When you think about it, when you think of the paths, there are the two paths – did they used to be called avenues? – that flank the two sides of the park, the one path along Green Lanes and the other along Queen Elizabeth Walk. A path of grey through green. Must a path always be of a different colour? Is that how we recognise a path, by its contrast, the contrast of its colour to the colours on either side of it? Are paths about colour and texture? The red rectangle inside the canvas is a different red, and shinier. It is another frame inside that frame: the same colour and texture that is outside of it. The fence is the frame. A path inside the canvas.One painting, he says. That’s about all I can handle in a day.
When the ponds dry up. When the grass turns yellow. When everything turns to shades of grey, the sky, too, and the clouds, and the hills in the distance. Is that a boat? An army? Burnt wood? Skeletons? They took the fences and the gates to build bombs and harpoons. They did it for the Second World War, then for the next, and now for this. Is it war? Does this count as war, too? And they took the bricks… trucks came and carted them off inland to the fortresses. Nothing is left. In the distance: horizons.The horizon has returned to the city. There must have been a point in history when there were horizons every which way you looked. Earth and sky were equals back then. What the bombs made, the earth has turned into ponds; lakes, even. The drought persists and the water keeps subsiding making rings down the sides of the pond, circles of vanished water, as the pond empties out, like age lines, the unravelling of signs of time passing, a cross section of the earth. Water has been hiding everything. All that’s left now of the playground are shreds of rope, tiny hairs in the sand; an iron rod, rusted – was this the swing?
Dragonflies? There are no dragonflies on these ponds. Nor the sleepy heads of crocodiles rising above the water’s surface, eyeballs, nose, a jetty-like mouth. Nor frogs, nor bullfrogs. No tadpoles. No fish, come to think of it, though I’m sure there’s a sign that says NO FISHING. No cannabis plants, or banana trees, or a palm tree, or bushes of the mint that grew in the garden I grew up in on Jenvey Road. Nor sunshine reflecting off the surface, so profoundly, alchemically, turning the water – the light itself! – to gold. No toadstools, red and white, like in the Noddy books. Why must everything fling him back to childhood, to his grandmother’s garden, to the mulberry tree by the garage, the loquot tree by the kitchen, the apple, the peach, the pear tree round the back. No boiling tar. (Brer Rabbit, my friend, no tar, no tar.) No waterfalls, even if water falls. Nor rapids. Nor newts. No coral reefs. No sunflowers, no yellow of any kind (ah, but in the spring the daffodils come, remember? Reliable, resilient, wild flowers, year after year, the same thing and each time just as – more! no, more! – beautiful). No ants building little red pyramids, no dynamite, no volcanoes (but fireworks – there’ve been fireworks, like bombs, like shooting, like gunfire. That you do remember). No tigers, brass or otherwise. Nor the face of your beloved or your ancestors in the fog that hovered over the park, over the grass like a silk handkerchief that night you cycled home from a one-night stand on Lordship Road. No bottle with a message in it, bobbing the seas for a hundred years, flung over the side of a boat just off the Isle of Skye. No blazing fires – hell-fires! – no squadron of fighter jets reflected in the water. I tell you. There’s none of that. What you see there are dragonflies.
Tate Modern, Saturday, late afternoon, 1st September 2011
(The gluten-free banana cake in the Member’s Room was superb)