art

Paint

My manuscript is due back tomorrow. I am going to be a little late. It is difficult, when time divides into mosaic shards to pull a book into focus. I have decided that I need to re-write a chunk of pages. Not too many. A series of clarifications have jumbled up against one another and now the section seems scrambled rather than clearer.

How I would love to give up the other work that breaks up my time. Develop an expertise in sustained concentration. In New Author Top Trumps, that would be my losing score, every time. But at least, if it were only my own habits that caused the fragmentation, not the need to do a scuffling number of other jobs, I would have greater impetus to marshal my magpie mind. More of the black and white, a bit less of the ‘oooh, shiny!’

The image shows a quote from Twice the Speed of Dark. There is a large part of the book written in the voice of Caitlin, trying to unravel both the confusing darkness of death and the story that lead her there. I loved writing these sections, letting an image, a sense of material, almost a painterly sensibility take over, less closely focused on the plot and psyche of the characters. I have decided that I will make a separate, illustrated book of this section, called Gravity. After the scritchy scratch of untangling words, it feels particularly tempting just now, to drift into the broad strokes of black and light, of shape and texture. Back to the gestural, sweeping easiness of visual art. I wonder if all writers feel these different systems at play, if I just describe the kinship to visual art because it is something I understand.

I have mild tinnitus, coffee makes my skin go white noise, none of my glasses are just right and words seem very small and tangled. How liberating a fat brush dripping with paint would feel. And yet, I would still chose these days, the writing equivalent of that fat brush. If, that is, I had the time.

IMG_1468

What a thrill it would be to have a body curved and compact as a swallow, a bird black all over, build with the same gigantic majesty as the darkness that holds the stars. To master these migrations and head for the burning heart of a star. Perhaps I would fly a little first.  

I just popped in to see what condition the human condition is in

800px-S_F-E-CAMERON_EGYPT_2005_RAMASEUM_01294

I began this week by thinking of the ways that writing my own work leads me back so often to the books I have read and loved over the years. Following this, I selected a few to share on social media. I thought that what they have in common was an exploration of the human condition. That is a phrase, that though it is almost meaningless with careless or sentimental over-use, seems not to have a fresh or as simply understood equivalent that can replace it. So I decided I should at least investigate what I mean when I use it.

There is a sliding scale that takes ordinary human behaviour from the catastrophically bad to the sublimely good.  Though each one of us could be considered a connection between them, it is impossible to fully understand the extremes from the position of hovering somewhere up or down the scale that runs seamlessly between.

There is beauty in this stoney land, the arid scree, the spat out insides of the earth frozen in stone, sliding slowly down to the sea, sea that in turn slides all the way to the Sahara. It would not take much of a curve through that sea, an easy tack, to miss Africa and go from dry heat to frozen Antarctic cold. Equator to sun, pole to sun, so small a difference between the two. It is 93 million miles to the sun, this equator to pole difference is a tiny fraction of that great distance, only that of our earth’s radius, a minuscule percentage that marks for most the possible extremes. What other binary flat lines exist on a scale that we cannot really understand; that which we currently experience as ends of a scale in reality denoting only an insignificant, tightly angled section in the middle of the spectrum. Good and evil bounded by our human imagination of heaven and hell. Heavy and light have expressions that expand or crush into oblivion, not knowable with our bodily reckoning. The calibrations made in space dwarf our arm spans and thumbs of measurement. Perhaps it is this intuited, groping recognition of the limited span of our experience that means our stories to explain the inexplicably crazy chance of our being here at all often start with the limitless sky and its perpetrator gods.

Twice the Speed of Dark, Chapter 10

Absurdity becomes a logical mode with which to engage with our grotesque human failures and enchanting victories.  We are repellant, glorious, frail, beguiling, weak and marvellous. We are often many of these at once. It is absurd to try to decide where on that line we place ourselves, absurd to claim we belong only at the end that expresses victory, absurder still to place ourselves entirely within the realm of failure.

Though it was this uncomfortable, impossible balance that interested me when working as a visual artist, even then, I found the most cogent examination of this confounded, simultaneous glory and failure best expressed or explained through literature.  The tragedies of Shakespeare, the theatre of Beckett, the characters of Achilles, Ozymandias, Antigone, all these are the most successful and thus influential, manifestations of expressing what for me is the central problem of being human.  How can we have such potential and yet fail so miserably, so many times?

The built environment informed much of my work as an artist.  I was interested in the way it holds traces of the human world that built it and the natural world that eventually leads to its decay and desolation.  Not nature as it invented itself but none-the-less the natural process of entropy.  Buildings hold information as well as having functions.  The study of them gave me a strategy for exploring the human occupation of the world, without engaging necessarily in figurative work.  It was a way of exploring human strategies, dreams, mistakes,  ideals in a general way, without needing to narrow the gaze to any one individual. When it comes to writing, there is a similar usefulness that exists in the presentation of place, the stage on which the drama is set. I have utilised it in the quote above. It acts for me as an Ozymandian reminder that the stage, even in its most temporary manifestations, will last longer than the players. This has a connection to the aspect of the human condition that implies something without end even in its short-lived sparks, its rotation of players and timeless, universally understood stories.

We make a life of bombastic false promise, dirty happy accident, searing achievement and humble faltering progress.  Our ingenuity defies gravity and our baseness anchors us. In a small way, my interest in both visual art and writing explores some of the manifestations of this insolvable, permanent imbalance.

