I’m staring at the fan, she’s in the bathroom, and she has the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.
Sucked into the narrow middle at the last hour, the horizon where we will meet, surrounded by death, with one foot in the door to infinity. The sand will fall through into dead space and if we join hands and hold them out into the void, the dirt of our grave will graze our pale skin. There, you will hand me the pen and I will write on the door, frantically scribble the only things that matter, poems for those who come after, who dare to see death within the face. Creak, creak goes the hinge, grace our shoes with crusted paint that falls but never fell. There is no time at the door to infinity, in the middle of the glass that contains the hour.
If you want to know more about what I’m trying to say, read this post: https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/09/05/things-are-falling-apart/
There is a fire in my heart.
But it will not spread.
It is a low flame gathering at the base,
burning the roof of my heart to a crisp.
The life of my flesh, the only river that returns,
burnt into the ceiling, like meat forgotten on the grill.
But in this the pulse remains,
That when I die and you think my soul at peace,
You’ll reach into me with blunt knives you bought for cheap
And find inside a piece of me
burning over a fire that won’t recede
Pitter-patter on ripple’s clock
Paralyzed, wet, in a concrete fold
Waters tango the arc of back
Of divided mind over matter whole
Cold morning showers after staying up all night depressed and anxious are quite an experience. I hop into the icy stream every morning. Shivering, my bloodshot eyes staring at the square patterns on the bathroom tiles, I go through a playlist of Argentine tango tunes. Everything is so angular; responsible and ready to take on life. I’m not. I’m a coward shivering in the darkness, showering with an open door because I like light without the source. My mind is racing at a speed I’ve probably tried to figure out five times just in the last ten seconds. I’m confused, divided, in a bathroom that’s got its shit together.
Every pain is a new day. It washes itself in Lethe and comes to me in twilight wearing the clothes of yesterday. Like a baby, it falls into my arms, wraps its hand around my finger and squeezes it until white starts to show. And I…ah…I squirm like a boy because I can’t father it. And yet, peace is with me; in the way it drools, twitches and turns, in how its eyes never look at the same things I do because it has no notion of betrayal or death. It will never question my arms. It looks at me and for a vicarious moment, the world becomes my oyster. I sigh, reassured.
This piece is about how pain feels new every time. It’s so easy for me to find security in this self-destructive low that I’m going through by devaluing life and finding peace in not caring about my existence here.
This is so because it brings me down to a place where all the lights go out and I’m allowed to be truly myself, or rather forced to be so. My pain gives me the luxury of not caring about anything else. I don’t have to worry about what people are going to think of me if I am who I really am because life’s not that great anyway. And in facilitating this perspective, the dark thoughts become my greatest ally as an artist.
This piece is basically about how I’m like the father before I allow myself to feel the pain and how I turn into the baby after I do. And I always choose to feel. Because just like a baby inspires a father through an effortless expression of near-perfect isolation from all that is so wrong about this world, my painful self like a babe in “yesterday’s clothes” reminds me that if I allow myself to feel pain, I can get to a place where I only need to be seen and not complimented, where I can be myself without worrying about what other people are going to think. It enhances the need to express and brings out the artist in me. It gives me purpose and peace. That’s why I never hold back. I feel it all.
Pain/ my painful self will torture me, make me create things that are honest to my experience, and then it bathes in Lethe and forgets all about what it did to me. The creation of art is where that baptism takes place. That’s what puts the face of a babe on pain. I’ve always said that the art I make does not necessarily heal me, that it solely arises out of a necessity to express. Maybe it does heal. Maybe it’s just that I go through the cycle way too fast. This could be because of many reasons. Like how little rational thought is involved in these escapades down rabbit holes that lead straight into hell or the abundance of new associations and pathways that I create every day, new ways to get to the same bottomless pit. Same liver, new eagles.
If I ever make a lot of money I plan to make a beautiful house that doesn’t exist outside of me but exists with me. This will be so because it will be a reflection of who I am. Given above is one of the rooms in the house. It’s got a giant opening facing the east. The room will have virtually no corners, making it look like the inside of a sphere. It will very like be a light beige, white or cement-like colour. There will be very little furniture except for a few ingenious mounds of clay or cement rising from the floor which can be used for sitting, lying down, storing things etc. There won’t be a piano like in the drawing. I just put it there to create a balance between subjects in the drawing. I plan to sit here in the morning, contemplating and reflecting on all that intrigues me.
