Tuesday, 9 September 2008

On buoancy

... and some more on Twombly and his favoured poems. Thinking about it, it's probably unsurprising that there'll be plenty of Rilke thrown into the paintings of sea, shores, water, seasons, love and loss.

Rainer Maria Rilke. I heard (as mp3s) some of his autumn poems last autumn and then fragments of his work, notably his Letters to a young poet and more poetry came flying from various sides. Part of that was an exploration of how much easier music and visual art is for expressing stuff that otherwise - in written verse - ends up just tediously soppy.

So, joyfully on to the tediously soppy now - thank you, Cy!

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1987
Bronze, painted with white oil-based paint

There were three fragments of poetry that caught my eye in the exhibition.
First, there was a line, scrawled on the bottom of a bronze sculpture representing a broomstick and various other bits.
"And we who had always
thought of happiness
climbing, would feel
the emotion that almost
startles when happiness falls".
It falls down the stick, doesn't it? Prosaicly, slowly, drib drab like treacle.

Secondly, another line from Rilke
"and in the pond
broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks
as if standing on
It's written across the opening panel of Untitled (A painting in nine parts). "As if standing on fishes." I liked the idea a lot. How comforting, I felt it was. - It was about buoyancy: finding the balancing point of where one would stop sinking any deeper. After all: the fishes would prevent one from sinking. I smiled to myself, went back to read it again towards the end of the exhibition. Bob, bobbing along as you float, halfway in water.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (A Painting in Nine Parts) Untitled, Part I, 1988 Oil, water-based paint,...., 191x109cm

Then, at home, in the catalogue I would read the German line of it which goes
"Und in den abgebrochenen Tag der
Teiche sinke, wie auf Fischen stehend,
mein Gefühl"
I stumbled, sunk. Deeper and deeper. Was there not going to be any buoancy after all? I talked it through with M., she couldn't see anything buoyant in the English verses at all. So I gathered that I must have optimistically misread it. It's a line from the poem Fortschritt - progress. Progress, kind of turned on its head if you think about happiness drib drabbing rather than moving upward. Funny that.

wieder rauscht mein tiefes Leben lauter, als ob es jetzt in breitern Ufern ginge. Immer verwandter werden mir die Dinge und alle Bilder immer angeschauter. Dem Namenlosen fühl ich mich vertrauter: Mit meinen Sinnen, wie mit Vögeln, reiche ich in die windigen Himmel aus der Eiche, und in den abgebrochnen Tag der Teiche sinkt, wie auf Fischen stehend, mein Gefühl.
And an English version is here:

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
I seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,and in
the ponds broken off from the sky

my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

(translation by Robert Bly)

And, with this I'm sure it's about buoancy, about stretching upwards and downwards. Standing on fishes must be a good thing, I'm sure.

Now, the third fragment? That's for Hero and Leander.

And I'm sure there must be plenty to be said about such elevation of heroic emotion, a single being cast out in the world, their loneliness and abandon to their inner worlds, emotions and all that. Just as well as I'm sure there's plenty of literary criticism, social sciencey stuff and feminism to take it apart.

Rightfully so, I suppose. And still... all the same, I'm looking forward to the next time I'll be standing on fishes... well... if I keep misreading it as something good, that is ;)

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