Artists: Notes on Art Making

After observing with wonder the infinite skies as far as possible with naked eyes from a small hill on a clear and star-filled night, you ask me to fix what I saw as well as what I know of the unknown Infinite in writing! Countless suns and stars, spheres in space, dots in the blue, cold and milky spots that are really swarms of boiling suns, processions of planets possibly inhabited….What I do know of the Infinite is merely from popular science, not from the scientists. But without being discouraged I go down to my studio and put a dot on a small piece of paper and I say to you: ‘Here you are, I have reduced the cosmos to a point. This dot is the Infinite. Do you see my point?’

* * *

I deceive myself that I live in a world of deception: to lie, to lie down, to lie downright, terrified that the whole damned thing might be true after all. To find oneself living in truth, inadvertently staring at it like Pilate and not knowing it, is terrifying. But I do know that I shall never look into the eye of truth, ever, because truth is sightless- unless it is the eye of a liar who claims to be the Son of God. And so do I, when I look into my own reflected eye and know that I am a liar of the second water of my mother’s womb, that she did lie with my father to procreate me the downright lie! Because to deception at times is apparently real I deceive myself further--- with painted apples, painted orchards, painted men and women. Why? I do not know. If I knew, it would have been by trying to find out the truth why. And I do not have a weakness for truth. In fact let me lie further, I do not have any weakness at all.

L---, for instance, when undressed, walks or lies stark white the ambit of my illusion-filled rooms. And there are doors and a bed too. Some chairs and tables, books and other furniture, paintings and paint. Knock on wood to know it’s true. She of course laughs creamily, says she’s all there and very practical and matters of fact. ‘Feel me, darling,’ she says. Says I’m imagining things (?), that I’m real myself and very practical when I want to be, says it is rather old-fashioned to be called a dreamer, a romantic and so forth. Have I already given her the illusion that I am real? That dreaming is out of date? Am I giving her the illusion that I am imagining things? Good. That is what I need to show, that the power of illusion is more formidable than the power of reality when she succumbs to think that fact remains with me a fact because I convert reality to illusion, truth to falsehood, destroy all semblance of facts. I roll a cryptic word in my cheek and spit it out into vacant mystery. That word is real.

* * *

I say it is not enough to know thyself, to be aware, to be able to distinguish good from evil and to choose therefore. It is not enough and it is never enough because if you ever come to know yourself you will have more than enough to know; and how can you be aware of anything, of reason or of unreason, of reality or of illusion, be aware of God and beware of the dog and you are there always alert but you won’t last long; you’ll have it crawling up your feet. And you ask yourself, but what is good and what is evil and is there a God, and if you throw a bone to the dog it might stop barking which gives you time to lick your wounds. And you take a few caged strides up and down in your room; then stare out of the window and watch the traffic below and suddenly a pedestrian is run over. Only because the accident has come within your reach you are certainly morally involved and by merely averting your eyes you cannot avoid responsibility. So you either telephone for an ambulance as a good samaritan would do, or you go down into the street and kick the injured man to death. To shut your window would be connivance. But to kick the prostrate, bleeding man to death is an act entirely induced by pure evil. And evil is greater than good, greater than God, positive, devastating, intolerant. And when you choose evil you can’t throw bones of contention away. You will have to chew them yourself, and like them. And if God sends his Son again you will have to break him in his very bones so that He will not rise again. But think of the Lord Mayors and the Bishops and the RSPCA official and all the little good mongers, official, ecclesiastical and civil, running up and down the city streets furnished room, smoking, standing at the window, expressionless city mean that you are, your suffering is far more complex than the obviously simple tortured expression of one crowned with thorns, and impaled with nails.

* * *

A comfortable thought in my cosy brain while smoking a good after-dinner cigar; this world is made of the Haves and the Have-nots. One man has shoes; another has sandal; another is barefoot and another has no feet. And they all stride and patter and hobble down the street. While I’m ensconced nicely in an easy-chair. In spite of the world, it wouldn’t be nice to sit on nails or to waste the cigar and vomit the dinner.

* * *

Could you be described as having ‘no fixed address’ or as ‘a broken man’? After long spells of nothing come steak and beans. The nothing between acts as an appetiser, a rich aperitif. Bite into a sour apple and hurt the raw nerve in your bad tooth. Do not trouble to think. Sometimes you might ask yourself: ‘But why…?’ Do not trouble to think. Steaks and beans and apples and bad teeth, the world is full of them. Wait for nothing to happen and nothing will happen. If you wait for something to happen it never does. It may do you good if at times you take a deep breath of fresh air. Then you might say to yourself: ‘Ah, I am living!’ But of course, if it is an effort, don’t do it. Even if you breathe very lightly, believe me, you are still living. There are other things you could do quite effortlessly. For instance, you could wink or have forty winks.

You must never let yourself down by biting off more than you can chew. There are too many tough steaks and sour apples.

Sometimes when you see light shining through green leaves or a happy child laughing aloud or a bright bird darting into rustling leaves on a sunny day, you might smile a little; it won’t do you any harm.

Sometimes you might even make one or two profound statements, either to yourself or to a stranger, such as, ‘Beans good on toast’, or ‘The capitalists take the bread out of our months but they don’t eat it!’

Do not trouble to think why. They are full of beans.

Winking at people is a good pastime too. But you must be careful. If you say you were only blinking at the sun you might get away with it. But if you do it on a rainy day you might get into trouble. From a park bench you could wink at children. If a little comes up to you, sit her on your knee and give her an apple. For passing time quickly nothing like forty winks. And you might even dream you have played with all the little boys and girls in the parkwithout getting yourself into trouble. The lawisthe law but dreams are dreams too. When you are finished, finish yourself slowly. Your problem now is not how to make ends meet but to meet your end respectably. Perpetuate your decline little by little. Sleep in the park and dream until you sleep.

* * *

John Minton committed suicide because ‘Matisse and Picasso had done everything there’s to be done in art.’

Unfortunately he had not heard of me. Otherwise he might have been alive today.

* * *

There comes a falsetto at times, however truthfully you may try to talk of yourself. But at least it’s honest. Not the pretence of reticence. These tables of etiquette cluttered with Victorian cutlery! (Queen Victoria still rules India, my dear). But I’ve cleared my table with one swipe. I eat with my hands I split on the floor. I bare my crooked teeth. I utter falsetto noises in the lull. Only tricksters can swiftly pull the cloth from a table without a clatter, leaving it still laid.

* * *

If you say: Eloi Eloi sabachtthani! People misunderstand and ask: ‘What are you saying, are you calling out to Elias?’ If you write, to avoid confusion, you must assert at the outset: What I have written, I have written!

Someone called William Plomer says somewhere that autobiography is best without self-pity, self-justification or boastfulness. This is nonsense, because these are the very qualities of weakness that make up a good autobiography. One who has the audacity to write about himself must be a pathetic character indeed. And how sad is human weakness ---- how very sad, how beautiful.

_________________

Published in F.N. Souza Words & Lines, Nitin Bhayana Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 19 - 21.
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