Art Encounters | Where Time Becomes a Loop Part II

For the first part of this Art Encounters, click here.

‘Imagine bumping into yourself when you were twenty years younger?’

You’re twenty-three years old, looking at Francis Bacon’s Lying Figure (1966) in the Reina Sofia Gallery Madrid. It’s 1997. You turn around – startled – to meet your forty-three year old self. It’s a twist in the fabric of space, where time becomes a loop…..

-Fuck, what’s going on?
-I just want to talk.
-I’m you. You’re me.
-What do you mean you’re me?
-Just relax. I just want to talk.
-What do you mean you’re me?
-I’ll explain. Don’t fret. It’s a loop; a time loop. We’ll talk for a while, I’ll go and you’ll meet your sister and you won’t remember anything.
-I don’t get it. You’re freaking me out. How did you get here?
-I told you. It’s not real. I mean we’re both here.
-What do you mean we’re both here? I don’t understand.
-Just talk about the painting. Forget the ‘I’m you, you’re me’ stuff. Forget I said that. Just concentrate on the
-But I need to know. I can’t just stand here and talk about a painting I’ve only just seen.
-Like I said, relax. Think about why you stopped. Here. Now.
-Why I stopped? Here? Now?
-Yes. Why you stopped. Here. Now
-We came to see the Guernica. And then we were leaving. It was overwhelming; horses led to slaughter; the horrors of war. It’s not something I know a lot about.-You need to know a lot about a painting to like it?
-I don’t know. Maybe.
-But you stopped. Here. Now. You seem to have been taken aback by this painting.  This Bacon painting. You know: Lying Figure?
-It reminds me of stuff.
-Did it remind you of you?
-You should know, if what you say is true. That you’re me. And I’m you. Whatever.
-Forget about that for now. Let’s talk about why you stopped at the painting.
-Why I stopped? I like it. Is that enough?
-I like it too. I came back to see it again, after seeing it now.
-You want to talk about this painting? Only this painting?
-Yes. And no. Let’s just talk.

Guernica | Pablo Picasso

-Let me think. It’s the balance, I suppose. The cool purple. It just pulls you in. I couldn’t not stop. I had to stop. -The purple is the soother for the twisting body. Like a drug. You know, the way you want to be soothed.
-What is it about purple? It’s just the perfect colour.
-I agree. We agree.
-So you love it too?
-Yes. The purple…it’s a mix of red and blue. Blue is autonomy; we’re independent beings. Red is the opposite, brotherhood; our dependence on others. Mix them into purple. It’s alone and together in one.
-Do you feel blue or red?
-Hold on a second. Why are you asking me these questions?
-It’s just a question. I’m curious. I want to remember what it was like to be you. For me to be you.
-Do I feel blue, you mean?
-Or even purple?
-It’s a bit deep, isn’t it?
-I’m just asking.
-It’s like asking ‘are you happy?’ Who asks that these days?
-Me. It’s me. I mean ‘you.’ Remind me.  I forget what it’s like to be twenty-three.
-Ok. I’m not used to these conversations.
-You don’t talk much about this stuff?
-No, not really.
-But it’s me you’re talking to.
-Like looking in a mirror?
-Sort of.
-Oh well…That makes me feel a bit better. I suppose I feel happy in what I’m doing. But I feel a bit alone. Surely you remember?
-You just speak as if the colour has no bearing. Like the painting is just something you like. But why you like it isn’t personal.
-I don’t think too much about my life; I live it. I don’t want to scrutinise everything. I like… maybe love the painting. I told you, because of the colours.
-But you talk about being alone, together, uniting in purple. Surely it all relates to the here and now. You stopped for a reason. Colour is one, but there’s others.
-You’re pushing me. Maybe I identify with that guy in the picture. Yea. Or that woman, whatever the figure depicts. Does that help? If I say I feel like that sometimes.
-You feel like what sometimes?
-I’m drawn to this kind of picture. One person in a bedroom. Often on a bed. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have a bed. I sleep on it.
-What other pictures are you thinking of. Have they purple in them?
-Maybe it’s more than purple that grabbed me. Like you said. But why do you care?
-I’m interested. As time passes, you forget. I forget.
-Well, I think about stuff that’s not easy to talk about.
-I remember… It’s the transition.
-I struggle with art, talking about it… I feel like a fraud.
-Maybe feelings are what count?
-In the end?
-In the end.

