Sunday 16 May
A texted me to end things. I felt a wave of relief. And then I felt sad. I left the studio and cried on my bed.
After dinner we spoke on the phone.
We discussed our problematic subconsciouses, and how gender normative our dreams were. We spoke about DARP, about my dramatic disposition (I had stormed out of the kitchen earlier because my housemates didn’t like my suggestion of incorporating a rice salad into the Sunday roast, which, in retrospect, I understand). We spoke about the rain that fell heavily outside, the word petrichor, the origins of the word petrichor (from ‘petros’, for stone, and ‘ichor’, the fluid that flows through the body of the gods). We spoke easily. A pointed out that a few of our more recent conversations had been shit. I understood. They had been stilted and disengaged. I thought about how easy it felt all this time though, how relaxed, how the tone felt similar to the early conversations we’d had when we were playfully getting to know each other. I thought about how much I valued his capacity to speak rationally and analytically about emotions. I told him there was so much about him I really loved. He became uncomfortable and changed the subject.
We decided to get drinks in London that Wednesday.
Monday 17 May
Woke up sad and slow.
I dreamt a big dream the night before with rich symbolism and places from my childhood. Initially, I was swarmed by a coven of women, their bodies elastic and churning, with features that grew into octopus tentacles. They reminded me of those elves everyone meets when they take DMT. And also, of the choir in Disney’s Hercules. My analyst told me the octopus was something to do with the mother. I looked up the symbolism further in my book of symbols; chaos, change, blah.
Then, I was in a dense forest on a hill with my family, my close friends, other people from Sahaj. A group of white stags with huge antlers were closing in on us, ready to attack. We grouped together tightly to protect ourselves. Police arrived with viscous dogs. The dogs and stags fought. My dream ego watched from the sky above.
My analyst told me the stag was often a symbol of the masculine. (And that antlers were about being horny).
Later, Yolande drove us to Derby so we could check out a gallery DARP might be working with. On the way there I sat in the back seat of the car like a moody teenager. The clouds were frothy, whipped up, churning. A bit like the limbs of the sea monsters from the night before. A texted me suggesting I read Ginsberg’s howl. I read the poem in the car and cried. Reflected again on my dramatic disposition. Questioned why A was texting me.
That evening WF made a surprise return back to DARP after a month of a walking from Bristol to Glastonbury. He looked thin, tanned and happy. Me, Yolande, Ilana and Natalie listened to Mariah Carey and flung our limbs around madly in the basketball court. I left suddenly to do last minute laundry, and later re-entered the kitchen later to find the others converging at the table around a demolished treacle tart. It was like a scene from an Enid Blyton book. I shovelled the last piece of the sticky cake into my mouth with my fingers and went to bed.
Tuesday 18 May
Frantically packed for my train to London, which was later that day, and my flight to Spain, which was on Saturday. Wondered why I couldn’t ever do things on time.
At the train station, spoke to A on the phone to organise Wednesday. Felt sad and lashed out. Apologised.
Wednesday 19 May
Cancelled all my gallery trips and stayed at my mum and dad’s to finish a drawing I couldn’t get quite right.
Met A in Soho. Sunk two beers quickly. Moved to a restaurant on Frith Street. Ate tiny plates of ceviche. Held hands over a cramped table. Drank too many large Peruvian cocktails. Moved onto a Japanese bar nearby. Thought about how good London looked, the streets dense with tables and chairs and people and life. Accidentally ordered a jug of what I can only describe as blue poison. Engaged in a very teenage public display of affection. Got a cab back to A’s in Canary Wharf.
(Some time ago, he’d asked me why I hadn’t pointed out that he was only living in a serviced living complex in Canary Wharf to make a film, for art, and if I really wanted people to think I was the type of person who earnestly dated someone who opted to live in a serviced living complex in Canary Wharf).
