10/24/09

I can has a mind

This week, I’ve been in better mental health than I’ve been in for months — maybe years. I took medicine for a condition that you wouldn’t suppose to be remotely related to anxiety, brain fog or obsessive thoughts. But they all cleared up when I took it.

It’s too soon to go into detail, as I need to see how I go this month. The sudden change could have been related to hormones, or to something else. But just for now, I’ve got my mind back.

It’s been a terrible year, really. I’ve been turning up to work, answering emails, being amiable in public, doing contract work, even writing a couple of stories, and continuing to work on The Floating World. But it has all been like diving in murky water, surrounded continually by irrational fears and obsessive anxious thoughts that wouldn’t leave me alone, with physical and mental fatigue increasing and ability to concentrate decreasing, to the point where I was starting to have trouble stringing words into coherent sentences when speaking. Writing has been like pushing a semitrailer uphill.

I was losing my intelligence, reason, self control, judgement and will. I was unable to believe in what I knew to be true, and all too able to believe in ridiculous things. My own mind was a horrible place to be in. My quality of life was sliding fast. The 100 metre drop out the window was starting to look just slightly not unattractive.

But just right now, I’m ok. But also looking around dazed, because the experience of feeling that I was going insane — of irrational fears trumping the rational mind, has shifted — I won’t say shaken, because that sounds negative, and this isn’t necessarily a negative thing — my perception of self and identity.

Was I myself when I was mad? I don’t think so. But am I myself now? Am I this rational mind?

The rational mind, with which we tend to identify, obviously isn’t permanent or unconquerable.  It’s a contingent thing. We know we can lose it.  But who are we when we lose it? It’s an abstract question, perhaps, until you do start losing it.

Neti, neti, neti — not this, not that, nor that either, say the yogis. But I’ve only looked down.  I haven’t learned the art of looking up past the mind. I suck at meditation, I have to admit. I’m too impatient. I’m actually not bad at focusing on breath and letting thoughts come and go, or even not particularly thinking at all, but hum de hum de padme hum, what happens next, baby? How long did you say I’ll have to do this before states of bliss and cosmic consciousness arise?

But hey, if I’ve really cracked what was wrong and I’m not going to be plagued by anxiety etc anymore, I should have more free time (since anxiety is a terrible time devourer). Maybe this is the year to get meditating seriously and see if I can’t get at least a peek through the clouds.

Of course, I’ll probably just get rained on.

10/22/09

Heather Nevay

I’m so glad I stumbled across the works of painter Heather Nevay. Born in Glasgow in 1965, she studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Her paintings are rich and detailed and replete with symbolism, often featuring children (with faces like early Northern Renaissance portraits), surprised, as writer and film maker James Burge puts it, “in the middle of some incomprehensible ritual, staring out at us with hostility and contempt.”

The Sleeping Boy

The Mourning of Mister Lambe

The Sleeping Boy and The Mourning of Mister Lambe from Nevay’s exhibition this month at The Portal Gallery.

Nevay says: “I’m interested in the games in which children take part which fall into traditional roles and activities. I look at the duplicity of the play which is often the cause of misinterpretation of adult onlookers. I am not storytelling but I want to offer a glimpse of a scene which will continue after our gaze has moved on. I don’t want to paint horrific scenes, but sometimes I have to create an atmosphere of uncomfortable feelings.”

Heather Nevay’s home page — lots of pictures, and the bio includes the article quoted above.

10/20/09

Masked Bandit

Some of you may remember the picture with the blindfold (completely utterly unsafe for work, unless you work in a whorehouse).

The blindfold is back. I needed a model, really — looked at a few photos but couldn’t find a figure in this position.

masked_bandit01a

Anatomy and %$@#! hands aside, I kinda like what I did here. Might explore this direction some more. (I know: first no eyes, now no nose or mouth. I was inspired by Duncan Regehr‘s drawings of Zorro, who he also played on TV. Little did I know, when in the first budding of my sexuality I went batshit for Dirk Blackpool (for younger viewers, yes, men really did wear their hair like that in 1983), that the actor playing him was an accomplished artist. I suddenly have a jones to watch W&W again… )

10/17/09

Art links

In addition to Who Killed Bambi, which I’ve mentioned before, in hunting around for images by Aloise Corbaz I found two other art sites that I really like, Artminut and Random Index. Artminut in particular — at a cursory glance — seems to showcase more female artists than many art blogs do (or at least, the ones I seem to find, anyway).

