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  • Writer's picturePhil Dobson


There are a few reasons why I have less interest in narrative than form. My memory is sketchy to say the least, without clear linearity or chronology - using a hackneyed metaphor, it’s like a stream whose flow has many impediments, where side pools form, and the sediment of the past is quickly overgrown with the flora of the present.

I sometimes struggle with the narrative of fiction, books or films, which in any case are sometimes undermined by holes in the storyline. And even paintings where they are supposed to tell a story. I forget, with narrative often eclipsed by the cinematography or beauty of the language. And the story is lost in a kind of pleasant ambiguity, in which I wallow.

So, when I returned to this blog page after a stuttering start of only a few desultory posts, I had to make a decision - abandon it or continue along lines that suited me (which would anyway be consistent with the website generally, where apparently I had broken the rules for a successful art website). The way a life unfolds, in its telling, in my book, as they say, is more reliant on its half-forgotten nature than precise chronological details. More like the expansion of a crumpled ball of paper where timelines are created with a straight line between two points wherever they lie in the chaotic folds. Or, to continue the above metaphor, its material presence can be found by sifting through the quick sedimentation of the present to find the granulated mineral deposits of memory. (A process I realise now is apposite to the process in my painting.) This could go one of two ways, or possibly both ways at once - revelations of crystalline nature, or the muddied manifesto of a fool.

So when I say, for example, the lake looks blue, it might be germane to ask, what lake? I know the chatter is in Catalan and there are rowers slipping silently by, and plane trees cut as if for coppice. I know I look and listen, but are my eyes and ears a means, I ask, to only understanding that words are like the wind and water, representing the fluid substance of life. Huxley said in Doors of Perception that if men learnt to stay quietly in their rooms there’d be no wars. I prefer to be outside to find this peace, such as when I came across a pond in the sun, pausing to listen to a frog and watch two warblers flitting (proto-indo-european root: -pleu, relates it to fledge) catching insects above the water, in a half-remembered place.

Twilight of the Idols detail feedback loop; and on this mosquito night, a flash of sun on the jewelled sea, the spectrum silver to steel. While inland soon I see a Guacco Heron, blue-speared bill, light tawny to white underwing, slowly flapped upwards, and some white egrets their flight like napkins tossed in the wind, thin pistons angled below. And Wheatear, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Storks clacking in their nests. And the swallows’ aerobatics above the reed fringes.

By the way, Danto thought that art is embodied meaning. He thought that the meaning of the work of art was as intricately related to the material object as the soul is to the body. I’m taking this (erroneously?, if this was not his intention) to mean the soul is material in nature. It is our sinews and bone, as much as the angles of our molecular bonds.

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