A letter of longing

I’ve been meaning to write to you for a long time. It has been a month since you came to visit me. I write this letter to you, like many others, even though I will not send it yet. I will keep them in a time-capsule, hoping that with enough time I might be able to compose a more complete picture. I can’t imagine how words can capture the moving complexities, how the small space of a page can hold all the things I want to share with you. I strain my words as if they will somehow make the distance and time between us feel less immense and melancholic.

The sun is just rising over here, I am next to the window that is shimmering in the gentle warmth of first light. The breath of my sleep and dreams is beading on the glass and collecting enough gravity to streak down. I catch the drops with my fingertips and draw wet pictures that glisten with the blue of the morning sky. I write all the things I cannot explain to you right now. I write to you in the language of my childhood, the language of my deepest heart. My hand can move in its own time, treating the words with care, forming each line and curve with feelings I cannot always spell out.

I tell you how much I love you, as if the words can heal all the heartbreak you had to endure during those first tender years. I know they will disappear in the warmth of day, but they are here, my invisible messages to you. Maybe they will reappear while I am sleeping, while the sun rises on your side of the world. Maybe the sun will bring you this love and warmth as a special secret.

I miss you. I think of our time together this brief holiday. You have developed a keen interest in science. You were fascinated with the photographic process, so we experimented with different projects to investigate all the interesting ways you could capture light on paper. We built a pinhole camera, but it was challenging to sit still for long enough to get a image with sharp focus. I thought that the blurry abstract pictures were perhaps more accurate in the way they captured the restless emotions that would never fit into a pleasant and posed snapshot. Our holiday expeditions had more than enough of those ideal family portraits smiling for the camera.

We also learned about cyanotype printing. We were lucky to have a few sunny days to make these prints. Blue skies, blue prints. Cyan-blue always reminds me of those times we sat together in the fragile spring warmth. We placed blossoms on the paper, and we made shadows with our hands together, sometimes changing the shadow forms during the exposure like some invented sign language to create the ghostly silhouettes. I like to imagine that those milky hand-like shapes were expressing all the things we did not have the words for at the time.

Remember we made secret messages with milk on paper? You were amazed when we warmed it in the oven and the map appeared on the colouring paper. I remember how strangely liberating it was to write things that I couldn’t actually see. Maybe I can include a message like this for you in our time capsule. I can explain to you all the complicated adult things, all the reasons I couldn’t stay, why I kept my distance. I remember hearing that you were getting bullied at school because of me. I am sorry, the world is cruel and people don’t understand. After that I decided to hide myself. Keeping my connection with you has always been more important to me.

I always wonder how things could have been different. But it’s hard to picture this easy and happy portrait. Just as I don’t always have the words to make it alright. All I can do is to give it up to the larger movements of the sun, the seasons, and holidays we may spend together as we change and grow together. I hope I may develop the intuition to move gracefully within light and shadow, to learn when and how I can expose myself.

***

The sun has just gone down over here, I am writing in the artificial light of the bed lamp. The sun will be rising soon where you are. I behold myself in the dark of the window and I wonder how your adult face has taken shape. I wonder if I would recognise my own features in yours.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to give you the complete picture, with all the details in sharp focus. But I hope that despite all the unspoken things, despite unresolved pain and unbreachable distance, we may still fill the immense blue space between us with expressions of deepest love.

- Lou Fourie, 2018

Written in response to ‘And they all say your name’ (2018) By Talia Smith and Zainab Hikmet, shown at BLINDSIDE ARI, 3- 20 Oct

'Unfathoming' (2018) by Jeremy Bakker - a written response

Now

On my way to meet the artist at his studio

Googling his work,

stretching out the tiny digital images on my handheld device,

tapping notes in response to the descriptions provided.

I add more tabs to my google search:

//stone tools, modern technology, how drinking glasses are made, the dark side of the moon, time+now+contemporary art, process+repetition+contemporary art, post-conceptual art, art+embodiment...//

I keep adding tabs,

a way to get my thinking going.

Before I know it, I accumulate a vast amount of information.

I can’t grasp it all at this moment, 

but my fingertips keep moving on the surface of glass

My hands keep busy scribbling words 

 

My hands

now holding tea

at Jeremy’s studio.

pacing out this cup-full with tiny sips and warming my fingers

 

A sheet of paper

as big as my body

handwritten text fills my field of vision:

the word “now”, in lines that scroll from top to bottom,

accumulated into layers so that in the centre of the page 

the writing itself disappears in an incomprehensible muddle of black ink.

 

the “now” continues to move while

each moment captured, each word written down

sinks into the past

 

I reflect on all those moments:

a body, hands keeping busy, the simple gesture of writing

my eyes follow the movement of that meditative activity,

into that dark where the words disappear

and the now is present

 

A familiar object

that could be mistaken for a drinking glass

in fact it is the inside space of a drinking glass

filled in by the glass itself, the outside having become the inside.

On a mirror shelf, beneath it the reflection

hangs upside-down

All the moments measured whilst sipping from this glass, 

an accumulation of experience

impossible to hold in the volume of this vessel.

This vessel 

crushed down to dust, melted, poured back into its own shape.

Solid to liquid and back, turned inside out.

The curve of its surface now shows everything outside:

the present passing by in distorted flow.

 

Now

my tea, half-gone and cold,

but this cup in my hand suddenly seems alive. 

This object 

and every other common object and tool that we use in our daily lives 

from the first moment people banged open rocks 

and realised that the sharp fragments could be used as tools. 

And now satellites take pictures of hidden mysteries in space.

 

A small photo frame 

turned around to face the wall

NASA photograph of the dark side of the moon:

a terrain that has been a symbol of the unknowable.

I can probably google it quite easily,

but I rather surrender to the curiosity that is evokes.

There is a little gap where the image is hiding

which only exacerbates the yearning to know.

 

In my hands, a tablet 

shows an image of a prehistoric stone tool.

A tiny digital hand, for grabbing hold of things on screen

slowly moves over the sharp edges and lines of the stone.

As if this hand will somehow allow me to touch and feel,

to reach across the span of time to prehistory.

My eyes follow this movement, the tracing of the finger on the dark glass.

 

And now

my last sip of tea, 

I pause to appreciate 

this movement that my body can feel.

Time’s duration, the flow of the present,

and an ever-present yearning to grab hold of it

Words, solid forms, digital objects, photographs:

embodying vast histories of experience, memories, mysteries

always present from moment to moment

as we keep on grasping, touching, endlessly laboring

and connecting our bodies with the unfathomable.

- Lou Fourie, July 2018

A written repsonse to ‘Unfathoming’ (2018) by Jeremy Bakker, shown at BLINDSIDE ARI, 1-18 Aug 2018