Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breakfast with the artist

"I am having the salmon." Each morning, he pondered and paused over his selections from the elegant and luxurious Dutch buffet that was a feast of fruit, eggs, cheeses, breads and yes, gravlax.

And I, my inner heart amazed to be dining in such a fine place with a famous artist, would have my fill of fruit, and maybe the ham, and then yes, the gravlax.

Eating slowly, we would natter on about the people we had met for the first time the day before: what characters! The publisher, the urbane and proper but wicked German, who with a twinkle in his eye was smiling at our island amazement and anticipation. Were we being too exotic, a little provincial in the town that dedicated entire museums to their artists? The director of the art foundation, the petite capable energetic Dutch who cycled everywhere in Amsterdam. Were we equal to old world grace and civility coupled with charming efficiency? Our wonder at arriving there, on the verge of being transported by high speed train to one of the most important museums in the world - the Kunsthal in Rotterdam built by Rem Koolhaas: too third world? The Kunsthal curatorial team was welcoming curious and respectful. Half-day touring the spaces and facilites filled our heads with possibility; with dreams.


Walking to art museums in Amsterdam, a magical city for dreaming art.
A giant show with immediate and blistering deadlines. A hall of hanging cloths. Small screens filled with island faces. Wings and banners. Projections for endless replays of mas on the savannah and street. A Red room. Levels and mezzanines for history, design, technique, sound and light, music and lyric. Humans or automatons to move the giant costumes; halls high enough for them to dance in! Were we over-ambitious?Were we cruisin' for a bruisin'? 

Beyond dreams too, the publication house, one of the oldest in Germany, in a snowy town that has turned industry to beauty. A fine art house steeped in the craft of reproducing art in fine books. Surely this house was adequate to the task of showcasing the new art of an island people, to print an impeccable document - the singular work of a favoured artist - to astonish and stir the old world.

Back at home on the small island, with the sudden compulsion of a mas to make, the dream evaporates like mist in the Carnival Tuesday hot sun. 

Breakfast with the artist, on Pluto:
"How can you put me in a box?"
"This box is the mind of another creator.  It is not your box."

"This is not me." (It's not large enough, it's not what I have in my head about my own importance to the world.)
"It is a tiny capture, a whisper, a taste of what's to come..."

"One hundred and twenty pages ... 25 years work in 120 pages?"
"There will be another book ... many other books. This is the start, the first step. Consider it the catalogue to the first exhibition..."

"How can I expect mere mortals to describe me, the artist who has given his life to represent the soul of a small island?"
"Mere mortals perceive and appreciate complexity in collectives, in repetition, in mas ...in a band. A band is a marvellous thing, from the idea of the artist to the garment executed by the seamstress, from the painter to the drummer, from the dancer to the spectator... the work of many hands towards a moment that might be remembered for a long time."

"You trying to pin me down, to make the work small..."
"The review is the work of the critic.The exhibition is the work of the curator. The book is the work of the publisher. Surely each artist deserves respect to allow his work. Surely it is not for the artist to be photographer, juror, critic, apologist and press agent for his own work ..."

The book dies, a slow and painful death. The exhibition is slaughtered. The world moves on.
Each year, a small or big piece of the artist shows up in another shape or form, in someone else's work. And who is to care?
Mask for the broken heart

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