Thursday 20 May
A left me at around 6:30am to go to the gym. I made it back to home. Hungover. Ate eggs with my parents. They had recently watched some Miyazaki films together and had started addressing each other as Totoro, which melted my heart. I napped. Later, I gathered my portfolio of drawings and headed back out to Little Portugal, where I would have a beer at the Sunday Painter. Headed back to A’s again after. We ate a lot of FAGE TOTAL 100% yoghurt and tried to watch a BBC Imagine on Kazuo Ishiguru, but gave up and started watching The Big Short instead.
Friday 21 May
Whatever day. Boring day. Packing day.
Saturday 22 May
My flight to Spain was very early. I enjoyed Heathrow Airport. An elderly couple stood in front of me at the check-in for BA. They looked like North American hikers, with stiff, triangular hair, beige clothes and bony knees. A beautiful scene unfolded where they both helped each other put on their masks, their arms intertwining to caress the other’s face. They looked like Magritte’s Lovers or something. The funny thing was that underneath the new masks they were adjusting, they were both already wearing masks. I wondered whether this was like anything like condoms and if doubling up would render the activity ineffective.
I intermittently napped and sketched on the flight. I had needed to book an extra bag to be able to transport my drawing portfolio to Spain, and it was more cost effective to just book a business class ticket instead, which is what I did. The only difference I could note was that the attendant gave me unlimited coffee, a terrible omelette and small bottle of champagne, which I stashed for later.
Landed in Spain. Went outside and stood in the sun. Waited an hour for Pino to arrive, who would drive me down to Terreros. Broke our journey to eat fat oranges at the supermarket and watch a bike race. Finally made it to the finca.
The last week has been weird and trying. I’ve felt teary eyed a lot of the time. I even feel teary eyed right now, writing this. I also haven’t done anything of note to write about. At all. I did go on a Sunday morning photoshoot with Jake, which involved me taking photos of him naked up a tree. I could spin that into something exciting, erotic even. But I’m not sure I cba.
I suppose I have been reading and listening to a few things. I’ll make a list. It’s the only way I’m able to create order right now, as my internal world falls apart a bit. Also, as Umberto Eco said, making lists of things is “a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die”. Uhhhhh.
1. Jungian psychoanalyst James Hollis on hauntings a metaphor for complexes and projections
Hollis argues that the universal belief in spirits, ghosts and phantoms throughout history is a way for humans to conceive of the past’s power over the present, and to make sense of the way in which all time coexists within our pysches. Experiences of the past – of our personal history, ancestral history and even universal history – play out in our daily lives, effecting the way we engage with new experiences. Humans like repeating patterns. We struggle to encounter newness without bringing baggage to the table. He argues that this is why we sometimes have fear based reactions to strangers, and even fall in love.
Here’s a quote from Jung: “Spirits, when viewed from the psychological angle are unconscious, autonomous complexes, that appear as projections because they have no direct association with the ego”.
I think a lot about projection. A and I first met in a writing workshop on zoom, and then slid into each other’s DMs. We talked about Sophie Calle and the existential boredom we were both feeling, the need to go to a fucking bar (it was February in lockdown). We had a zoom date, thinly veiled as a feedback session on an audio work I was working on for an event we were both taking part in. We transitioned to WhatsApp. One day, whilst we were texting, he called me on the phone. I was genuinely shocked – what lunatic calls someone they haven’t even met irl. We spoke for three hours.
We met in London a few days later. After the encounter, I was totally disinterested. The irl version of this person was a total disruption to the – I’ll admit it – projection I had formed. I mean, like Hollis says projection is always in place when you fall for someone. (Does the way they move their mouth remind you of an ex? Of a character you loved on a tv show you watched as a teenager? Of a parent?). But the whole possibility of projection, of fantasy, is so heightened through a screen. Especially if you have set up your webcam lighting perfectly and can’t stop staring at your own face on the zoom call.
After a falling apart, we came back together. (A refers to the interim as the time I tried to ghost him). I allowed my brain to acclimatise to a reality, to eliminate a past, fabricated fantasy. I realised how much I liked him. And how unusual it was to be able to bare speaking to someone on the phone for seven hours in one day.
