Saturday, 25 April 2009
A certain level of wanton derangement
Days before Christmas, I was stood in a friend's recently-acquired studio, in apprehension of a large painting he was working on.
He was rightly proud and pleased to have a studio, finally, to be able to invite me to see. I was pleased for the same reasons, and also because I was full of my own pride and sense of fulfillment at having played a central part in the creation of a huge mural for a project with the art group at work. I had my laptop with me, and was able to show him the photographs of the various stages of the project, and of its successful completion.
We were both, in many senses, in a good place.
Yet there was something that was daunting me a little: I wondered, since it had been far too long since I had been in such a situation, whether I would be able to gain anything of any worth or meaning from standing in front of this painting and its associated works? Could I, furthermore, impart any comments, criticisms or insights into the same?
The painter in question is, after all, one of my closest friends. That (for me) rare breed, the sort of person with whom I can fiercely disagree, be angry with, express frustration at, lock horns with: because we have for 20 years had sufficient mutual respect and understanding - both tacitly and overtly acknowledged - to be able to do those things, because we know it's ok to be able to. Of course that leaves so many omissions, in terms of the kind of values we share and the strength, support and unconditional acceptance we can give each other, which hasn't been without its most severe tests.
Anyway. I stood there feeling a little daunted, as mentioned, as my friend departed the room for a few minutes and left me alone in that space. I looked at the work. I moved up close to scrutinise the detail, I stepped back to view (quite literally) the bigger picture. I wondered whether the painting was matching the intentions he had expressed on preliminary works and related studies...I considered whether he might need to modulate this area given that it threatened to unbalance various other aspects of the composition.
I began to consider the implications of certain elements of what he was doing, and began to piece together a sense both of process and of meaning.
Then he walked back into the room and I debated his work with him for a good hour, leaving no stone unturned as we both relished some rather intense discourse. We gesticulated, pontificated, and even said some big and clever words and stuff.
It was exhilarating, not least because suddenly I was in the throes of something which used to be like bread and butter to me, that of being actively exercised within a critical and creative context. It also felt - and my friend agreed - like a missing jigsaw piece of one's mood and mental processes fitting back into place: an exaggeration, surely, but we both wondered as to how we'd managed to retain a sufficient level of sanity over the years with such restricted access to the kind of thing we always found to be not only fulfilling, but of fundamental necessity.
There is a converse, as I've remembered this week with all the hours that I've worked on my music. To be able to undertake such creative ventures in the first place, it feels as though one needs to be able to tap into a certain level of derangement within oneself. It also feels that it's healthy and necessary to be able to tap into such things, to channel them and to facilitate expression of them.
I know I'm not saying anything new or original by any means here (or that such a notion hasn't been viewed with cynicism), it's just that everytime I do engage afresh with such processes, it seems ever more apparent that this is the case.
It takes me back to the years in which I would wake in the middle of the night and realise that I'd neither switched off my mind (which would still be fitting melody lines into odd time signatures running concurrently) nor my computer, which would still be quietly playing cycles of music I'd worked on in a neverending loop. Or when I had to rearrange all the furniture in my flat while I was working on something: I can't even remember why now, but it had to be done, and until then I couldn't progress.
I also remember the occasions when a musical collaborator (the same friend above) and I would get hideously drunk and spend the night hours working on music...then there'd be a click of the tape machine as it got to the end. The sound would wake us up with a shock. Disorientated, we'd rewind the tape, listen back and look at each other with an expression which said, did we really just record that?
Not that such occasions are any real reflection of the sense of derangement of which I speak. They're purely surface, and even sound a little juvenile to me now: I would hope that any real glimpses are to be gained within the music itself.
Such derangement feels like a friend to be ignored at my peril, and I sometimes wonder about that.