For Norbert Schwontkowsky. at the occasion of the exhibition: ‘When Kings Were Kings’, Gallery Tim van Laere , Antwerpen (B)
Everything is preceded by something that deludes me. There is always a before and therefore always a too late. There is no such thing as the right time. Only the work of art knows the right time. The trick is a standstill, which means all the time in the world. And where is the beginning? Here.
I was alone in the city, thinking of someone who was also alone in the city. A strange index finger played with my left outer ear. I thought of the first thing I saw this morning when, after three nightmares and two breakfasts, I broke a shoe lace and fell over backwards on the wooden floor of the home-built hut where the sound of silent people moving around without being seen could constantly be heard. The unexpected has everything to be perfect and in this case it was a young woman washing her black hair in the Scheldt colouring it in dark shades, whose navel I recently got to know and she was now looking at me bewildered and angry. I fled, ran away, but didn’t get anywhere. She put a knife in my heart. I died in her arms and everyone was humming softly as red blood dripped on the floor.
When a river jumps over a mountain, the fish will sing. When sorrow leads to melancholy, there will be 3 more years of war and the children will silently wash their hands in mud. When at sunset the city skyline seems like a ruin with a horse¹s head and the towers with their dimly lit windows are swaying from left to right, that is the time to stand still and refrain from laughing, because when an aeroplane crashes, everything will be over. Everyone knows an old woman doesn’t have long to live.
Her anger was a game, an excuse to be obtrusive and then control my life. It was part of a strategy aimed at bidding me farewell. I knew this. There is remoteness and closeness. I have to accept this. We are somewhere in between. What is close is too strong for us to remain there and pushes back the one who is approaching. The first impression does not yet show all the colours and stands in amazement, pale, hesitating, not crying, not laughing, not yet whining, on the side, for a while, waiting. From closeness, it is possible to jump towards ‘Here’. But this may be too far. You can also decide to stay. The painting is created in this hesitation, quickly but not too quickly, carefully but not too carefully. Reward: the distance is accessible and the closeness bearable. (It does require though a special approach technique involving walking backwards.