A laments the fact that, so far, his character in my writing seems quite two-dimensional. I explained that it’s somewhat intentional.
“At least you’ve levelled up from ‘a guy I’m in the very early stages of seeing’ to having an initial. There's room for an upward trajectory!”
I thought about maybe adding an extra letter to the initial to demarcate an incremental attachment. Ah for now then.
2. I’m re-reading The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, which is, quite possibly, at the moment, one of my favourite books.
It completely undoes this idea of him as plastic. Well, I mean, he likes plastic things; television, cookies and celebrity. But he authentically likes those things, and explores them in such unusual ways. No shit, this is Warhol’s whole schtick!, blah blah, but the erudite attention he gives to the experience of wanting to eat sweets for dinner rather than protein is something that gives me a lot of joy.
Quotes from Andy:
“I believe in low lights and trick mirrors. A person is entitled to the lighting they need.”
“Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.”
“I never fall apart because I never fall together.”
“I had a lot of dates, but I decided to stay home and dye my eyebrows.”
3. On Wednesday, I spent a lot of time frantically googling and reading about compartmentalising, as I struggled to balance making art, my emotions, living and working at DARP, and having irl jobs.
I didn’t learn much, besides the fact that compartmentalising is GOOD. We should be able to put all our emotions and three jobs and life passions into separate boxes and only think about them in carefully planned out time-blocks. I also learnt that compartmentalising too much is BAD. That it could result in too many boundaries, too many walls and too much escapism from reality. Too much fantasy, I suppose.
None of the articles told me how to actually compartmentalise though. Still wondering how to stop everything from swimming around simultaneously in my head. The excel spreadsheets are sort of helping, I guess. As are the lists.
4. Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino
In this text, Calvino explores five virtues he believes to be at the core of great literature. (There would have been six, but he died :S). Sometimes, I find it useful to remind myself of them before I start making any art. They work pretty well for making visual work too.
The virtues are:
4. I listened to a playlist from 2015 by Perfect Sound Forever on NTS every single day last week. Multiple times.
Here it is: https://www.nts.live/shows/perfect-sound-forever/episodes/perfect-sound-forever-16th-december-2015
It makes me feel sort of like it’s the end of the world, but it’s very beautiful and I have a purpose, a mission. It also allows me to astral project out of Derbyshire and into a landscape that reminds me of Mad Max.
It's good to make art to.
Two summers ago, a group of us went on a mini painting residency in Tuscany. It was gruelling tbh - there was a lot of pressure to churn out the paintings. but it was also a turning point for a lot of things i do in my visual work. here's a diary entry i wrote on returning from the trip
I feel like I had so many turning points with regards to painting during the trip. There were some blissful moments, like painting Katie in her white blouse and wide white hat under the trees in a field. She was so still and occasionally would lie backwards. I used a lot of burnt sienna and made the shadows long and implausible. Sometimes we would exchange sentences, but as we both got on with our respective paintings, there was no pressure to engage in a proper conversation. That’s probably my favourite way to interact.
I think that evening was the day where I took myself to the grass past the horses and made a painting of the clouds. I mixed myself a simple palette. Virdian and yellows and some blues, and stuck to that. It came quite easily. I fucking love the clouds tbh. Maybe that’s why it all came so easily.
I had a shit day painting on the day after the incident with XX. I couldn’t focus, and as I sat in the same field with her yards ahead of me, I felt uneasy and unhappy. It was fucking hot as well. At one point she made comments to Sophie about being able to hear everything the evening before and I freaked out. After I struggled with a painting of Sophie, and then with a painting of Jordan, and then with a painting of Fiona, I returned to that field and made a painted version of a doodle that I had drawn whilst watching Love Island the night before. A woman reclining against grass and clouds. Almost like she was in a photo shoot. In many ways, the painting was corny, but I liked the way I had used flatness vs. three dimensionality. the lack of features. An equal treatment across the page. The shadows, again, were burnt sienna and long. I’m realising more and more how much I like depicting the heat. Hot, sticky places. Escapism from English coolness. Memories from adolescence and feelings of nostalgia for times were everything felt possible and fun and whole and peaking. It felt like it was all peaking but also about to tumble towards something greater. Like momentum was gathering. It all fizzled out a bit though.