You’re in a room with your family at Christmas. Everybody’s home. There’s lots of food and laughter to go around and joy is in the air. Your daughter brings the family photo album and places it on your lap. She crawls under your right arm and tells you she wants to hear stories about everyone in the room. You smile and skim through the photos. Some of the people in the photos are in the room with you, by the fireplace, under the mistletoe, giggling in the kitchen. Some are not.
Looking at the photo of a person who is in the room with you is very different from looking at the photo of a person who’s no more. Nostalgia and memory have a way of being distinct in such moments.
I’ve always been freaked out by the idea that photographs exist, moments captured in time. The best photographs, however, are not ones that capture but ones that host memories. It’s graceful. It’s like the memory walked into the photograph of its own volition. There’s no hint of forced retention. It is but a moment that floods. It reminds me of Impressionist paintings. Their subjects were not mythical in nature but local; captured as a moment of the fleeting. This is the very thing we find cameras do well.
This brings me to Ravel, one of the greatest composers of all time. Here’s a video by Nahre Sol if you want to have some idea about who Ravel is:
This is the first piece from Ravel that I listened to. It was performed by Martha Argerich and it absolutely blew me away. I’m not classically trained and I have no idea what the technical difficulties are when it comes to composing or performing a piece like this but the passion that I felt as I listened to it was so powerful and pure. It was almost like somebody had taken a perfect photo of me and I was falling into it, experiencing all the intricacies of movement made still.
Many people don’t consider Ravel to be an Impressionist even though he is from that period. But if you ask me if I think Ravel is an Impressionist, I wouldn’t know how to say he isn’t.
This post is about Le Tombeau de Couperin, which l was listening to the other day.
I, being the philistine I am, had no clue what it was about. I was just another musician enjoying music. But as I listened to it, an image started forming in front of me. Unlike the usual visions I have, this was a still image. There was no movement. It was almost like a painting. Bright colours were set against dull and the brushstrokes were conspicuous but not messy.
What I saw first was a girl in a bright red dress. She was picking flowers in a garden and she seemed very happy, blissful at least. There were houses in a light beige in the background. She wasn’t looking at anything. Her eyes were set on something above the horizon. After lingering on her for a few moments, I was taken to another still image. This was of an old man. His clothes were not in focus but his face was; extremely so. He had a very thin beard and for some reason that seemed important. He had a worn hat on his head and he was holding a shovel. He was not using it but had stuck it into the ground. His right hand was still on the shovel but he was looking at something. The moment I asked myself what he was looking at, I was shown another image. This time, a baby in swaddling cloth was lying on the bank of a very shallow stream of water. Then, for a moment all these images came together. The old man was working in the garden where the girl in red was. He would stop working now and then and smile at the girl. Then he would look at the baby. The baby was far away from him; over a broken fence and across a shallow stream, on the the other bank. There was a certain pain in his eyes when he looked at the girl and the baby, the kind of pain that doesn’t hurt but rather presents itself as an opportunity for you to be aware of how deeply you can feel. I didn’t know why he felt this.
This vision was so powerful that I decided to look up what the piece of music was about. Le Tombeau de Couperin was composed between 1914 and 1917, during the First World War. The word ‘tombeau’ in the title is a musical term popular from the 17th century, meaning “a piece written as a memorial”. I found that you’re supposed to use the word ‘suite’ and not ‘piece’ although the latter still makes sense in a way. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer who had died fighting in World War 1. The music, however, doesn’t feel like it’s about death per se. This was intentional according to Ravel. He said, “The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence”. His aim, which he made clear, was to pay homage to the Baroque French suite sensibilities. At least according to Wikipedia it was.
When I found this out, suddenly the pain in the eyes of the old man seemed to make sense. So did the baby, the broken fence, and the thin beard.