Prints, Pledges

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

These images show quotes from my book Twice the Speed of Dark, which is currently at 70% on Unbound. Follow the link above to find out more about the book and perhaps pre-order and support the book to help get it published.

 

print-5-fly-a-littleprint-4-needleprint-3-disappointprint-2-giant-birdprint-1-nostalgic-longing

Planets

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

These images are from about five years ago, made before I discovered that I wanted to be a writer. For a short time, I am selling them at a very reasonable price, to put towards funding my book on Unbound. The theme seems related. As Caitlin careens through the dark eternity, the blackness of death, she speculates about the planets, about the waves and energies that construct her new realm:

What a thrill it would be to have a body curved and compact as a swallow, a bird black all over, built with the same gigantic majesty as the darkness that holds the stars. The leading edge of a wing the radius of a planet, calibrated to swoop through the inclines and lifts, the densities and vacuums of black space. To master these migrations and head for the burning hear of a star.

Perhaps I would fly a little first.

These images for sale, limited edition, signed and numbered giclée prints are from a series called Planets. All of the proceeds will be put towards funding my book, Twice the Speed of Dark, on Unbound.

Until January 7th – signed and numbered limited edition giclée print from my Planets series for a special price:  A4 only £20, A3 only £35.

Message me here, or find more information on my Facebook page: facebook.com/writerLRAllison/

Xmas Shopping Ramps Up…Give the gift of being a literary patron.

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

As christmas shopping kicks in with the usual mix of joy, dread and panic, here is an option for the book lovers. If you make a gift pledge, I will email you a certificate (below) customised with your message and the name of your recipient. Any pledge at super-patron and above, I will, if you send me the address, mail out some information, a letter of thanks and a card at the appropriate time. If the pledge is for any of the artwork, I will send a print example of what they will receive once funding is reached. And of course, they will receive a copy of the ebook with their name listed as one of the patrons.

Your gift will put  your beneficiary’s name right in the book, making them a patron in the most direct way, someone who is part of keeping books and publishing vibrant and alive.

gift-certificate

Here is the information on making a pledge in someone else’s name:
http://docs.unbound.co.uk/unbound-for-readers/managing-your-subscriptions/changing-the-supporter-name-thats-printed-in-a-book

Once you have made your pledge, email me with the name of the person and the message you would like to send and I will customise and send you the certificate to forward or print.

And thank you for your interest in my book, it means a great deal – and publishing the book won’t happen without it.

Gravity

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

In Twice the Speed of Dark, Caitlin has died, killed by her violent boyfriend. She has a voice that tells her part of the story, but death is a confusing, dark place:

Understanding shivers, glimpsed briefly between slanted, slippery planes, then slides away.  Understanding skids, finding no purchase on memories so faintly-grasped. Understandings are slender and slippery, fine satin ribbons that slides through my fingerless hands. Just as part of the story seems about to shimmer into place, I am let go again. Upside downside, inside outside, it is any way round in death. 

Gravity has disowned me. I had not grasped what refuge she gave. I had not understood her subtle care. I have not been able to hold on as she let go. It takes enormous will to hold back the blackness when gravity is no longer your ally. She let go her embrace and I am pulled away to tumble, inchoate, through the eternal dark. “

Caitlin experiences death as if Gravity is a kindly entity that has let her go. She yearns for a form and surface, something that Gravity would be able to hold, to shelter. (Eventually, towards the end of the book she starts to regain agency and finds a way to interact with the exhilarating energies that now drive her.)

One of the rewards for a pledge towards getting my novel published is a hand-made booklet, called Gravity, that will be extracts of Caitlin’s words about the cosmos that flings her so carelessly and the massive powers to which she finds herself subject in the exhilarating and mysterious black realm of death. To that end, I have gone back to being an artist and have made some paintings that will form the basis of these booklets. In the booklets, the words will be incorporated into the illustration digitally. The images will also be available as a limited edition giclee print and the original art work is also available. All pledged will get you a copy of the book too, and your name in the front in acknowledgement of your vital support. Please share if you are able to. Here is a link if you are interested in the book and to see what other rewards are available for supporters.

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

graavity-black-sunimg_2124img_2125img_2128

Motorway bridges

https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark

These images are taken out of the sketch books I carry with me all the time. I have a long-standing obsession with motorways and motorway bridges, using them as a starting point for several art works.

I have decided to include them as a reward for a pledge towards getting my book funded, mainly because I like to imagine that there are, quietly, many people who are as beguiled by the brutalist, functional charm of concrete highways as I am.

The bridges often look like massive staples, linking the land that has parted to make room for the swath of road. They are sculptural objects, generic and utilitarian, but to me, beautiful.

The bridge with its supports and the road beneath act as a little future-gazing frame. What you see in that oblong as you are speeding along (in the passenger seat, sketching or taking relentless numbers of photographs) is where you will be in the future.

These sketches are very quickly done, but often composite as the speed of travel when on the motorway means that even drawing as fast as I can, it is impossible to pick up all the details in one hit. The original page removed from the sketch book will be sent to you, if you make a pledge for £30 here: https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark This will help fund the publishing of my book on Unbound, an award-winning publishers. This pledge includes a copy of my book and your name (if you want it) in the front as a patron. Two ways of engaging in the arts in one.