As I walk from room to room, I greet the paintings like old friends; Pollock and Rothko and the rest. Ducking into the second-last room, my exhibition-weary feet ready for the warm embrace of the shop, I’m suddenly stopped in my tracks.
Canvases loom down from the walls. They are sparse, but they fill up all of the room. Black tangles and jitters against white and bright colours appear and disappear as my eye traces across the room.
The room swims with liveliness. It crackles, but is austere, stately. Art galleries always feel like art galleries, the sound of your own shoes booming on the floor gives credence to how much more important your thoughts are in this context than any other bare room. But this room is different, life and death are on the table. It moves when it is still.
Often, I think back to when I first met lovers or friends or the great figures in my life. A few I have images of, either accurate or embellished. For the longest time I thought love was something that always grew on me slowly, patiently. Now I know that actually you know from the beginning. “Oh no,” I had thought, upon meeting one of the great loves of my life. I’ve just become better at realising that you can know something about somebody, when you don’t even know them at all.
The painter was telling me something I had known all my life. Deep down, I knew this.
I don’t even know what these paintings are about. I can’t begin to verbalise it, to put it into context, to explain. But I know exactly what these paintings are about, and I’ve been waiting for someone to show me it.
I went back three times, and sat in front of those paintings for hours. The paintings made my thoughts dance like music or being on a boat or a bike or a moving train does. I just think clearer in motion.
I don’t know how jagged paint can be terror and happiness and that constant battle between light and dark. But it is.
Two years after I encountered these paintings I met my partner at a party. I thought “oh.”