Thursday, 18 December 2008

big paintings

Mark Rothko said I paint big paintings to be intimate, or something similar.
As I read that something clicked. Instantly gone is the idea of intimate as something small, something close. Because close is big! I think of everyone I've half fallen in love with and never spoken to. Someone across the street or the room. Room or street in this case should be capitalised maybe, it is such a classic thing to mention - across The Street.

Intimate is big! You think of a body, the face of someone you love, as close as you can get. Intimacy, to me, is freedom. The freedom to explore a thing you're fascinated by, to express fascination by searching.
Sidestepping Rothko's ideas about emotion in his pieces, this is why he paints big. Up close the paintings are all encompassing; they never end when you're with them, the same as your loved one's face is all there is in the world.

For me it is the same with Unknown Soldier pts 1 & 2 by Fela Kuti, a song that's thirty minutes long. That song has such a distinctive beginning. I've heard it so many times I could recognise it almost immediately if you played me any part. But by the middle of that song there is no beginning, no end. For me, anyway. I'm sucked in completely. Partly it's the groove, partly the length and the expressiveness of the music itself.

Another good example is Down By The River by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Not as long but it has the same sort of slow groove that drifts in, rolls. The same bittersweetness. Maybe Babe, I'm on Fire by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds has it, but that's a bit more hard boiled, it runs with you, doesn't drift with you.

But the way you explore a person, a place or a painting is not how you do it with these songs.
The songs are just with you. No movement of eyes, of hands, just a soaking up, a wrapping round. It comes to you, shows you itself. But it's not a one way giving. These songs take time to work for me this way. I have to open myself up to them and let them open up in return. I mean listen to it I guess. Just to have it on and near me.

If I'm out walking with these songs my feet carry me, the song is what I see almost.

I wonder why a film can't work like this. You need to work with a film, to process it. A song can filter in, you can follow its meaning with just a heard word or two. This is why the short songs can't do this. Too many missed words and the whole thing's over.

Listen I know this is all subjective and overly romantic and really it's the understatement of these songs that makes them so effective. I wish I could write such a song. I love them.

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