Occasionally, I can be reconciled to the existence of space and ordinary substance. That process of reconciliation can take awhile when I find myself in a spatial and substantive mood. When I’m in a certain mood, I fret over space — how is it possible to be located, for the weird substance of me to be in a given place? How can I be taking up space when I don’t know what space is? Outer space can go jump in the lake. I worry about walking-around, everyday space. What’s not there but is there to keep me and other relational objects from being smeared across time. Physicists toss around the word “space” as if it’s natural and identified. They graph it out and drop steel balls on it, so gravity will have something to do. Sometimes, I get so frustrated with space that I don’t even want to move. Why should I if I have to do it through space, which is not there but is? Space must be plumb crazy. And substance isn’t much better. It’s like the coagulated tears of some abyssal god. No wonder substance is also essentially nuts. Schopenhauer might have been onto something. Nonetheless, my spatial and substantive mood always passes. I calm down.
But light is a persistent problem. It makes no sense. It seems superfluous, gratuitous, anomalous — like too much red lipstick on an ostrich. Everything would be less logically stressful if there were just complete black dark, always and everywhere. If light is also some kind of substance, well, it’s way too distinctive and way too shiny to be taken as akin to regular nutty substance. Whereas science deals with light scientifically, electro-dynamically, I look at it oddly, in terms of spirit, dream, and pathological aesthetics. Science looks at birds ornithologically, while composer Oliver Messiaen looked at them symbolically. Certain people flourish with sideways glancing; science is disadvantaged by front-on clarity. For me, light is an ancient flashing-forth of dramatic gesture. It’s the lingering poetics of unconcealment and an implicit aspect of subtlest expression. It’s that backlit symbolic quality to the poems of Adam Zagajewski. Light is the medium of pure wonder, glowing melancholy, and the possibility of artistic metaphysics.
Photographer Tatiana Nakova, as an artist, knows how to present the spirits of light — those strange, fluid moods of metaphysical luminosity and manifold being-exposure. Nakova deserves a full Spectral Lyre presentation of her art. But today, I’m stuck on one image. It’s what I want to talk about.
When I stare at this picture, associations occur: J.M.W. Turner, Yves Tanguy, W.G. Sebald, Yves Bonnefoy, Henri Dutilleux. Let me briefly explain.
Like Turner, Nakova’s picture has a concern with the vapors of distance and the reveries of form.
Like Tanguy, Nakova’s picture is a dark rapture, a surreal longing.
Like Sebald, Nakova’s picture suggests a melancholy having to do with an intangible, ineffable, and infinite decaying of presence.
Like Bonnefoy, Nakova’s picture aches toward The Arrière-pays — that condition of the always-beyond-and-therefore-ideal.
Like Dutilleux, Nakova’s picture represents a kind of absolute Modernist music — a “sound” of paradox, of deathsome beauty, of the poetics of light.
Every day, I walk a brisk two or three miles on my gravel road, for heart exercise. Since I’m 62, I usually begin to almost hallucinate from the cumulative exertion, from the release of endorphins. It feels groovy to lift off and float somewhere equivocal while I’m also walking down the road. That somewhere equivocal is a thing I’d like to put into poems. But I can’t. It’s too intense-yet-transient to be the stuff of a poem. But it is poetic. It’s the most poetic condition I ever find myself in. That somewhere equivocal is part old dream, part memory, part imagination. While I look into Nakova’s picture, I see an echo or an analog of my deep and significant hallucinations. Staring into that image — Unravelling pattern — I see things on top of things, which is like my experience of walking psychedelia; again, old dreams seen through old memories seen through old imaginings.
Unravelling pattern strikes me as a palimpsest: a haunted manifesto of transcendence written on top of an ephemeral riddling script.
Tatiana Nakova has a blog, where she posts her work: blue storm encounters.
Posted by Tim Buck