I want to go where the summer stays
I have just returned. It has been raining all day, dulling the sense of awe that one usually associates with a walk through the West End at this time of year.
Everything around is soaked with the greyness of early December except, strangely, most of the trees. In the unseasonal heat of the urban environment, the trees that stand at Cambridge Circus and line the taxi ranks on Charing Cross Road still bear almost all of their green leaves, glistening in the rain, which makes the adorning Christmas lights look ridiculous and out of place. Without the strings of purple and flashing blue twined around the branches it could almost be July. It rains in July too.
Seasons blurring. Past becoming present.
What kind of a girl is this who walks
Patiently beside me.
Just a friend?
In a grey street, unassuming and quiet, tucked away like Underwater Dreamsex, the Coningsby Gallery glows like a warm log fire. In the window, propped on a simple
easel, the crisp monochromatic image of Cinemascope 1: A man in a grey suit captured crossing a plaza between clinical lines of concrete, glass and steel. It could almost be me, on the South Bank just a couple of hours before. Please ring for attention. I love big old doorbells, they have a sense of invitation. We are welcomed in and immediately left alone to enjoy the comfort and charm of the gallery, our whispered footsteps persisting with their noise on the wooden floors.
Gazing down upon us, the tranquil majesty of Heads 1, 2 and 3 – huge portraits of serenity and power, stone faces covered in ivy, lichen, broken marble and stone.
This is Cathedral Oceans – a rare experience without the music. Eerie, and powerful. Moving stillness. Transition and memory. Men? or Women? Old becoming new again in a different setting. These magnificent figures have travelled from before and beyond. There is comfort in the their familiarity, and humility at their grace and immensity.
Opposite, smaller landscape stills, hand-signed in pencil, from Tiny Colour Movies. The Projectionist and Stray Sinatra Neurone. The back of a man’s head this time. A woman’s face.
Without really knowing why, I begin to understand. The passing of time seems no more than the passing of her hand over mine.
And in the lower gallery, hidden from the street, more colossal heads, progressing numerically from left to right around the walls. I’m learning how to read these walls. Shadow City and Underwater Automobiles; Hand Held Skies 1 and 2; Swimmer 3 – a composite of 36 images of Robert Rouncefield’s girlfriend swimming with cars. Soundless and motionless. Only the light moves in the blue water around her.
And then the unfamiliar. Or is it? A wing-ed man with a leather face, dressed in Someone Else’s Clothes. His shoes (from Yugoslavia, in a long-gone style…) hidden among the geraniums that grow unchecked in front of a large bay window. He is The Visitor from another time. A romance with An Earlier Man.
My lover brushes against my coat.
As we move around the exhibition, looking first at each image in turn from close up, then standing back-to-back in the middle of the space turning our heads as if they were cameras, I am reminded of the time when I was a man and she was someone else. A time when there were no colours.
The last wall is Grey Suit Music, new material. A new suit cut from old cloth. The Pleasures of Electricity 1 and 2; well dressed men in shadows, walking the empty streets and familiar buildings of My Lost City. The artist is comfortable in his drifting city, on personal terms with it. I am reminded again that I am not. Who is The Visitor now? Heads 8 and 9, verdant and luscious green like the trees in Cambridge Circus are suddenly austere, frowning upon me, questioning my intentions and my purpose. They look right through me with cold December eyes.
I’m lost for a moment.
This then is, Cinemascope, the world of The Quiet Man. An unrealised novel that exists in so many other formats, all moving and changing through space and time. As you stand in the Coningsby Gallery and marvel at the emerging world of John Foxx – digital artist, you can only be inspired and wonder what other treasures we have yet to discover. Both artist and gallery are as hidden away, charming and inspirational as each other. Perfectly understated.
Just wait here for a moment. There is someone I thought I knew once over there.
Sitting, talking with his friend. He waves a smile…
I will be back soon.
© birdsong, december 2007.
My thanks to everyone involved, especially Dennis de Silva.