Howard’s Way

Howard Hodgkin: Painting India
The Hepworth, Wakefield
1st July – 8th October 2017

1st July 2017

Working notes

Darkness at Noon contained by ply
frothing green wings and sweeps From the Terrace Bombay
warped blocks of Indian Veg
new ply wave Arriving
acidic Red Sky green
knife cuts sky of Evening
proximity repels
frames, framed, framing
nail holes old frames
turned to face the wall (secrets)
ply Bombay
smell of cut timber gestures


Postscript: I’m pleased to hear that The Hepworth has won Art Fund Museum of Year 2017.

…the loose words leave…

the loose words lose their tongue in the trying. you lose the words in their loose tongue tying. Trying to be them. Unsettles the equilibrium for a moment that is certain. To leave a mark on skin. Surfacing with these words. Propelled, expelled the nuisance of their knowing to you and I and we and they, and all else besides. The crypt of their forgiving, foregoing the air that they need to dwell down in their dingles.

angles formed by trying to fit their limitless dimensions to a frame that has no matter. Awkward angles that jut and poke and pull and scratch and tear and puncture. Punctuate angles, all elbows and knees. Knitting together a part for a matrix. Off spring, out spring words. Dangerous words. Where are they leading? Me. Hear. They are leaving almost as soon as they came. What are we left with? You and I but not the words now. The words know they have been (and gone). To pieces. Two pieces.

The gentle breeze turns the leaves a little and reveals a lighter underside. The blackbird sings.

…loosely wording…

herd, wording, saying, speaking, slaying, splaying, spying, there the words. Are lost to all that come this way and those that don’t. Do not take these words for granted for they will follow and that is most unfortunate to you and I and they. Will be left here in the enclosure for all that is worth. While I leave here to leave them there to you to do your wont. I wanted them to follow me but realise that they must stay.

stay, sing these words with your ear. My speaking words are hear for you. Fore ewe. To trust in them implicitly. They will stay and stray and change with years before your ears. How did I intend them to be? How could I intend them to be? A fine line flexed between me and them, I and they. Aye, and they left me here loosely wording the writing that you are reading now and then and there. And their motives are unsure, their sentience lacking? Whilst the sentences are stacking. Up. And down the page we sprinkle the ripe pickings of punctuation’s palette.

Too much. Must be done to change the approaching of the words; the words encroaching. On me here. Distance and disjuncture are required to be sure that I do not become words and they do not become me. The words become landscape. Landslide, words slide, down, scree-fall, clatter, (chatter), heap, cairn. Building to direct. Directing to deceive. Perceive a faltering path…a trod. Hazily present. Trods. Hopscotching between. Through heather and by lithic scatter. The words tatter this way with their own gowns. Grown down. To here.

word herding

[wearily] Who’s in charge here?…if indeed anybody should be in charge. The words won’t do what I want them to. The writing is becoming nominal much too quickly; there seems to be a lack of revelling in the (verbal) process of writing. The words have lost the freedom of the hills. The fun and excitement have gone and we (the words and I, and, unfortunately, you the reader) seem to be trapped in a rigid process of ordering and prissying. The atmosphere has become turgid. Insipid. Stultifying.

Maybe the desire to write what I think I should be writing has overwhelmed the writing. Maybe the preconceptions have become all too convincing and the words are jumping immediately into a traditional frame of reference; the writing has been bypassed. It is a curious thing for sure. The sudden jolt between the thinking of the typhic quotidian and the thinking of the writing does not help…the transition takes time (and the reverse of the process happens later in the day, equally painfully). It seems to be the thinking equivalent of an ecotone but the integration is not a fruitful one (it is more like a worst of both worlds situation). The days press in on me and the words sense it; they become nervous, skittish and unhelpful. They will hide. How to find the hidden herd?

I should walk or run to set the words in flight from their hiding places, to get the words fluid again. But the amount of information I need to retain for this to be worthwhile is beyond my capacities. I need it to hand. Am I being lazy? You see the flight of the words is their writing but it is subtly managed. Not by them or by me; instead, we are constituted by the writing. It is a joy when it is working. It so rarely works.

