This Roman city has been my stomping ground for all my life, and like a woman, it remains a mystery to me. A beautiful and sometimes infuriating mystery. And with all its challenges and failings, it has a beating heart that dares you to embrace it. Its old architecture and industry built from the profits of the slave trade, colonialism and the far reaches of the British Empire are part of London’s legacy. As a post colonial descendant, I am able to harness the history of London as both a symbol and witness of the city’s possibilities. The immigrant blood that upholds the NHS and that has permeated its way into the life and culture of Londoners is only one of many ways in which the history contends with the present. I try to see the beauty, resilience and hope that escapes into the polluted London air. I see the London of the Arts. I think of the fact that London can claim Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as former residents. Its been the city of visionaries like William Blake. It gave the world the genius pathos of Charlie Chaplin. Its the city of Shakespeare and boasts the world’s greatest theatre scene and tradition. Charles Dickens did not hide the ugliness and brutality of London. Neither did Dizzee Rascal. As reflected in the Grime and Drill music, London has a screw face too. Knives and young lives have not been kind to eachother. But I’ll always be grateful to London because its where I found the great love of my life. She knows who she is. I hope that we will enjoy this city together again someday. A man can dream. I love London.
Compositionally, I was hoping that some of the flavour of Duke’s Money Jungle, Thelonious Monk and the 70s era of my favourite Jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner, pictured here, who passed in March this year might be found in one of my latest musical pieces, ‘Continents’. One of my greatest concert regrets is missing his last gig in London at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club. I had my ticket but as has happened on many occasions due to a deficient memory, I unremembered on the night it took place. It was only some days after that I realised it had past.
McCoy was the last man standing from what I believe to be the greatest Jazz quartet and one of the greatest groups of musicians in the long history of people banging, squeezing, and plucking on things to make music. Alongside John Coltrane, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, Tyner made music that lifted the level of consciousness and seemingly held down the foundations of something ancient and future, just beyond the grasp of comprehension. The abstract and formal, the beauty of McCoy’s comping and soloing on ‘My Favorite Things’ is a love letter to the questing nature and curiousity of what it is to be human. The technique and the soul was never in doubt, when McCoy played his instrument.
Covering the half that doesn’t speak. I know people who fear Spiders more than death. The half mask adorned with eyes to lie in bed unwillingly with questions like lingerie.
You are my lower E string. You pulled me down to the depths. I have been with you all my years. And all my wars were fought with you. It is calm now. You gentle away the chaos. Long before I was chained to your wind, the ground held me tight. I looked down and never fell too hard to hurt you. Just in love.
Neck turns the head but don’t get the hair twisted. A crooked eye turns the sky upside down. Come forward with your certainty and let me tame you for you are wild in your clarity and I am life. Not given. Not taken. Make your presence an acquaintance of mine and I might lengthen your days of youth and ignorance. Or swerve contact with my eyes and watch me wither you to frailty like men who have learned too much death and bowed reluctantly to their successors.
Missed it. Trash. The slight of hand was deliberate but not intentional. The intent was the reach of my questions. I searched the hand because I thought it once held the heart. I might have been wrong. Beauty and trash have much in common when you see through them.
They would say it was just another day. Or you might look at eachother and ask of eachother things you never asked eachother…before…you never knew eachother….still you question their commitment and yours. Its not that you’ve ceased to care. The fruit still has flavour. Maybe not as ripe as it once was. You never liked to eat the core. But thats where you must go. Hard. The fruit is softening. The heart is hardening. You do not notice what is happening around the centre of your world.
Fated to believe that it really does count. That numbers add up. The crosses and knives cut deeper than words and silence. Knowing that the count starts before you, runs ahead of aspiration, and the novelistic length of your thoughts. That desire carries you as far as you let it linger. A kiss inverted. You swallow your own lies. But they taste good.
Once upon a time I presented this painting, ‘The Deep Thinker’, as a gift. It was turned down because the person who it was gifted to, said the face had no eyes. And that it was tantamount to bad luck. I’ve never dealt in charms but I graciously took back my painting. It seems the only eyes we recognise more often than not are the peep holes for our iris to take a snap shot of what we percieve in surreality. In real life as we term it, we are blinded by sight or rather blunted. The optical illusion of the vision is only equaled by the delusion of what we choose not to see in plain sight. We are all complicit in the great deception and visionaries will burn at the high stakes of our unseeing eyes.
The Deep Thinker
Acrylic on canvas
Six thirty. You were on time. This time. You were here. I was on my way. Missed the train. Missed the boat too. Burnt the bridge behind the rush hour. Always Knew I could fly. Just needed you to believe. I could fly across the world between your heart and I. On my bicycle. Travelling you has been my greatest journey. So far. So far away. Too high to climb your thoughts. I tried you like you were written by Hemmingway. You were sentences that served me time in the cave of loneliness. I fell down in battle. We grow up in love and loss. Played the hand too hard. Not soon enough. Only time wins it all. Its seven.