The Death of Chatterton | Henry Wallis

-Well, I like The Death of Chatterton. It depicts a forger who died from an overdose. I read about him a lot this year, Chatterton. Come to think of it, he is wearing purple, his trousers… I hadn’t thought of that. That is weird.
-I remember it. He’s a redhead, isn’t he? Like us.
-Yea, the painting is cool. I read a lot about Chatterton, the genius who was written out of the canon as a fake. I like that. It reminds me of Kurt Cobain, who always felt like a fake.
-So you think you’re a fake too?
-Like I said, I often feel like a fraud. Like I shouldn’t be here. I’ll be found out.
-But it’s just part of growing up?
-Maybe. I don’t know.
-Neither do I.
-All this stuff you don’t remember- I won’t remember…
-You won’t remember, but that’s not forgetting.
-Is that what the person in this painting is doing?  Forgetting?
-Twisting and turning; looking for purple to appear. If you keep twisting you’ll stop twisting. Entropy, physics. Light will break through.
-It’s that easy?
-I feel like that in the picture. Twisting at dawn. Lonely.
-You twist and turn, like a lying figure. A cycle. I remember.
-I don’t go back to sleep. I want it to stop.
-It will stop.
-Will it?
-Tributaries go to the sea.
-What do you mean? Tributaries?
-They flow into the sea.
-More fuckin’ puzzles. That’s real pretentious shit. New age crap.
-There’s a line from a song: ‘smile all the time. Shine teeth ‘til meaningless. Sharpen them with lies.’
-That’s more pretentious again.
-It’s about loneliness. When faking it.
-Sharpen? Lie?
-It’s a song. You’ll listen to it. ‘Smile all the time’ is a refrain.
-What’s it called?
‘How to Fight Loneliness.’
-Don’t know it. I suppose I wouldn’t though, would I?
-No, you wouldn’t. But you will.
-Is it about those mornings… twisting?
-Kind of.
-It’s about being stuck?
-I feel stuck.
-Is that why you’re here? Is the Lying Figure stuck?
-Maybe. But I see it differently now. Purple could mean something else.
-Purple is an ecclesiastical colour. It’s power.
-Go on.
-Maybe ‘lying’ has two meanings. Lying down and lying – as in not telling the truth.
-Lying… falsity. I see where you’re going. You think it’s about Bacon. I know he was attracted to violence…all that self-loathing. All the Krays stuff. I’m studying a film called Performance some say is influenced by Bacon.
-Bacon is a complex character. Performance is that world. You’re right.
-In what way?
-The figure has to lie. Sexuality wise: a ‘lying’ figure.
-I assumed it was mornings, twisting and turning. Purple is positive, not repressive. But maybe you’re right: the power you reference.
-It’s not one thing or the other. It’s about the loneliness we feel when having to lie. It’s about masks. It’s about sex… and on and on. It’s about the struggle to be who we are. Art helps us figure out who we are.
-Was Bacon Catholic?
-Not sure, but he had brushes with religion. He was fascinated by power.
-He did that screamin’ pope.
-He managed a bit of Catholic guilt just from the bit of Ireland he remembered.
-The body….  guilt. All that stuff. It’s there.
-You shake it out in time.

Screaming Pope | Francis Bacon

-So the painting is about shaking off the influence of church, religion and power?
– Maybe.
-Lying Figure reminds me of the Dog Man Star album by Suede.  The cover.
-The collage ‘Sad Dreams on Cold Mornings.’ It’s a great album too. ‘The Asphalt World.’ That great, great song.
-It’s got atmosphere, so particular to England. The photo captures it. The England I’ve got to know in this past year.
-Remind me? I forget.
-It’s just a different vibe. I can’t explain. It’s all in ‘The Asphalt World.’ It’s in The Smiths. I suppose we don’t have that secular stuff yet. We’re still in the thick of religion. But the other side is what? Emptiness.. Apathy.
-I remember now how I used to think, when I was you.
-When I was you.
-But you are me.
-Tell me about the picture.
-The cover?
-The Suede cover?
-I don’t know. I like it. I have limited knowledge of that stuff. It’s a photo, as you said.
-It’s a lying figure?
-It’s a figure on a bed, like the other two. But the poet is dead in The Death of Chatterton. Maybe it’s the end of innocence that the painting laments?
-In his room. Immersed in his stuff. Maybe the bedroom is what attracts you?
-Ha. That’s funny.-I – I mean ‘you’ – or ‘we,’ spent hours in our bedroom.  I remember waiting for magazines to stack up before reading them. Then spend hours in our room.
-I’d love that again. Innocence, like that. Enthralled by the world. Not scared.
-Isn’t that what we’re looking for?
-I suppose.
-You have to work for it.
-What do you mean ‘for it’? I don’t think you get innocence back. There’s innocence and experience, as Blake said. You move forward, not back. You can’t be thirteen again.
-Are you sure?
-No, but that’s what I think.
-I read a quote from William Faulkner recently.
-He said ‘the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.’ It disputes what you think.
-The past isn’t past…Maybe I’ll understand that sometime?
-Maybe you will.
-But it’s time to move on.
-Or time to move back. Try to remember ‘all things come to those who wait.’

Suede | Dog Man Star

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