Sunday, May 24, 2009

Anish Kapoor The Dismemberment of Jeanne d'Arc


I heard the birds screeching from upstairs in my room. Ten minutes later there's another screech by my bed. The cat's brought one in. It's still alive and I pick it up, stretch the wings gently to see if they go back into place. I'm not sure if it's injured but it lets me carry it outside. The cat's prowling, furious. I shut her in the kitchen and put the bird in the apple tree. It's small with a speckled chest but not speckled enough to be a thrush, I think it's a female blackbird, probably exhausted from feeding chicks. The male's in the sycamore behind, still calling. A wren's joined in. I go back inside to keep the cat away from the catflap and when I go out again, it's managed to fly to a neighbour's pergola, I can see it in the vine. The male's still above me and it, watching, flying from branch to branch, calling. It calls back. I feed the cat, hoping to keep her away long enough for the female to make her escape. The wren moves up into the sycamore too, where one of the parents is keeping guard. When I look again, she seems to have left the vine. But the cat's prowling again. She's moved on from slow-worms, her regular offerings on my bedroom floor and in the hall.

Before Tiger brought the bird in, I was thinking about my trip to C-Curve last night with Maude when the sun had disappeared from the horizon but the sky was still light and there were fireworks on the pier. I spent most of the afternoon there yesterday, attempting to explain why people shouldn't touch it (fingerprints ruin the effect) and wanted to see it at a different time of day. Ewes and lambs were rushing down the hill as Maude and I were walking up. The Chattri's white dome stood out on the hillside. It was perfect. We missed the sunset, although the sky was spectacular in town, but it was quiet and the side facing away from the sea totally surprised me as we walked back to see it as a whole, not close up, as a phenomenon that delivered the light, land and sky we were among back as abstract shapes - blocks of blackness with that indefineable wash that's made when the sun's just gone, the stars emerge and the sky is luminous. It's a camping sky - when people are part of the earth and light is telling us something about travel, history, space, colour and stories. On the side facing the sea - in daytime my favourite side because it's more about panorama and breadth - Brighton seemed smaller, the fireworks little sparks of saltpetre.

What astonishes me is how that concave surface is a funfair hall of mirrors in daytime and hours later becomes a kind of outside Rothko triptich......until the fence goes up and the illusion, as with the theatre curtain, ends.

But the bird reminds me, too, of a story I heard about the Dismemberment of Jeanne d'Arc and the family of fox cubs living in a den inside the old fruit and veg market. When I was last there, I asked about marks on the mounds where the colour was gone and was told it was probably the cubs, playing at night. While I was there late one afternoon on the last shift, I was sure I could hear them behind the black netting that screens off spaces once occupied by particular wholesalers. Among the regular motor sounds of the pigeons, merging with traffic and once, perfectly, a scooter, there were the playscreams I hear outside at night sometimes when cubs take over our gardens and streets. This is the excitement of sculpture - it's made richer by everything around it. This might be obvious to artists and curators, but it's been a discovery for me.

In the old fruit and veg market, I couldn't get out of my mind a poem by Robert Minhinnick, The Fox in the National Museum of Wales. This is a verse from it:

Through the cubists and the surrealists
this fox shimmies surreptitiously,
past the artist who has sawn himself in half
under the formaldehyde sky
goes this fox shiny as a silver
fax in his fox coat,
for at a fox trot travels this fox
backwards and forwards in the museum.....

The picture from the Dismemberment of Jeanne D'Arc attempts to show how the light in that space works - rather like in a cathedral, I felt. I felt the calm of frankincense and sunlight through stained glass. Filtered light in big empty spaces is in the same league as twilight.

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