There are low hanging clouds tonight. They look like steam. The city cooks us all, devours us and you wouldn’t know it but for the likes of me so I will do my bit for the illusion of progress and mimic the ritual of success. I will move without purpose. I will begin now, here, by standing. No one likes a reclining dude in the city, except if it’s lunchtime in a park and you have expensive shoes and unholy socks which display to everyone that this is a deliberate rest and not a stupour, not a cry for help or the decline of a once respected soul. Steam clouds, ice cream clouds, I scream at clouds. I feel like a hot turd meting out my miasma. People look for clouds during lunch break or smoke break but who notices clouds at night? Vagrants and poets thanking God for the cover of darkness, cursing him for the cold but grateful the noisy city workers with their high heels clakking, their cappucinos, their $500 suits and dresses have gone home to give the city dwellers some peace. Hope Malevich comes by tonight. I want to show him my black square of night, just behind you between the bank and the hotel, the road and the billboard. If you look up from where I am now there’s a perfect square of sky. I only see it unblack for a short time before sunrise, before the arrival of the masses, the walking dead as my mate Jude and I call them, the one’s who think they are safeguarded by their suits and distance from the bitch of bad timing and one more for the road. We catch you sneaking glances like the buildings catch the sky between loathing and compassion depending on how your day has gone so far. See the disgust in your eyes, the same looks i avoid in shop windows. The streets are a hall of mirrors at night. We’re all passing through, but we pass variously.
It is the swift overhead passing of a seagull which suggests to me that my fascination with flight is not that I yearn to fly but that I wish to escape completely my inner demons. My fallen angels of idealism. My automated days of work, of incessant calculations of the infinite responses to the interminable thread of responsibilities that seem to govern my existence.
I realise that the moments of peace I chase after are forever just moments. I will never stretch them out to anything more than a moment. The most I can hope for is a more expansive heart so that these moments fill up more of the empty space inside me.
The desire to fly is the breath of weariness. It is the tired exhalation that leaves my body as I understand that I am living the life I have, not the one I imagined I would live. In that life I am wiser, writing text widely read, creating art with words and paint and clay. And people buy my work which allows me to do it again and again.
However with this understanding there is also,for the first time perhaps, the knowing that the life I have could not be better for it contains the people I love. And love is more important than words or paint or clay. The real art of my life has been surviving my mistakes.
Besides, relieved of the ghastly responsibility of having to create art, I can write without hindrance, with honesty. I can experience days of trudge knowing that most people feel the same way. I can drag myself to work and once there realise I actually enjoy it. I can, like everyone else, hanker after freedom from responsibility. And yet, it is that same responsibility that allows me to look up at a seagull and see its beauty.
I imagine there must be at least one seagull out there who looks down and imagines how fine it would be to walk every day on the earth.
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Visiting my brother in Ingagane, South Africa recently I found this piece I had made sometime in the early 90’s. It returned me to the emotions I felt then. It also made me realise why I have always been drawn to image, sometimes more so than words.
An image is a more immediate conduit of the soul. Writing is more difficult for me because the material, words, are not as pure as colour. Colour is essentially honest and to find honesty with words involves intense excavation of the self.
It reminded me as well that the primary task of artists is to find and express that honesty.
That’s a tough gig. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe not. The effort though has made all the difference.
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