Anyways, after that we spent the day in Siena. Which was good but also felt like a frustrating break from painting. We got pissed that night and played weird drinking games. I told everyone about the time I xxxxxx in the bathrooms of the Centre Pomidou. The next day I made some really boring paintings. That one of a chair was actually the most boring thing I’ve ever seen. Although I did love the one of Leo as a medieval monk. No one else did though.
The next day was good. I set Prag touching her toes against the Tuscan backdrop and it worked. That’s now in MM’s collection. I never spoke to him. But he was manic, running around, on the roof, on his bike, scuba diving, landscape paintings and raking up billions. Weird guy. Was almost definitely having an affair with his italian teacher. She was a tall and weirdly attractive blonde lady who flirted with everyone, including me. Hai belli occhi etc etc. I say weirdly because she wasn’t actually very attractive when you looked closely, but she had a sexual energy about her. I wanted her to like me. Occasionally, she would take me aside and say outrageous things to me, like confessing that she would never need to take psychedelics again after discovering landscape painting. Which isn’t that outrageous on reflection, but perhaps a little hyperbolic. Apparently, she also shouted about Jesus a lot to Leo and Dean in San Giminango.
At the end of that day I set myself the challenge of painting something v quick – Alyssa stood by the edge of the pool. Trying to incorporate everything I had learnt that week. A more impulsive application of colour. The right colour. A dramatic sky. Tonal variation. Working from a drawing (from a photograph). Lack of detail in the figure and… sprezzatura, I guess. Oh yeah – I told Hugh about sprezzatura at dinner. A studied carelessness. He loved it.
The next day the weather was weird. Cold, windy. I think it kind of helped. With the painting. People in our year made ball gowns out of plastic for protection. Fiona made ten paintings. Mania had set in. Because of the weather, we ate dinner in our villa that evening. They set up long tables and served us octopus stew, white fish and focaccia and a bit more wine than usual. To be honest, the party went a lot better than the sort of forced fun of the Saturday night before. People were jolly and kind of high on the success of that day’s painting. We all picked songs and queued them up on spotify and eventually everything descended in to a spontaneous dance. Zoe flailing her arms in the joyful way she does, her eyes shut like she’s in an indie romantic comedy. Dean sat on the sofa frantically drawing us on large sheets of paper and then labelling each sheet with our names in capital letters. I remember the one of Fran with her fist punching the air. The storm outside. Eventually some people jumped into the pond, whilst the rest of us stayed inside and watched love island instead. A parallel reality of some very different (yet, ultimately, probably very similar) people having an equally strange experience in another villa in the Mediterranean.
The next morning I woke up at 5:30AM. I’m not sure why it just felt like the done thing to do on the last day. It was beautiful to be honest. I went up to the field behind the swimming pool and Jordan was there too. I did my own sort of self-induced speed painting and things came easily – probably because I was too tired to focus properly. IM was there too – her gaze is so intense when she draws. After breakfast I painted the picture of Katie hunched over the edge of the pool, like a devotee in prayer. I did that one quickly as well and I enjoyed it. As per usual, there was a sort of mania was in the air and time progressed frantically after I finished. Select paintings. Move paintings. Wrap paintings. Pack bags. Lunch time. Ate too much. Run down. Get changed. We felt mad. And tired. Groaned into a wall with Johann. Ran back up the hill. On the coach. We all felt sick. Talked about communes. Blonde lady doing an Instagram photoshoot at the round public sculpture. We arrived. I felt shit.
The entry ends there. A bit abrupt. If my memory serves me, after that point we didn’t do much apart from have a small PV of our work. We were all so exhausted. I remember looking around and just seeing people of clenching glasses of prosecco, swaying and staring at the floor. Genuinely. I think I saw three separate people doing that.