translation I like, out of a selection of translations. It’s from a web site dedicated to Les Fleurs du Mal.
… like echoes long that from afar rebound,
merged till one deep low shadowy note is born,
vast as the night or as the fires of morn,
sound calls to fragrance, colour calls to sound.
Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)”
“… sound calls to fragrance, colour calls to sound.” And here:
“La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles …”
Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let emerge, at times, words that mystify;
Beings pass there, across forests of symbols …”
I think living pillars are trees and also humans. And Baudelaire seems to be saying that to get to this place to catch the word that is allowed to fall – like a leaf falling from a tree perhaps – is a long and uncharted journey.
On the two pages in the picture above, are three collages. On the left-hand page, at the top, is a photograph of an Anglo-Saxon church effigy; below it is a blue circle inside a black oblong. I plucked the oblong (as one plucks leaves from a tree?) from Microsoft’s Powerpoint. It’s a header for a presentation. You put text inside the circle. It was only during the process of putting the book together that I saw how the two forms – the effigy and the black oblong – corresponded. But not why.
On the right-hand page is the header again, but upright. Inside, I’ve put the head of the effigy, again, upright, rather than prone. Surrounding the black oblong is a photo of a lace collar. It’s one of two my mother bought from a store selling ladies’ islamic clothing in one of the northern emirates. We had driven out there when she visited us in Dubai.
Arranging the collage, the collar – with its organic, floral motif – created a natural gothic-type arch around the black oblong. Looking again at this, I realised that the black oblong represents not just death, but constructed death, death made by humans. The white collar – standing for nature and everything natural – surrounds the black oblong. The oblong is fixed, immobile, unable to move as it has not the means, in stark contrast with the lively organic lines of the collar. The collar is not merely just a decorative counterpoint to the solemn oblong; it is a halo and also, wings. The weight of constructed death, surrounded and lifted away by the lightness of natural life.
Constructed death. For sure, my father chain-smoked his way to death. Then, biblically, death didn’t exist until The Fall – that great catastrophe personified by Adam and Eve.
There is much in this one image that is personal to me and my relationships with both my parents (for the effigy is of a knight and represents, therefore, my father). I won’t go into that, except that looking again has given me deeper insight into the workings of my parents, who were largely absent from my life in any but the physical sense and the reason for that is that they were largely absent from their own. It’s likely symbolised by the empty blue circle in side the black oblong.
The image I’ve made has clearly been waiting for me to look at it again. Have you looked again recently at some artworks you made some time in the past? Did you learn anything new from them? I’d like to know.
Okay, that’s enough about death. It’s time for bed and then some birthday fun.