Semester 2 : Week 5 ~ Thoughts on art and writing.


 ‘Later as Clete lay in the dark….’ p.371

I am reading the katest book by one of my favourite crime novelists, James Lee Burke. I love his purple, apocalyptic language, it is so visceral and visual and so is inspiring some thoughts that connect with my current studio work.

At one point Clete is dreaming, sometimes in colour, sometimes in black and white and, for whatever reason, this description made me realise that writing, and art, is about the joining together of moments. It’s the tale we tell, the story we spin, we have to spin, because we are only ever in the moment, Everything else is unreal, so we have to make it real, make into something we can re-experience or into an object we can carry with us.

…the violent theft of  the soul, the desperate plea that the move left across the throat would run unrecorded in the memory of no one except the killer.

 Robicheaux, p.416

So, say if you think there is nothing to bind your days together (love, family, etc.) art and writing and recording and documenting will do it. In fact family or friends or whatever- are our witnesses. They bring our memories and thoughts back to the surface, so we can deal with them, make sense of them, put another light on them, reform them, re-feel them, learn from them. The killer is the most intimate of documenters…

This is what art does, it shows us how to take our moments and build something real, a ladder, a home, a safe place, a platform, a metaphor for how we live, a way to get distance from our neuroses, to document connections, so we can understand them. simply so we can hold what is dear, close. A painting solidifies a moment, embodies it so we can carry it with us, objects live beyond us as individuals, as generations.

You walk into an installation and are reminded of a feeling or a time and then you can contextualise it in relation to my experience. And so we move forward. Together. We are trying to fool eternity, us artists.

And if you know your work can’t possibly last, for what does last really-then you make work that doesn’t last.

So, documentation, recording, thats what its all about. The record can be accessed at any time by any person. That way, we cheat time. Everything except the moment are pictures in our head. Which is why we need writing, art, installations, revisitable, visceral recreations of possible worlds, feelings, situations…

Aconnected tought occurs when Burke writes of Hurricane Katrina (p.421), how it is history, how its forgotten and I feel…discombobulated. It is history but it seems like yesterday. Katrina was 2005. 9/11 was 2001. Yesterday still but so long ago. So bizarre being old. Better in a way than being young. The years may pass us by at an increasing rate but when you are old you know they are, when you are old you lunge for them. But what I mean to say is that we remenber in writing  in art, collectively. Yes family, friends, community are good. But ar thas a larger span.


The other day I was in a second hand book shop and I came across a copy of Edna O’Brien’s In The Forest, a book based on the real life killing of Imelda Riney and her son Liam and the local priest. Just the title on that spine alone shot me back quarter of a century, to that time when the country waited for Imelda and Liam to reappear, alive, unharmed.I  remember being shown a picture of her sister in a production of Dancing at Lughnasa staged in the time Imelda was missing and trying to imagine what it was like for her to continue on, wondering where her sister might be, knowing she might be dead. And here we are so many years later and it’s Edna O’Brien triggers that memory, her work in part that keeps it in the public mind years on. And thats what art does too. Joins the now to the past and maybe even to the future.

Burke,James, Lee, Robicheaux, 2017, New York : Simon & Schuster

O’Brien, Edna, In The Forest, 2002,  London : Wiedenfeld and Nicholson

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