This is a collaboration between artist Peter White and poet Jon Miller. The project grew out of a series of conversations which often had as their starting point a particular object - bowl, word, book, garment, landscape.
In the course of these conversations, clusters of ideas and images collected around the objects and these in turn instigated a series of explorations and investigations that eventually found their way back into the work. The intention is not to have the paintings and poems illustrate each other but rather to consider how techniques and approaches to painting and writing combine and re-combine, refract and resonate. The exhibition 'Echo' is the result of this process.
The Word Unspoken
Voice carries the word's work
on its breath. Laden with spit, civet,
fish, the stain of tobacco,
scents brewed and stewed
in soft heaves of flesh and the heart's great gong.
It porters its cargo,
its clotted geography
up past the windhouse
of the larynx, a sculpture
turned in the throat's well, its fluttering air.
It wanders, like Ulysses,
the seas of years and nights
sluicing through your head ;
its tongue : a whale rising,
sinking, an Ahab of meaning roped to its side.
Then the leap from parted lips :
suddenly outside, there is
translation, feathers shedding
in the fall through utterance,
flailing as the unspoken burns off its skin.
Reach again for the word
to unlock the body,
open it onto speaking air;
perch on the ache
on the tip of the tongue - hungry for echo.
The Lost Books
Almost dust in the gut
of insects, termites, weevils
their pages cemeteried, entombed
down wells, behind walls.
This city's a reef of memory
muffled in centuries ;
its mud houses and palaces
avenues of absence
running through our fingers
into scrub and rubble and on
to the horizon : an eaten page,
earthed mouth, sounding clay.
This earth is written ;
it lives, mutters in its strong ribs
and veins, sounding the ground.
Its bones jut from the sand.
Ghost landscapes contour these pages :
hillsides, bluffs, escarpments,
a buried field of cities,
an architecture of thinking :
astrological charts, mathematics,
herbal remedies, the habits of beasts,
women and men, the earthquake
that shattered its walls.
Empty the wells of language.
Break these crusts of words
from the earth, their buried breath
a landscape staining the pages
as papyrus seeps its tides
through fence lines of lettering
through the written field
their soft weight an irrigation
thinning to tributaries,
veins, tendrils, roots
to seeking the source
a way back up to the light.
Each day, count the words
back in through your eyes.
Call them home. Find yourself
only inches from where you are.
sky iron, stars' tinsmith
sheen of metalled light
under a spun rim
circling the ear
in its hood of listening
a silent mouth
holding all that falls
in cycles of emptiness
and the note
held in the way our body folds
the note we sing and
in which we are
the stirring rim
time's still point travelling
in the sound your life makes
like some standing bell
hung in an empty sky
Tap it, lightly : a thick earth-plucked note, a sound
rung from hard earth, the millenia tuned,
distilled, shaped to an earthen pulse.
Cup its stilled silted minerals, steep-sided atoms,
sheer fall of molecules down its curved walls :
as if a hole in the earth stares back at you
to ask what you hope to find in this transfiguration,
to see what has survived the memory of flux,
the molten self, to reach this shape you hold in the air.
Lift its mouth to yours and drink its dark grammar :
like your voice (or your life) it is mainly space,
the point where air becomes meaning,
a hold, a grip on here and now. This is permanent.
The point is you are changed - you can't go back.
Here I am. Pared from time by an abstract eye,
held taut to the line of your gaze, turned slowly
in your head, a silvered body drifting
beneath your stare, mouthing the layer of air you bring.
You make me in your own image. You will sift
what you stand in, your silt of memory, soul's ballast,
and scent the outline of my absence.
Make no mistake, you will be mistaken.
This face is membrane merely, worn, blurred
by the weight of light it has to bear of this world.
It is light that gives meaning here, falling
across a cheek, bridge of the nose, the eye's hollow in
these brief wisps of face, their mists and drifts
like some ghost hatched on this dark hiatus :
it is not memory that saves us but the gift
of forgetting. In this, I am reshaped, reforged.
This emptying brings an endless falling into grace
as you refill the vessel to the brim with your gaze -
by this, everything is changed, a world uncurling
on the iris. Keep looking. Keep looking.