This is part of an email I send to
my friend Carol Watts the poet:
“Speaking of which I’ve been
sequestered here awhiles now away from my dayjob - struggling
to keep the head above water in a different way cos pretty much all I’ve done in the last month is exist
in the studio, making calligraphic work with various artists here - its alternately wonderful and stressful - I feel that I’m jumping into something big and complex and with an enormously misted surface.
“I’ve entered a language and signage that is simply and utterly not mine, but am trying to employ it to make a piece about human distance – I’ve used some people who are very naive writers as well as calling on experts so some of these works are going to be dismissed here because the adherence to calligraphic tradition is hugely ingrained and any deviation is seen to be simply coarse - then there’s the grand old habit of the West appropriating culture from here - eg. most of my deeper held reference to Chinese poetry is Pound's Cathay, which is itself an appropriation of a semitranslation - so I’m damned there too - but I note within myself alongside the nerves a certain glee at the prospect… cos the pieces are in a sense paintings, I’ve bound the idea of the thing together with dulux colours - and of course we none of us know if we're seeing the same colour.”
On the way back from the studio at 1am or so, I see an old lady the size of a small child, litter-picking to scrounge a living. She must be in her late 70s. Strapped onto her back is a basket far bigger than herself, filled with bits of cardboard and paper. She wobbles, looks as if she might sink under the weight. In that moment, I regret my flip comment to Carol about ‘keeping my head above water’. I mention it here to remind myself.