I blink myself awake and after a few dazed moments, my mind revolves towards one of Jiro Yoshihara‘s circle paintings. I saw it the day before: a swirl of cobalt blue on a red background.
There’s been a cyclical quality to my morning routine over the autumn. Spells of browsing my phone every morning the moment I wake; a gradual recognition of the habit’s anaesthetising effect; hauling myself out of its mire and enjoying a smug week of virtue before backsliding eventually, inevitably.
On Christmas Eve, my mum picked up a small pocket book of morning meditations in the bookshop we were browsing. A couple of years ago, I would have probably sneered inwardly at this little volume. What’s dissolved this patina?
These past two years, these 731 days have been acid-baths of grief that refused to be ignored, unacknowledged hurts resurfacing, and crushing realisations that my thought-processes and behaviours today are not that different from 20 years ago. So I was warm and curious towards the book. Leafing through the opening pages, the suggestions were simple. Drink a glass of lukewarm water when you wake up. Gaze at the sky before you turn on your phone. Brush your teeth and scrape your tongue before eating. Look at yourself in the mirror and say something nice.
It didn’t say visualise abstract painting. Yoshihara’s circle just came to me.
I watched Endless Poetry by Alejandro Jodorowsky as the fag end of 2020 burned out. It’s easy to enjoy the turbulence and vitality of others’ youths from a distance. And what a distance between his youth and mine! At one point in the film, he marches across town in a straight-line, either through or over whatever obstacle stands in his path, with gleeful obstinacy and his comrade by his side. By the middle of this year, I was worrying my own imagination was withering, that the poetry of my life was coming to a very definite end. Rather than marching towards horizons, I’ve felt walled in, and much of that masonry has been erected by my own hands.
2021 didn’t extinguish it completely. I made a sound design for Chatting Tanum that I’m proud of. I’ve been making plans with Gemma Nash, and writing nearly every day. Now I’m turning to the contemplative, open-planes of paint conjured by Yoshihara, Cy Twombly, Saloua Raouda Choucair and trying to understanding my own definitions better.
At dinner with friends a few evenings ago, conversation turned to ‘core values’, and Googling the phrase led me to indeed.com. Years ago, the endless poetry I aspired to would have sneered a little inwardly at a careers website but that patina has peeled away, and those pretensions aren’t helpful anymore.
My youth was spent being inconspicuous by being good and amenable. I became so successful at it I forgot what I looked like.
This contemplation of values is an act of picking up a pen and trying to sketch outlines that go deeper into the why, rather than the what. I start 2022 with a brace of seven words in my head, and Yoshihara’s painting waiting for me in the morning, a beacon of energy and inspiration.
Better than listlessly scrolling my friends and acquaintances’ lives on Instagram.