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DRAWING THE WORLD OF THE OTHER

I light a candle

for your coming back

Brilliant and frail

in a darkening room

Beautiful it is and damned

not to last, only endure

Almost as fragile

As darkness itself

John Glenday

ImageImage

Amongst all the things in our world there is perhaps nothing more poignant and disquieting than the ephemeral light of a candle as it breaks the darkness of the night. The veil of darkness hides our presupposed ‘truth’ of things, but the luminance of the candle tears the veil from top to bottom and the trembling fragility of the flame affects and alters the way in which we see and therefore the way in which we understand the world. Ordinary things take on new aspects, and drawing by the light of a candle brings into question the all of the ways in which we are accustomed to representing things in what we recognise as the world. The candlelight calls to us then, the candlelight draws us not towards the world but towards ‘our world’.

Our world – a distant, mythical place, full of intangible and ephemeral entities that are derived from our memories, our hopes, our fears and all the things that lie above, below and beyond everyday life. In our world we are separate from the ‘Other’. Our world is never the same as the world of the ‘other’, but it can coincide. Just as we breathe the same air, just as we can see the Other and define the boundaries that separate us from the Other, physically we can break through the boundaries and communicate with language. With language we allow the Other into our world and, in turn, with language we can enter theirs.

Who then is the Other? Being the Other, he or she can never be the same as us. Yet we can only know ourselves, who we are, because of the Other. Our own identity is constructed in terms of the Other. We inhabit our world only in the same way, and ultimately because, the Other inhabits theirs.

In the light of reason and logic. In the light of day we recognise and acknowledge the Other through many forms of language. Through the language of our senses we can see, watch, hear, touch and even smell the Other. We can have a dialogue with the Other and through all of this we can convince ourselves that we and the Other are kin and that we exist together in the same world.

We can draw the Other. We can render the Other recognisable in a portrait, but in the darkness, in silence, we cannot really ‘know’. We cannot be sure, we cannot rely on our senses and here we enter our own world, a world in which we are able to recognise the  presence of th Other only by what we can remember, by what we think we know.

Once behind the veil of darkness then we cannot rely on certainty. We cannot know the Other and therefore we cannot know, for sure, ourselves.  We might lose ourselves thus within our own world of memories, of yearnings, of feelings of being alone and in not knowing we might fear the unknown that Other has become. We might fear the absence of the Other, an absence that in the dark creates an emptiness that we can only fill with our imaginings. We might begin to feel that we ourselves are the Other.

A lit candle allows us to see through the veil of darkness but we cannot now see the solid  logical and recognisable world that we share with the Other that we know. No, the candlelight shows us another world, a fragile and nebulous world of the Other where things are never really what they seem. This is our world, a world where the Other becomes the unknown, where the Other becomes us and we become the Other. This is a world of shadows, a world of ambivalence wherein we recognise ourselves in all that we see and wherein all that seems solid become fragile in the flickering candlelight as it passes in an out of recognisable form. This is our world,

Beautiful it is and  damned

not to last, only endure

Almost as fragile

As darkness itself

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Its been a while…again… and now more posts. My posting is indeed erratic, as, in a way, has been recent life. Lisbon is a closely held memory, and now I am in Wales. As I write I am watching the rain as, falling soft and gentle, it weaves a fluid veil with silken purity across a field studded with daffodils that obediently bloomed for St David’s day.

I am teaching again…drawing on and through anatomy and philosophy and drawing out long held skills and hopes and fears of students who seem so happy to be in love, as I am, with the touch of graphite on a surface, the stain of charcoal mixed with the natural oils of their skin as they push the dust into the paper. I teach, I research and I wander through the studios, breathing in the smell of the oil and leaving snippets of me in the ring that my coffee mug leaves on their palettes and in the minds of students who ask, who question, who draw on their work in the same way that the artists draws on the heart and the soul.

