Frank was in the mood for art. No need for morning tea apparently. So I found ourselves in Pollock’s studio looking down at the piece that was brushed lightly by the diffused rays that came pouring in through the window. Pretty.
Frank was smiling. Like I said he was in the mood for art, so he stood beside Pollock and they got to talking. And then they got to painting.
Frank fumbled, he splotched, and blotched, his canvas looked far from the graceful Pollock-esque drips and trails. I laughed. Jackson Pollock’s paintings may seem easy enough to do, but then again to splash paint on canvas in a very organised fashion while drunk, with cigarette in mouth may not be as easy as it looks. Frank tried again.
An artist I met, Ali Nurazmal, said to me, very adamantly that “art is not easy”. Gee, you don’t say, Ali. Then he went on to say, “but everyone is an artist”. Yes, everyone is an artist, if they get off their asses and, erm, make art, right? Now, there’s that catch and the reason why he was smiling mischievously from ear to ear. Making art is not easy.
Paint! Frank was pointing to the canvas with his chin, can of paint in his hands.
What, me? But I can’t paint.
Dude, you are in your head, you can do anything.
Of course I can.
Frank and I go a long way back and I still forget he is a figment of my imagination. He appears during a crisis, or when conversation calls and we sit for a good chat, usually up there, out where its blue, him in his armchair and I on a swing that hangs down from beyond the clouds. Yes I like to float, and I like swings.
No floating today. Frank was in a constructive mood.
So I picked up a can and held it unwillingly. If the painting knew I was unwilling, it would forgive me for not being very much good at it, I think. Of course the painting knew. So as unwilling as I was in putting some effort into it, it was unwilling to turn that blob of a very indecent amount of paint into art.
Frank rolled his eyes.
We watched Pollock paint. He really did enjoy himself, but he was also trying very hard. He put himself out there, abandoned himself, set aside all the negatives and just painted.
I don’t know much about Pollock, but when he paints he is so very bold about it. I mean he is not afraid of getting paint all over himself. Well, he is after all a painter; to get paint all over himself was his life. It would be absurd if he did not.
Frank sighed. Even in your own head you need to be told! What do you see?
On that canvas what do you see, what do you want to see?
A pretty painting? Duh?
Well the painting is not just going to happen with you sitting there on that stupid couch, is it?
I hissed. Don’t I know that? But even in my head I had to work to achieve a vision.
Yes, art does not just happen.
Hah, life does not just happen. Funny enough. Things do not just fall on our laps. Wake up in the morning and whoopee prince charming is making breakfast, just like that. Nah-ah, no such thing, it does not even happen in my head. Frank would not allow it.
A scene floated into my mind. I was about 15 and at a camp, on a confidence course, which I was taking very long to do. I had stared at the course for the longest time and pictured myself finishing and easily gliding through. And then I got onto it. Not so easy doing it.
It was not because the movements were physically hard, and the course was long; it was because I was, most of the time, afraid of falling.
Really, a lot of the movements were most uncomfortable. I do not walk on strings very gracefully. Neither do I have arms of iron that I can suspend myself from while pushing forward on a piece of stick. Things like that take a lot of trust in my own sweet limbs. That is uncomfortable.
It was the last bit of the track that required the most trust. I had to jump, grab onto this pole and then slide down. Easy for some. Not I. I was wired with a large thick bundle of nerves that communicate fear very efficiently, and rapidly. On top of that I had a loud inside voice that echoes, and it is an expert in screaming negatives.
I looked back at the long way I had come through and contemplated walking all the way back, and then descending via the easy steps at the beginning. I let everyone else pass me by and then after much cajoling from a cheer team at the bottom I managed to jump.
No it was not bad. Not at all. But it always is not. Damn that stupid voice.
I sometimes wish I were not such a conflicted mess. I want to do big things, and am not easily satisfied. And yet I seek the wrong things. I seek comfort, and I seek it relentlessly. I rather sit on my couch watching the Food Channel than get up and cook so I can stop being hungry. But mostly I, for the longest time, had much rather do the normal thing, meet expectations of society, stick with the normal job, while harbouring resentment. I fight so violently with myself for comfort. And mostly because of fear.
There are things I badly want to do, and yet there is a huge part of me that does not want to do it because of fear. Fear of failure, fear of what others may think, fear of rejection and the worst of all, fear of commitment. Fear of that hard work that will come flowing through the minute I take that step; the strength and energy I would need to exert. Fear of the responsibility I need to take in seeing it to the end.
Was Pollock comfortable?
Depends; what is comfortable?
You know what I mean?
Well he was not lazy, if that is what you are asking.
Hah yes of course.
To seek comfort as an end above anything else, that is lazy. Work is not comfortable.
To traipse through life seeking comfort, that is rather sad. Look, comfort is overrated.
Right. Frank spoke. I struggle to grasp some.
Well, you could sit there, or you could paint. I am inclined to think that you really need to finish that painting. That is worth more than getting fat on that couch, don’t you think?
Oh dear. Frank is frank.
Comfort, I am thinking I need to stop seeking you so relentlessly. I need to stop holding onto you as if you were the world’s most valuable treasure. At the end of my life, if all I had done was walk back to the beginning of the confidence course and descend using the stairs I would have obtained nothing. If comfort was my life’s biggest achievement, woe to me.
Then Frank can shake his head endlessly looking at me the way Alfred looked at Bruce Wayne and speak of how disappointed he was in me in that Michael Caine’s voice. “I, I, am ashamed of you.”
I stared at the sorry piece of art before me.
Guess I better get to painting.
When you are done, and quite satisfied we can get that cup of tea.
I smiled. Yes, tea.
That would be delightful, Frank.
Raina writes. She was also lucky enough to stumble upon WritersClubKL. They say she found it, but really it was sitting right there, ready to be stumbled upon. She just picked it up.
Feature image by Joe Fig