If you look at a word long enough it can start to look strange, alien even. I only need to glance briefly over the words poet, poem or poetry for them to start to look very discombobulated indeed. And then, for some stranger reason, I can only recalibrate my brain by thinking about Winnie the Pooh who also says something about the word poem, but I am sure has the letters in the wrong order. I am hoping for an explication of this phenomenon from the Winnie the Pooh expert after she has finished ambulance duties for the day.
Which is all a rather long preamble to what I originally intended to say which was this. Amy Winehouse was a lyrical poet and that’s why, as my friend Jamie has observed, all her words have meaning. Not every artist can do this: expose their own feelings directly in the work. Does the authenticity of this process take more out of them, or was the taking out of them already done. I don’t know, but I do know this is a heartbreak of a song to listen to and a very fine lyric poem.
On days like these when it should be a little warmer than it feels, a little kinder than is evident, a little less painful to hear the news; these are the days when I force myself to type a few words, if only to take refuge in the temporary comfort of the keyboard’s repetitive depressions, accompanied by the familiar clicks of the letters being arranged into a small meaning for the day. An existential activity, like many others, and a little harder but more necessary on days like these.
Write about Freud perhaps: all pain is loss, remembered and unremembered… The perpetual artistic discharge of that unknown void only squaring and cubing it in the case of Amy Winehouse who could only sing loss and pain to us, through, and about, thick layers of suffocation with analgesia. That particular road is No Entry for me today; it has no streetlights, and no bright sun or moon to light a way – I would simply be lost. I will make the journey another day. But make it I will. One step after another is all it takes after all, but the context is as yet unclear: an expedition, a pilgrimage, a maze…
Instead, back to Lucian and his friend, William Feaver’s appreciation in today’s Observer. Seems when I wrote about Freud’s landscapes I was seeing not only what I fancied, but what the artist intended.
About 10 years ago we went to Paris together to look at a Constable show. We both loved his portraits and were somehow trying to help lose, or shake off, the Constable that everyone knows. People tend to say that Constable was a boring English artist, but he was extraordinary in that he treated landscapes and portraits as if they were the same thing. This is what Lucian felt an artist should do. When it came to talking about art, Lucian was incredibly focused, and incredibly open-minded. His favourite word was “promising…
…He believed all his paintings were a kind of self-portrait. “They are all autobiography,” he would say. When I look at his work, however, I see his strange way of approaching things: slightly from the side, slightly awkwardly, but deliberately so, not cack-handedly so. When he was painting, at the point where you or I would probably say to ourselves: “OK. Stop. Leave it now,” Lucian would press on. Sometimes he did this to disastrous effect, but often not. His work, I would say, does not reproduce very well and that is often true of the work of a really great artist. However, when you actually see one of his paintings in front of you the impact is extraordinary. And that impact is him.