The green of the park trees is becoming heavy and the housemartins are flying amongst them; flying low. There will be rain soon. Let us hope that it is a fresh, revitalising rain.

false starts

A guillotine and van Bentum

a bearded man, in profile. No, not that one. Oh, it’s Shakespeare is it. Portal to Shakespeare land.

Turn around.

I wanted me to write about how the English South Downs were formed over millions of years through the accumulation of the remnants of small and microscopic fauna. How the chalk of the Downs is almost entirely bodily remains.

I wanted you to believe that we were writing about writing…the accumulation being of words written but no, the writing is about reading. Hiding in reading and then forgetting.

Another day, another run. A good run.

We don’t often meet fellow travellers out on the wastelands, the sheep walks, the uplands. When we do meet others the advice is to make cuts, to draw lines but above all to take it easy. Rimanere tranquillo. We heed the advice, try to absorb it but also to examine it. It makes sense of a sort. But how to follow this advice? Looking across this #langscape we are moved to think of a new enclosing, less contentious now but also somehow uncomfortable (for the encloser). But these will not be parting words, certainly not in the sense of bidding farewell. They may though be parting words in the sense that these words form a part through their wording; through their becoming-here.

[a drone circles the protagonists, offering stunning cinematic footage as the awkward figure(s) move(s) haltingly through the #langscape. A map is consulted. The ground appears barren and spoiled.]

“We should beat the bounds.” Is the announcement. We must find a high place and look out and through; that will be our starting point. Certainly some areas will be hidden from us by the folds of the #langscape but at least some shape can be given to things. We will follow the obvious lines in the #langscape to provide a circuit of possibilities. We may still look out and in, not that there are such places. Choices will need to be made; some will appear strange for the moment but a suitable shape will form through minor adjustment.

Stuttered starts will have to do (what they are told).

pin sand needless

[although the days have lengthened imperceptibly the scene remains the same. We return to it, or rather we are still here observing it. Maybe now we will take a part (take apart, see?).] Is that you bent down at the side of the excavation? What can you see there? Excuse me, can I move a little closer? Well, it looks human to me. [The human remains…in the excavation are most strange. They seem to be of a male but have outward-facing needles filling the orbits of the eyes. This needle-eyed man will have encountered great spells of acuity yet one can’t help thinking that between the needles much fell and was lost. The experience will have been one of extremes, great extremes, splitting and tearing apart. We must ask why these figures, these beings lived out here in such upland areas. We ask this question now when the climate is less amenable but we must understand that once, in the distant past, the conditions will have been much more munificent and certainly will have encouraged a good living. It may even have been enjoyable.]

I’ve come up here today to look out across (and through) this langscape. I look with a certain sense of pride but also an unhealthy dose of discomfiture. Will we ever really be able to pull together all these traces and make some sort of sense of them? Even though I’m alone here today I brought you with me in a sense and will use this artificial “you” as a sounding board I suppose. I think I know what they meant by the image of the needle-eyed man. This knowing has come about through a tried and tested process of failing to remember things.

Running (and walking) is an important part of this research and frequently ideas will occur whilst running—words, phrases and even whole sentences can take shape (or maybe existing ones will be shaped a little more) yet they disappear on re-entry to the orbit of the writing desk. How can it be that this well rehearsed routine of running and thinking and then immediately forgetting can still be going on? You would have thought I would have learned by now. But the forgetting is not one of complete absence for an imprint of the idea remains. This imprint is enough to irritate but not enough to summon again the full thought. A similar thing sometimes happens at night; within that time at which the body has relaxed towards sleep and the mind is closing down. An exciting notion emerges, suddenly…but by morning, even if it is remembered, it seems comparatively dull. The volume of the idea has thinned out and a mere husk remains, one that seems pathetic in the cold light of day.

[looking away from the excavation, the land slopes gently downwards to some form of watercourse before rising gently back up again and then merging into the monochrome sky through a series of relatively featureless gently fading skylines.]1


1. I dedicate the pointed imagery found in this post to the pins and needles sensations that I am currently experiencing in my feet and hands.