Nahre Sol, in the video I linked above, talks about how Ravel’s music has a certain melancholy to it. I would take this further in the case of Le Tombeau de Couperin and associate it with the fusion of the pain of lost childhood/innocence with the perception of childhood from a place far removed temporally. Imagine a veteran of a horrific war looking at a girl in a red dress picking flowers unaware of how dark the world really is. The thin beard also made sense in this context. Thin beard is more abrasive/rough while a full beard is soft. I also associated the broken fence with the destruction of the war. It seemed right to do so. The baby is even farther removed from the old man, born beyond the fence into a broken world, one that has no explanation for the destruction.
When I learned that it was dedicated to a soldier who had died in war, I felt that this was such a perfect way of keeping him alive. It’s like Ravel took a photo of him dying on the battlefield and a photo of him as a veteran who survived the war and then fused the two together.
Let me take you back to the scene I constructed for you at the beginning of this post. Looking at the photo of a person who is in the room with you is very different from looking at a photo of a person who’s no more. If a photograph is a memory, then does the photo become truer in some way if the person is no more? I don’t think so. However, if the person is no longer in the world, then they are only in your memories. They are only in the photograph. When you look at it, you not only feel nostalgic but you also attach a value to it that can only be given after the death of someone you love.
The joy of the past, when it is lost, will turn into care for the people you shared it with. But when they are no more, it turns into care for their photographs.
The photograph becomes important.
In presenting the death of a friend as a memory that has little to do with the very death of the person and everything to do with looking at loss like the old man looks at the girl in the red dress (the girl is like the photograph in this case) or the way one looks at the photograph of a loved one who has passed away, Ravel makes the music a focal point. When listening to his music, I don’t think of the people I’ve lost but I feel for the music what I would feel if I looked at a photograph of my grandfather who died a few years ago.
To me, the music is not saying “Couperin is dead” or “how sad is it that Couperin is dead?”. What I hear is “Music is a memory! Celebrate it!”.
If Le Tombeau de Couperin was a photograph, I would place it back in my photo album the way I would put back a photo of my grandfather. With care.
It’s not easy to do that.
Le Tombeau de Couperin is not about the dead, it’s about how important the photographs of them are. This makes Ravel an Impressionist if you ask me. He celebrates the moment, and more importantly, the medium that captures it. He might only be using loss and death to inspire value but they are presented with all the more depth for it.
Ravel’s intention was the celebration of music. But he didn’t have to tell me about Couperin to make me understand that. That’s how good he is.
This is why I love Ravel.
About the artwork:
In the artwork, you’ll see the girl in the red dress on the left and the baby, who becomes a boy in the artwork, on the right. The broken fence and a flower also make an appearance. I wanted to show the thin beard but didn’t know how to. My skills are limited. This is not at all what I saw but this is the best I could do with my skills.
You guys have seen those creepy mirrors in interrogation rooms, right? The ones in movies where on side of the glass there are people sitting in the dark looking at people on the other side who can’t see them? Well, yeah, did you know that one side of the mirror being dark and the other being well-lit is a requirement for the mirror to work in this way?
Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ll be able to see yourself in your windows at night when the light is on in your room, but you won’t be able to during the day when the sun is shining through.
Why do I bring up this interesting-yet-too-specific-and-takes-a-long-time-to-explain-so-it-really-doesn’t-belong-in-a-blog-post piece of information?
Well, the other day I had this vision of me standing in a room without roofing. The sun was beating down on me and it was around mid-day. The sky was beautiful, with colours swirling and dissolving into each other like clouds. I wanted to reach out and touch them. So I did.
Well, I tried.
There was a ceiling made of glass in my way.
Since the sun was really bright, it didn’t look like there was a glass ceiling. I pushed first, tapped second, and then I just stood there. I looked out at all the beautiful stuff above me and felt like there was nothing I could do to truly experience them.
Then, as time passed, the sun slowly slipped out of view. It was evening. There was a light in my room, one brighter than the light outside. And now, when I looked up, I could see the glass. I could see myself in the glass. But I could also see the sky and the colours above because the sun hadn’t gone down yet. My reflection and the evening sky were two faint images superimposed on each other, still on the glass. I stared at it without blinking.
