Posts Tagged ‘Philip Larkin’


Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

― Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings


A newer painting, this one on paper called The Quarantine House, that is part of my upcoming show, Social Distancing, at the Principle Gallery. The show is tentatively scheduled to open on June 5. There is, of course, uncertainty about how it might proceed given the current circumstances.

Uncertainty is a common companion for most of us these days. In regular times in the past, there were types of uncertainty that I was comfortable with, having developed a tolerance of sorts for them. You know, things like belief systems, confidence in my own abilities and those sorts of things. In fact, preparing for my annual shows was one of the coping mechanisms that built up that tolerance..

It gave me a defined task and a dead focus on that task. Certainty.

It was a certainty that pushed all other uncertainty to the back of my mind, out of sight and rendered harmless.

But now, there is a constant uncertainty that runs through these days. I still have the task but it feels less defined, less certain. And that dead focus that has sustained me in the past now feels like it is being restrained. Or held captive.

Like it is the one being confined to that quarantine house. It knows there is work to be done but the uncertainty has brought it to a standstill in the dragging minutes and hours of its confinement. It looks around for something that will feed it but all it see are the corners of its confined space and out the windows nothing but endless plains and distant horizons.

That dead focus feeds on certainty and it feels a bit starved at the moment.

I know that dead focus will leave the quarantine house eventually, that it will find its way to sustenance of some sort. A small bit of certainty will whet its appetite and soon, it will once again be ravenous for all the time it can consume.

But for now, I just have to wait it out with that uncertainty as a housemate here in the studio.



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High WindowsAfter working on the large painting whose progress I have been chronicling, I moved back to a few pieces that were incomplete and needed the final touches to come alive.  This is one , a fairly large canvas measuring 30″ by 40″, painted in the same obsessionist manner as my recent work.  This piece has a lot of things working for it- the way all of the landscape elements converge at the center, the pull of the alternating rows of the field, etc.

But the sky is the obvious star of this painting is the vivid sky.  It has a real glow in the studio and my eye is always pulled to it.  It is just calling for one’s attention.  The sky is intentionally comprised of built up layers of colorful daubs of paint.  I wanted the sky to have that appearance of the sky coming apart, separating into individual lights sources.  The result is a really active sky, full of movement, that is a dynamic backdrop for the quietness of the landscape below.

As I was finishing it, I began thinking of the colorful daubs of color in the painting as being stained glass windows, kind of suspended in the sky.  That reminded me of the poem, High Windows, from the late British poet Philip Larkin.  It’s an interesting poem, one that seems full of cynicism at first glance, almost rejoicing in the loss of reverence in the world.  But the last few lines have the cynic dissolving into a sort of new awe and  reverence for the immense unknown, which are symbolized to him by high windows.  That is the same immense unknown I see in the sky of this painting, which is now titled High Windows.

Anyway, here is the poem from Larkin.  I’m also enclosing a video that has the voice of Larkin reading his poem.  It’s always interesting to hear the author’s reading of the words, his rhythm and cadence.  Gives you more of an idea of his aim in writing the piece.  Hope it works for you…

High Windows

When I see a couple of kids

And guess he’s fucking her and she’s

Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,

I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives–

Bonds and gestures pushed to one side

Like an outdated combine harvester,

And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if

Anyone looked at me, forty years back,

And thought, That’ll be the life;

No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide

What you think of the priest. He

And his lot will all go down the long slide

Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:

The sun-comprehending glass,

And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows

Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

—Philip Larkin

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