A few favourites:
Benedetta Bonichi [home page]
Christopher Conn Askew (especially La Penitente!) [home page]
Mari Shimizu [home page]
Richard Laillier [home page]

From Monster Brains, an awesome site for weird art, the real-unreal and beautifully executed animal paintings of Laurie Hogin (second on page). [Home page, article]

And from Pink Tentacle, the anatomy of Japanese folk monsters!

Posted in Art |
10/16/09

Aloise Corbaz

Still out of the cave. Recently I’ve been looking at outsider art, and have noticed that most of the artists to whom space and thought (at least online) have been given are — no big surprise — male. So I searched for female outsider artists, and found Aloise Corbaz, a Swiss woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1918 and committed to a mental hospital, where she remained for the rest of her life.

Unlike the majority of those labelled “outsider artists”, she was well educated. Her work, which she began in secret around 1920 (most of her early output was destroyed), portrays a protean, unlimited world in which her own image is prominent, in the midst of suitors, historical figures, and characters from opera; flowers abound, colours are brilliant, and the general mood seems to be one of untrammelled love, play, indulgence and delight — in a realm where everyone has big blank blue eyes, as if to signify that they are immortals, or ideational rather than corporeal beings (but one would have to ask Aloise). Sometimes the gaiety seems to take on a sinisterly desperate, Weimar cabaret sort of tone — but it’s hard to be sure whether the figures’ expressions are meant to appear crazed or simply passionate.

aloise1
Cloisonné de théâtre, 1951, coloured pencil, oil pastel and thread on paper.
Photo: Philip Bernard. Source: Raw Vision

aloise2
waterloo / marie stuart / werther / tosca
Source: Random Index — larger image there

aloise3
Source: Ubuweb

aloise4
(Valkyrie as Madonna?)
Source: Ubuweb

Her doctor, Jacqueline Porret-Forel, who along with hospital director Hans Steck, took an interest in her work, wrote:
“The world as recreated by Aloïse is cosmic and insubstantial, free of physical contingencies, in opposition to the old natural world she knew before her ‘death,’ that is before her illness. It is a supernatural world, theater of the Universe, thronged with immutable, hieratic actors whose deeds and feelings are expressed by the tiny hieroglyphic figures around them. Furthermore, their very essence is uncertain. They may be themselves and yet simultaneously represent something else. A woman may be herself and at the same time her icon … or a living lantern … or an allegory.”

The part following “furthermore” rang a solipsistic bell for me, as it could be a description of what goes on in my head. To me, it makes perfect sense that a person (certainly a person in art or fiction, and perhaps a person in everything but the bodily sense too) could be themselves, an icon, an allegory, and a living lantern. That they could be seems much more likely than that they couldn’t be.

Sources: Ubuweb (also has images — if the link doesn’t show up, it’s at the bottom left of the picture), Wikipedia, Japan Times, Raw Vision, Random Index (go to main page for vintage tattoos, strange and beautiful art, and just plain strange art).

10/15/09

Paul Haines: Slice of Life

Popping out of the cave to mention Slice of Life, a collection of stories by Paul Haines, put together by Stuart Mayne and Geoff Maloney. The collection includes the Ditmar-winning The Devil in Mr Pussy and the Aurealis-shortlisted Doof Doof Doof. (The Ditmar and Aurealis are Australian speculative fiction awards.) I haven’t read any of Paul’s work, but I do read his blog, and thoroughly believe the description of Slice of Life as “twisted and murderous black humour”. Paul has been undergoing treatment for cancer, which all proceeds from the book will go towards.

On the subject of books, I had a kind of message in a bottle from the past the other day when the always-interesting Des Lewis emailed me to say he’d written a review of The Alsiso Project, a book I contributed to a few years ago. I like something he says about one of the stories (Steve Savile’s): “Thankfully, it is flawed and over-long. The focus is spread. And we can escape.” Whether or not the reader agrees with his assessment, it’s good to see an acknowledgement that perfection (as ordained by the fashions of the times and the habits of a culture, presumably?) isn’t always the best state of being for a story, or any other work of art. How much space is too much, how much time is too much, how much faithful reproduction of the disorder of real life is too much? These are subjective questions, and they oppose the tendency of well-meaning people to make prescriptive statements about the arts (all those statements with “should” in them, which are not infrequently calibrated by the needs of mass commerce, ne?)

Gee, out of the cave and straight onto the soapbox!