I get goose bumps when I think of this painting – in original.
But what baffles me is that I can never think of it in its actual form. I tend to create a mental picture which looks like this image. And I flip through memories that I have tagged with the things shown in the image.
Perhaps I don’t sound convincing. You may be wondering if I’m not making things up – in the painting that is – and misleading you. Were it a lesser painting, you would have perhaps accused me of attributing non-existent qualities to an artwork. Or questioned the veracity of my experiences. But that, really, is beside the point.
The point is my inability to see and remember a great painting for what it is – and not for what it does to me. For example, when I contemplate Starry Nights – there, you’ve got me! – I don’t need to look at it anymore; I just run it over in my mind – and I feel the hardness of a thousand headlights bursting through my senses on a rainy evening when I walked the streets alone – stoned. It seemed like the lights blinded me; and I wondered what creature could conceive of such burgeoning lightness of being.
It amused me too – to think that a certain somebody standing six feet tall and with big black eyes saw the world wrapped in curling clouds. At such moments, however, it doesn’t matter what he saw. What matters is my reality and what I choose to construct it with.
As I remember manoeuvring the curling vortex of light around me – I come back to the painting and consider the other trail – what could have inspired it? And I take a conscious decision to choose memory over biography. I tell myself that fear inspired it. For to think of a rainy evening spent in abandon amidst curling masses of light still evokes senses in me that I don’t quite know how to negotiate.
I have put this to good use a number of times already. I am so used to this image that each time I look at the original painting, I feel as if I’m seeing it for the first time. You might think of it as my juke-box formula for perpetual pleasure! It is slightly disconcerting, though, when I think that I may be doing the same about things other than paintings.
Wonder what is it in the image of things that so catch our imagination as to assume the very grain of our characters?