“There is a kind of day that is very grey or brown . . . it is a mood or tone I often feel on a dreary day, waiting for a taxi before it rains or going to some kind of daily routine . . . It’s the experience of being on the street in open space, or just inside ourselves. What do we feel, what do we choose to notice and sense on a given day? It’s about the internal and external landscape of the place as I experience it.”

From "Taking note", by Nicholas Laughlin, in the August 2006 Caribbean Review of Books

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Looking for stories

There is a kind of bibliophile’s parlour game in which you arrange books on a shelf so that the sequence of titles on their spines tells a story.

You might do something similar with the titles of the individual drawings in the Tropical Night series.

Feathered Bat Descending. In the Dance. Hop Skip Jump. Jump Up. Shot Call. Flight.

Coming and Going. Immersed in Explanations. Submerged.

Oxford Journey. Castaway. New World. Making Progress.

A Next Day. Sitting Here Watching. Open Seas. Day In, Day Out.

After the Fire. Crown. Thorns. Bird Stress. Air. The Hills. That Tree. The Hunger.

Another kind of narrative. Another way, perhaps, of not seeing the thing at hand, the marks on the piece of paper before me.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007


"Brown drawings". That is the name of the folder on my hard drive where I file the Tropical Night scans. Maybe Chris used this term at some point early in our conversations about the drawings. Maybe it was just the first thing that came to mind when I created the folder, more than a year ago--the label that my semi-conscious mind grabbed at to distinguish these from his earlier work.

Many of the drawings are literally "brown", composed largely in washes of sepia ink. Some are not. This is obvious. This is the artist's prerogative of medium. It is also obvious that the "brown-ness" is, more meaningfully, a mood. The dark brown of dried blood--

"the imagery as it unravels always seems to be in this dark, this dark murky space in which we are searching for light...."

--or the weary brown of an old photograph, but not the kind of photo that inspires nostalgia, like an old black-and-white snapshot of a Carnival costume from the 60s or 70s, and looking at it you feel the heat and dust of the moment, the weight of the costume and the stickiness and the headache noise, and you're glad you're not there; it might even be a moment from your own past that you're glad you don't have to relive. Or just a meteorological brown--

"a mood or tone I often feel on a dreary day, waiting for a taxi before it rains or going to some kind of daily routine...."

--a "brown-ness" of spirit familiar to anyone who grew up in the tropics, a "brown-ness" found only in this climate, like a film of dust over the bright blues and greens and yellows that are supposed to be the exemplary colours of the tropical landscape; the "brown" of that "shadowed space that is not between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with intermittent clouds", as Chris puts it.

The murky brown of a situation or even a frame of mind when nothing is clear and too many layers of experience, too many kinds of memories and expectations, turn all your thoughts to mud. You stare out the window at a clean blue sky, or you stare down at a clean white page, but all you really see is the brown haze of not having an answer or not knowing what to do next. A brown night on a street in Belmont or Woodbrook. The brown at the bottom of my cup of coffee, when what seemed like the morning's fresh clarity turns out to be the same frustrating fog of last night.