chalk & cheese


I was on a two day visit to Auckland for reasons that were both specific and unknown: some kind of business. While there I went to the art gallery and saw a Philip Clairmont painting that I'd never encountered before. It was a floor painting: not painted on the floor but spread out upon it and designed to be viewed in that way. Irregularly shaped, like a jigsaw piece or something torn from a map perhaps. At first sight abstract, patterned, rather more like a late Jackson Pollock, which were of course painted on the floor before being hung up on the wall. I remember repeated motifs of red and black bars. A curator, who was in fact an art gallery owner I met here in Sydney a week or two back, told me this was one of two (I never saw the other) and pointed out that there were figurative elements to the painting: concealed profile portraits of women in Phil's life, a quite startling bird's-eye view of the city, in black and white, that recalled the 1974 War Requiem #9, The Destruction of Germany, which has in it collaged elements from a book called Early Engravings of German Towns. There were a few people lounging around the painting, stretched out on the floor and with some surprise I realised that Phil was among them - even though he died in 1984, knowledge of his death was not part of the dream. I went and sat down next to him, we exchanged greetings and he asked me to come and visit him at home. A few hour's conversation with you will keep me going for weeks, he said. When I said that because of other commitments I wasn't able to do that, he took from his pocket a small pair of scissors and said, with a crooked sort of grin, Oh, well, I'll have to try the van Gogh solution then. While it didn't look likely that he'd be able to cut off any part of his ear with the small plastic handled scissors, I still insisted on taking them from him. Later in the dream, after I'd left the gallery, I realised that I'd also taken a small plastic sachet of white powder which I knew to be speed. I started going back, to return Phil his drugs, but then in a doorway paused. The seal on the sachet was faulty and some of the grains had escaped onto my fingers. I rubbed the gritty white powder onto my gums, fearfully tempted to keep the sachet and take all the speed myself.


I had discovered a formula, perhaps a spell, whereby I could make the right word appear in the empty white space previously apportioned to it. Enthralled by this new skill, I began to practise it, watching delightedly as a series of words, all nouns I believe, were conjured into view; but then the telephone rang (the real telling bone), waking me up. And in the waking I lost cognisance of what exactly this formula, or spell, or technique, consists of. All I had left in memory was the last of the half dozen or so words I had called up: Emmental or Emmentaler; Swiss cheese.

Image : Study for Head, Philip Clairmont, 1970 (?)


Elisabeth said...

A brilliant dream, one I did not discern as a dream until I was well into it, which for me is the best sort of dream, and the way it usually is when we dream. We don't know that we're dreaming. It's all too real.

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Emmental, a neat blend of 'emotional' and 'mental'.

Martin Edmond said...

. . . with elemental or elementary somewhere in there as well . . .