Sunday, November 14, 2010

I could whale away the hours


Beached by Pants


Gabriel Garcia Marquez said fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale. I can only say I identify with poor Jonah. I very often feel that I have been swallowed by a whale. I even more often feel the need to recount the story of what happened to me inside that whale. It strikes me that everyone's experience as temporary krill is going to be different.

Last year I complained at some length about the interminability in which time itself seemed to have been frozen by dint of my concurrent attendance at that wretched art course. A leviathan in the pantheon of learning conveyances if ever there was one. But at least I got a lot done. It may not have been work I particularly relished doing, but it got completed. This year I can make no such claim. Unfortunately, when left to my own devices, I achieved very little.

I can make a case for having my head so jiggered and my spirit so buggered that it has taken all this time to get over it, but not even I entirely swallow that. It is true that I needed to step back and assess the assertion that it is better to be doing something than nothing.

I have always notionally supported that idea, not least of all because it feels better to have done something than to have let a day, or a week or - horreur - a year pass without something to show for it. And it certainly feels good to corral a conundrum into a neat little picture or phrase.

A work of art is the map of a thought. Or, at least, that's what I think it should be. I guess the begged question was, and is, does the quality of that thought matter? Is its origin pertinent?

Last year I created a series of pictures that turned out rather well. I liked them and so did the teachers. Mistress of the brush even tossed about some hints that she would consider buying one. I was mortified and stamped on the suggestion with both feet. The nerve!

Before you move to stage an intervention, let me elaborate. As much as I like the pictures, they are the solution to a fabricated problem, one that would not have existed had the teacher not contrived to invent it. In fact, the gestation of these pictures was so random and inane, it's a wonder they turned into anything at all. Can it even be art if there is no causal link to deliberate intent?

That hardly seems a fitting overture to a life's work to me. That the teacher even entertained the thought of owning such a thing struck me as distastefully vain. I, of course, can overcome my disdain as any splash of colour on the vast deserts of magnolia that pass for walls here at Seat of Pants can only be considered an improvement.

I suppose it's a question of 'process'. Always a difficult consideration for me. I know well enough that the perfect idea is likely to be on the bus after the one Godot caught. And there is merit and satisfaction in turning a naff idea into a painting decent enough to not shame a wall. But what really troubled me about the whole 'process' was that where teachers appeared to see some USP-shaped niche based on something a student was coerced into producing under entirely manufactured pressure, all I saw was the total absence of vocational inspiration and that just wasn't going to work for me.

So I haven't painted at all this year. But I have written, a bit. Yes, I am struggling through revisions on my third attempt at a publishable novel while staving off the temptation to start on numbers four, five and six, which all have the cleverest titles ever conceived.

Everything I've done this year has sort of sucked which is the opposite of what you'd expect from a whale ride. Sadly, all the blow is in the past, I fear.