We drew in space the other day. We wove, with string, a three-dimensional web that stretched across what seemed, while weaving, like a vast emptiness of the studio. Easels and windows and tables and chairs and light sockets provided the skeleton – the points of attachment and insertions in the body of the room. The taught string outlined the viscera over which we had to step and under which we had to crawl. Once the weaving was complete, and inside the body of the project they had created,  the students drew out the entrails in  long two-dimensional, strokes on clean white paper. Geometry and frustration took over and reigned for nearly a full term until the precise cleanliness of graphite and the joy of difference won over senses that were previously inured to expression and the dusty resilience of charcoal. Next time I will put life into the viscera. I will allow a model to step, climb, tiptoe and dance within the web. A model -representing or resembling the Other. I will explain the difference.

We drew the Other. Or rather we drew the world of the Other. I said:

There is perhaps nothing more poignant and disquieting than the ephemeral light of a candle as it tears from top to bottom  the veil of the darkness that is the night. The veil hides our presupposed ‘truth’ of things, but the luminance of the candle, the trembling fragility of the flame affects and alters the way in which we see and therefore the way in which we understand the world. Ordinary things take on new aspects and drawing by the light of a candle brings into question the all of the ways in which we are accustomed to representing things in what we recognise as the world. The candlelight calls to us then, the candlelight draws us not towards the world but towards ‘our world’.

I read Shakespeare as the students drew out their fears and their fascinations in darkness, in silence.

I said:

‘Our world’ – a distant, mythical place, full of intangible and ephemeral entities that are derived from our memories, our hopes, our fears and all the things that lie above, below and beyond everyday life. In ‘our world’ we are separate from the ‘Other’. Our world is never the same as the world of the ‘Other’, but it can coincide. Just as we breathe the same air, just as we can see the ‘Other’ and define the boundaries that separate us from the ‘Other’, physically we can break through the boundaries and communicate with language. With language we allow the ‘Other’ into ‘our world’ and, in turn, with language we can enter theirs.

The silence grew so heavy that the occasional scratch of charcoal on paper created a cacophony of sound that was louder even that the screeching  of the seagulls outside that reminded me of how close I am to the sea. (I miss the water so very much.)

I said:

Who then is the ‘Other’? Being the ‘Other’, he or she can never be the same as us. Yet we can only know ourselves, who we are, because of the ‘Other’. Our own identity is constructed in terms of the ‘Other’. We inhabit ‘our world’ only in the same way, and ultimately because, the ‘Other’ inhabits theirs.

We can draw the ‘Other.’ We can render the ‘Other’ recognisable in a portrait, but in the darkness, in silence, we cannot really know. We cannot be sure, we cannot rely on our senses and here we enter ‘our world’, a world in which we are able to recognise the presence of the ‘Other’ only by what we can remember, by what we think we know. Once behind the veil of darkness then we cannot rely on certainty. We cannot know the ‘Other’ and therefore we cannot know, for sure, ourselves. We might lose ourselves thus within our own world of memories, of yearnings, of feelings of being alone and in not knowing we might fear the unknown that ‘Other’ has become. We might fear the absence of the ‘Other’, an absence that in the dark creates an emptiness that we can only fill with our imaginings. We might begin to feel that we ourselves are the ‘Other’. This is a world of shadows, a world of ambivalence wherein we recognise ourselves in all that we see and wherein all that seems solid become fragile in the flickering candlelight as it passes in an out of recognisable form. This is ‘our world’.

I have found myself to be in the right place….after all.

It has happened again. This time in my right shoulder. A slow, painful adhesion that defies predicative logic and ensures that I pay full attention to every detail of physical movement.

I am in Lisbon – a beautiful city of patchwork pavements and majestic decay – far from the white walls of the consulting room where relief awaits. I am visiting, teaching drawing to students whose aspirations reach beyond economic constraints. Within the white walls of the life studio I elucidate the human form; axial and appendicula, construction, gesture. I sense the irony as the stiffness in my arm becomes a parody of the sweeping movement of charcoal across toothy paper.

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