It’s been eleven weeks and a day since you abandoned the easel in a hostel in Syracuse. You used it once at the bus stop near the coast and then realised you had nothing to say and we were very close then. But let’s go back. You made 150 pictures in three months and then had an exhibition with a pianist the week before you left. Then you moved out of your place in Brunswick and the studio in Tinning St on the same day and you told someone that you felt like driftwood. That was in June and then you went to Sicily and now you are in Lake Bled with blisters.
Since the start of the trip there is a certain idea you’ve been dragging around, as if you had a tombstone tied around your neck. It’s about this concept of the artist. Everyone assumes that a real artist never stops because they are captured. They are captured by an idea and then feel compulsion and urgency to share it with other humans and they must do this all the time.
There have been some good times, when you let yourself enjoy Treasure Island on the beach, but whenever you see art you get all heavy. Maybe you’ll feel bored, or worse, nothing at all. Remember when we went to the Museo Madre, and there was a Rauschenberg piece that made you feel like the whole gallery was just one big pseudo conceptual jerk off? For the rest of the day you walked around like you were stranded on a ship at sea for seventeen days with no wind and a whole crew of sick people without medicine.
Even now nothing makes sense. At the last exhibition, the best piece of art you made was not even a painting; it was a black and white movie of you dancing to ‘Lonely Wine’ by Mickey Gilley in the rain and on the beach in Somers. No one understood what it meant but everyone believed in it. Meanwhile, you call yourself an illustrator but no one has inspired you since you read Tintin or watched a Myazaki film, even if most of your friends make pictures for a living.
The Little Prince has this idea that only 'the most essential things are invisible to the eye’. A part of you loves expressing a feeling which isn’t usually tangible. You crave stories and ideas that take you home, but also to a place you’ve never been to. But then there is this persistent, nagging feeling that you don’t deserve to make things because the world is really damaged. Everyone said: You will love Europe. I bet you will have a hundred ideas when you come home from Europe. Go and see beautiful things and fall in love with Michelangelo. No one said: Go and check out the colonialism. Go and see the poverty in Naples. Meanwhile, your sister’s work is tangible. She helps solve legal matters about child custody. Your cousin works in a soup kitchen. Everyone’s a damn activist and you make pictures with water.
Sensual evasion is a complex term. What I think it means is that you can try to evade deeper feelings of loneliness and death by indulging in constant sensual gratification but eventually loneliness and death will catch up with you. My point is, you need to be stimulated all the time. Maybe it will make you into a genius because this is want you really want. But also I guarantee that you will fail and run out of energy and then feel guilty for reading Treasure Island on a beach.
I’ll try put it even more simply. You are scared that you are poor in spirit and don’t love things enough. This is your coffin and your closet relationship with spiritual materialism and your anxiety – that you are actually just ordinary. And ordinary people will never be able to paint a 'Starry Night' or pen a book called ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ or a song titled ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’. You’ll fall short trying to make anything half as immortal. So why make anything at all.
It’s true, I'm your handicap. It’s a strange friendship and I’ll admit it; I deliberately try make you feel unworthy so that you stop paying attention to everything else that is happening. But have you considered, that ironically, art is everything else that is happening? It’s got nothing to do with your 20th century self aggrandising artist martyrdom holy war narrative. There is just a still river, and then a frog jumps in, and then there is a sound of the frog jumping in, and then there are ripples. Something happens. Something else happens.
This is why you like it, deep down, it’s about being the opposite of solid.
All of my love,