And then night came and I was alone. With myself. The glass was now a pure reflection of me and my room.
I know what the vision was about. It was about many things things that have present significance.
You see, I’m about to spend a year at home because I didn’t get into the postgraduate programmes I wanted to get into, which is partly something I didn’t want anyway but anxiety doesn’t care about what I want. I want so many things. During the day, when the rest of the world is alive, I’m constantly reminded of what I cannot have, be it because of my interests, where I come from, who I know etc. It’s just like the sun beating down on me through the glass. And I jump all day, hoping to catch one of those colourful clouds but I bang my head against the glass. This is all I can do during the day.
Then evening comes and I realise that there is a thick sheet of glass between me and the world, that the curse the 21st century casts on youth is the ability to see all that they cannot be or have. In the twilight hours, as I see myself and the world in the glass of fate and destiny, I am inspired by how it grounds me in reality by placing the good and the bad into context. This prepares me for the hours to come, when loneliness will take hold of me.
In the deep hours of the night, I am all I see. I look at my reflection on the glass and I write, speak, and draw. I reinvent, nay find myself in the void. This act does have the power to heal and restore but it does so only if I stare at the glass in the evening. To see myself and the world at the same time, to stop fighting and observe my existence in all its beauty, glory, and tragedy is the only thing that can bring healing in the night.
Well, now you know why I create everything in the night when everyone else is sound asleep.
About the artworks:
The first artwork contains a lot of ideas that I’ve already explored in previous posts with mountains, gyres, allusions to authorship, etc. The ice from the Hemingway post makes a reappearance as this post has a lot to do with fear of losing potential (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/). Lions, as you know, mean a lot to me. They keep appearing in my dreams. I’ve been a lion in some and I’ve also been protected and attacked by them in some. There are other reasons but I won’t go into them now. If you have a good eye, you probably noticed how the speech bubble kinda looks like a human being, with the lion and its mane making up the mouth. Not exactly planned but I believe these things happen for a reason. Makes sense in context anyway.
The second artwork is more minimalistic. You can see the colours yellow and red making an appearance. And you probably know what they mean if you’ve been keeping up with the posts. If not check this post (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/)
Today, around noon, I found myself spending a few moments alone with my imagination. Listening to Santana’s Samba Pa Ti, my mind filled with all kinds of colours and images. I was alone on a beach, my hand buried in the sand. A green beverage of some kind was pouring over me, covering me in translucent green. The green pouring over me almost felt like a hand, like I was caressing myself. It was passionate. For a moment, I tried to take control of the scene and bring a woman into the picture. It seemed fitting that a feminine presence be the reason for such passion. But when I did so, the picture almost burst into a million pieces. So I decided to let it go. I was to be alone in this.
While I’m not sure what this means, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few interesting thoughts that have occupied my mind for the past few days. I had a passing thought a few days ago of a chameleon in front of a mirror. It struck me that if the chameleon only identified itself by its colour and not its form, then the world would become its mirror. Imagine that- the conflation of perception of the outside world with that of self. For a moment, I wondered if that was what happened inside the void that I keep mentioning, that nothingness where I flail around and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror; the place where I create art out of necessity and learn more and more about myself. Was this exercise of existence a conflation of the kind mentioned above?
I believe I will be able to answer that better in time. For now, a record of thoughts will suffice.
About the artwork:
It is possible that the green in the painting and in my vision had to do with me reaching into the ground, into myself, and thus into nature itself. I had mentioned in a few other posts how I create art to “ground myself” and that no art except mine has the ability to make that happen. I have drawn from an earlier painting of mine that represents me burning in the void (from post ‘Why I Even Try’ which is linked below). This time, I chose to make the head red because recently I have found my thoughts taking a much darker turn, favoring the confusing and the self-destructive during introspection. However, my limbs continue to help me create art impulsively from the fascination I have for my pain and depression. So they remain yellow. The reason why the head is facing the sky and not the ground, which would have been more natural, can be found in my post ‘On Sublimity’ which I will link below.
Reading the following posts and looking at the artwork in them might be helpful if you are interested in dissecting this post further: