GAME ON (9)

THE HOUSE OF DATES


FRONT DOOR

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GROUND FLOOR: LOUNGE

I began writing these essays in February, 2021, nineteen months ago, but I knew even then that
MAY 7, 2021 would be my first Date Painting. The hope was to commemorate that day in summer, 1992, now thirty years ago, when I stepped into the room of On Kawara Date Paintings at the Lisson Gallery. The Dates I saw that day were MAY, 7, 1991; MAY 19, 1991; MAY 22, 1991 and JUNE 4, 1991. The very least I was hoping for was to make a Date Painting that would not look ridiculous when it was reproduced on a page of this website.

Below shows where my first batch of paintings hang today, in my front room. They are juxtaposed with a few Enid Blyton paperbacks which are pinned to the wall. Titles from her glorious 'Mystery' series which I first read when I was eleven- or twelve-years-old and which are referred to in my own book
Looking For Enid: The Mysterious and Inventive Life of Enid Blyton.

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My first four Date Paintings and Enid's first four Mystery books:

MAY 7, 2021:
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage

MAY,11, 2021:
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

MAY 19, 2021:
The Mystery of the Secret Room

MAY 24, 2021:
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters

Oh, I wouldn't say my letters were spiteful, Enid. Though I agree my calligraphy was not as good as it was to become. And what a fool I felt whenI realised I'd painted
MAY 24, 2021 and had missed the Date I'd intended to commemorate, MAY 22, 1991.


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Having begun with size 'A' paintings, as per On Kawara's description, I soon had a go at a size 'D' paintings. JUNE 4, 2021 is now hanging in John Wlison's house in Kenilworth. But it was hanging in this room for several months. In fact, it was on display here until the end of May, 2022, almost a full year after it was painted. Don't ask me how I know this, I just do.

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But JULY 20, 2021, my only other size 'D' picture to date, is not to be given away, as it commemorates the Apollo 11 triptych of JULY 16, JULY 20 and JULY 21, 1969. It's hung just under my front window and is hard to photograph well. At night, when the curtains are drawn, one can't see it at all.

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Let us carry on clockwise and (calendarwise) around my front room. Today there are two August, 2021, dates, one above the other in the room's north-eastern corner. Can you make them out?

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For most of the year there were four August Dates there, that is until the end of May, 2022, when I sent two August, 2021, Date Paintings to addresses in Bradford and Manchester. Being left with AUG.16, 2021 and AUG. 5, 2021, I decided to reverse the order, to put the earlier day above the later day, because that is how On Kawara hung his Dates in his New York studio in 1966.

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Of course, when I began this Date Painting exercise, and had only done four May Dates, the four were hung throughout the ground floor of the house, in my favoured places. And one was in this north-west corner, which has since become the August, 2021, corner.

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By the way, I copied van Gogh's The Wheatfield, the original of which hangs in Hawaii, back in 1990, when I painted a dozen van Gogh's in all, a by-product of writing a novel called Archie Van Gogh, in the same way that these On Kawara-esque paintings could be described as a by-product of this website, which, in my mind, is primarily a literary endeavour.

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Though really, given how comprehensively these essays are illustrated, perhaps I shouldn't try and pretend that the words are more integral to the vision than the images. By August, 2021, I was much more skillful, though still not perfect, at making letters and numbers that satisfied the eye.

Oh, my God! - a person! Who is it? It's Colin, who was a friend of my father's and is now a friend of mine. He is 86, yet every year he flies over from Canada to Scotland to live for a month in the neighbourhood and landscape he was brought up in.

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The above photo was taken four days ago. Basically, Colin spent the day in this room watching (on my underused telly) the progress of the Queen's coffin from Balmoral via Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth to Edinburgh, while I painted. He told me he was enjoying the bird's eye view of the landscape that he knows well from other angles. Now I am not a Royalist, but I am aware that Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne throughout my entire life, until four days ago. Perhaps my next Date Painting should read, concerning the man who has automatically taken over: 'NOT MY KING'. But it's not worth making an issue of it. I am happy that I live in a liberal democracy, and suspect most people want there to be a House of Windsor rather than a House of Kawara.


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And so we move through the year. I am reminded that my brother, John, and his partner, Nila, stayed here a couple of weeks ago. They had the house to themselves the first day, and I think they had a good look at the paintings on display. Talking about the Date Paintings, while eating dinner around this table, Nila couldn't help criticising the first '2' in a black, 'A' size painting, JULY 12, 2021. She was half-laughing, but she was also serious. She couldn't understand how my own quality control could have given it wall space. Indeed, she made such a fuss about it that after they'd gone, I removed it from display. It had been up alongside the large JULY 20, 2021 painting, visible during daylight hours. It now lies in a cardboard box, invisible 24/7.

While telling me her views on my Date Paintings, Nila was sitting at the end of the table looking straight at the following suite of paintings. To balance her remarks, or to rob them of any offence, she told me how much she liked
OCT. 9, 2021.

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A person's views on the quality of a Date Painting is a subjective thing. But other people's remarks do influence that subjectivity. Since she expressed her view, I too have taken a liking to OCT. 9,2021. I think it is the two calm and upright circles. Plus the third circle that is the top half of the '9'. That third circular shape is safely ensconced in the middle of the line of characters, protected by a full-stop and a comma. If she did have a minor criticism of the painting, Nila told me, it was that the full-stop was too large and the comma not wide enough. More laughter. I didn't mind.

The autumn landscape in the middle of the five Dates is by James McIntosh Patrick, a landscape artist based in Dundee. About ten years ago, I drove my mother and father to where this painting was made. Leaving them in the car parked by the farm you see in the picture, I walked up the hill until I had exactly the view that the painter had. Now ten years ago, my parents were about the same age as Colin is now. Shall I offer to drive him to this viewpoint while he is in Scotland? I think I should make time to do that.

The triptych of November paintings look crisp and sharp. Only I know that they do not have a background coat of raw sienna or raw umber. I went through a short phase of just using two coats of the background (foreground?) colour, in this case cadmium red, so that I could effectively be finished a Date Painting by lunchtime. But this didn't seem right. The painting should take up a larger chunk of the day than that. And then when I realised that On Kawara began with an earthy colour (sienna or umber) so as to link the Date Painting of the present to Cave Paintings made 30,000 years ago, well I had no choice but to begin using it again. I suppose that explains why I've not managed three paintings in three days since.

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I've included the above picture because it shows architectural information. The door on the left is just a cupboard (my drinks cupboard, actually). The glass door in the middle leads to the conservatory, where I Date Paint, which this text will be coming to soon. Then the art books along the south wall lead on to the west wall which was my starting point in this clockwise journey around my primary living space. The computer is at the centre of it all. Naturally. Naturally, because it's where I spend hours most days tapping the keys that I'm tapping right now.

Below is a photo of my collection of On Kawara books. That is, the catalogues that deal specifically with On Kawara, are underneath
DEC.16,2021.

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Earlier in the year I had a different Date Painting in the space above the books. That was before I came up with the curatorial notion that this room should consist entirely of Dates made in 2021, hanging in the order they were made in. Which is to say, chronological order.

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The second main difference between those last two photos is that the biggest, heaviest book, KAWARA: WHOLE AND PARTS is not in the present day photo. That is a library book and had to be returned to St. Andrews Library after I'd had it in my possession for four precious months. I fondly recall my two trips to St. Andrews, spending time in collegiate places. Will I buy a copy of the book now? I don't think so. The book costs about £300, second-hand, and it really is heavy. I'm thinking of my carbon footprint when I say, "No, Dunc, let it be. Let time pass, and let it be."

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The CDs that can be seen on the floor are a random selection, or at least I haven't interfered with the mess. They include music by David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Which makes sense, as these are the people I listen to most often.

The photos above and below include group photos of Downing College, Cambridge, taken in my freshman year, 1976, and my graduate year, 1979. That's to say, getting on for fifty years ago.It also shows my partner Kate's primary class (Convent of the Holy Family, Preparatory School, Rock Ferry) from 1957, the year I was born; and a photo of Kate when she graduated with an MFA (Art, Society and Publics) from DJCAD, Dundee, in 2014. That can be thought of as the year she was born as an artist. Those pearls you see hanging to the right are similar to the ones worn by several of her artist personas, notably, Silver Swimmer, Art Scrubber and Pearl Compost.

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But the dates we're interested in are DEC.21,2021. Roughly when the holiday season began last year. And DEC.31, 2021. Roughly when it ended for most people. Though Kate's birthday is January 3, and JAN.3 2022 can be found in her Glasgow flat.

And so we have walked all around the room, dear reader. A few photos of George Shaw paintings of Tile Hill take us back to where we started with the MAY, 2021 suite:

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You may have noticed the text that's stencilled in the gap between ceiling and dado rail that goes all around the room, clockwise. It's a quote from Samuel Beckett and it goes:

SO YOU SIT FACE TO FACE

WITH EYES CLOSED AND HANDS ON KNEES

IN THE BLOOM OF YOUR ADULTHOOD

IN THAT RAINBOW LIGHT


I think that is pretty apt for this room over the last year and a few months. Though what would be perfect would be this:

SO YOU SIT ON YOUR OWN

WITH EYES OPEN AND HANDS ON KEYS

IN THE BLOOM OF YOUR ADULTHOOD

IN THAT RAINBOW LIGHT




GROUND FLOOR: KITCHEN

And so to 2002. Which begins in the kitchen with just one Date.

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I thought of photographing this again with the cutting boards removed, but I think it's better not to interfere in such a way. Instead, I will point out the obvious, that green is not an On Kawara colour. Date Paintings are blue or red if they're not black. The four equivalents of red and blue are green, yellow, purple and orange. These are the colours you need to make the rainbow that the stencil that goes around the top of the lounge speaks of. But somehow they are not classic colours. Date paintings, like car showrooms, stick to classic colours.

There is also an Enid Blyton theme going on in the kitchen. Or at least a Noddy one, with a clock and five full-page illustrations by Van Der Beek taken from Noddy books.

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The best one shows Noddy walking up in his Bed-For-One and waving his hand at a sunbeam. Even on a January day one can do that. Though on a January day it's also possible that you might wake up and wave your hand at a snowflake.



GROUND FLOOR: RED ROOM

It may not be immediately obvious, but there is a triptych of blue Date Paintings in this next shot, which is to say FEB.10 2022; FEB 12, 2022 and FEB. 22, 2022.

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Did I paint on the 22nd of the month because 10 + 12 = 22? I can't remember. However, I remember choosing to paint on the 22nd of February because of the number of 2s in that date. Since the turn of the year I had been conscious of trying to paint near-perfect 2s, the painting of which had let me down in some of the Dates I'd painted in May, June and July of 2021. Perhaps I shouldn't have let myself get distracted by pattern in this way, as On Kawara hardly ever did. For him it was all about consciousness.

On the other hand, when using this particular colour of blue, which was unusual for On, he
was succumbing to pattern. In 1993 he'd been commissioned to produce 12 Date Paintings for a gilded room in a grand French house, Chateau d'Oiron. I think the choice of blue was to go with the golden edge of the mirrors, the only colour other than white or grey to be found on the walls of the room.

This room is more colourful. True, red dominates, so the blue has to engage with that first. But there is so much else. And so much else than colour.

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Top left is an aeroplane that my father painted in his early forties. (Dad only made a handful of paintings in his life, all in his late thirties or early forties.) Left and right are two of my van Gogh's from 1990. Above the Date Painting is a photo, bought by my father, of an old bridge near here that was taken in the 1930s, before it was replaced by a new bridge, long before I was alive. And on the mantelpiece is a clock that used to be wound up by my mother when she was alive, but has now stopped for good. Come to think about it, there is a lot of death in this composition.

The exception is the photograph of my brother and I supposedly painting the same aeroplane that Dad painted, looking like young artists-in-the-making, which we weren't. Actually, I must say more about that. Let's get closer…So there I am, with my hands clenched into fists supporting my chin. I am actually holding a paintbrush, but it is surplus to requirements, for it's my brother, John, that is painting the aeroplane. Or at least he appears to be, because as I've already said, this photograph was set-up and the aeroplane (a different aeroplane, actually, to the Airfix model in front of us) had already been painted by my father. Moreover, the identical black turtle-neck shirts that my brother and I are wearing were fake also, in that they are just little patches of cloth that fit around the neck and give the impression of black shirts.

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Jumping forward fifty-odd years, and I have to admit that it's not me that's painted the Date Painting. That was father Kawara's idea. It's not even me that physically paints them. It's my brother who does the actual painting, just as it was in our childhood. I am a painter twice-removed.

Of course, that last paragraph is not true, I just thought I would try it out on you, dear reader. Did you believe it, even for a second?

Let's go from the clutter around
FEB 10. 2022 to the marble that surrounds FEB.12, 2022. A chateau effect, surely?

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Empty, cold marble.

But there is more to say about the following. I am one of the kid gunslingers. I must have been ten at the time, much more comfortable with a gun in my hand than a paintbrush. In fact it makes me feel more positive about those Downing College group photographs. For at least by the time I'd finished my education it was a pen I was familiar with handling. Though I wasn't yet a writer, everything had been put in place for me to become one when I was ready.

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Time passes and there I am again in the egg-cup, courtesy of my friend, Claire. She painted my portrait on the eggshell three or four years ago. Which was it? I can't remember. It always horrifies me as it symbolically reflects the effect of every glass of wine I've ever drunk. For just as the blood vessels in the brain are dilated by alcohol, allowing one to think more, so the blood vessels in the face are dilated as well. And, over time, the elasticity of the blood vessels decreases and the dilation becomes permanent. Yikes.

But then who wants to die a pretty corpse? Who wants to die never having asked much of their brain? Not me. Thank-you, Claire, for showing me so clearly how beautifully I've aged, and am ageing still. Thank-you for drawing the world's attention to how wise one can become simply by drinking the best part of a bottle of wine every night.
Chateau Fordyce.

We have been focussing on the west wall of the Red Room. Let's turn and focus on the east wall, or at least the north east corner of it. Featuring, Dates from March, 2022, of course.

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The corner of this room has not always looked like this. In May of 2021, Van Gogh's The Artist's Bedroom was hanging here.

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The bookcase was bought so that I could bring my collection of Walter Scott books inside from the shed, where they were in danger of growing damp.

My three-volume set of
The Antiquary was printed in 1816, 'by the author of Waverley and Guy Mannering'. No mention of Walter Scott, the actual author. My single volume (2 of 4) of Tales of My Landlord, was printed in 1817, 'collected and arranged by Jedediah Cleishbotham, schoolmaster and parish-clerk of Gandercleleugh', it says, rather unbelievably. Again, no mention of Walter Scott, though he was the book's author.

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That whole top row of books were printed in the first half of the 19th Century and were written by Walter Scott. Indeed there is a wonderful 'fact', though I can't remember its source, that at a certain date in history, let's say 1835, the year before Charles Dickens got going with The Pickwick Papers, half of the books that had ever been printed and sold in the world had been written by Walter Scott.

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But time passes, and he was eclipsed, first by Dickens, and then all sorts of 20th Century writers, and nobody (except me, and even then only in 2004) has read him recently. But neither Dickens nor anyone else can lay claim to the outrageous statistic I quoted. Half of all the books ever printed!

Let's get back in the room, if only to leave it imminently. I believe I mentioned in passing that today is September 15, 2022. Well, it's now the 16th of September. Time passes as I type. Time passes whatever I do.

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How many copies of Van Gogh paintings are there in the Red Room? Five. How many paintings made in the style of On Kawara? Five. The perfect decor, then? I like to think so.



GROUND FLOOR: BATHROOM

One On Kawara hangs in this room.

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It's opposite the obscure Van Gogh (bushes and rough vegetation near Saint Remy) that hangs in front of someone standing having a pee into the toilet.

I would have to be very confident of my craftsmanship to swop the Van Gogh and the On Kawara around. For then anyone standing at the toilet would be looking at the On Kawara from two-foot away. But I may do that one day. Not with APR.17, 2022, though. It doesn't quite stand up to scrutiny, even at this distance. The curvature of the 'P' and the 'R' is not quite right. That conjunction of letters is restless, anyway, but that doesn't justify my inaccuracies.

For most of the last year and a bit,
MAY 24, 2021 was hung here. Then when I made MAY 24, 2022, I hung it directly above, drawing attention to how much more skilful I had grown in a year. But that trivial comparison was taking away from the main thing: consciousness. So I got rid of it. And by the time I did so, I had a schema for the whole house, so I needed to use an April painting. I only have the one April, 2022, Date, though I painted four. The others are hanging in Glasgow, Vancouver Island and Yellowknife, in the homes of Rory and Thomas, Carolyn and Norma.



GROUND FLOOR: CONSERVATORY

Now we're getting to it. This is the most vital room in the House of Dates. Not least because of the glorious Van Gogh that hangs there. It's called
Artist on the Road to Tarascon. The original was destroyed in Germany during World War Two. So this copy from 1990 is the next best thing.

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I will get back to the above viewpoint of the conservatory soon enough. But first two photos taken on August 16, 2021.

In this first one, my cousin, Alison, has possession of one of the August Dates that would leave this house at the end of May, 2022. It was painted to commemorate her son James's birthday in 2021, and it was hanging in his room by his most recent birthday on August 13, 2022.

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And then there is this picture, paired with the last one and still hanging up next door, in the lounge.

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You have already seen 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' in the Red Room. Now you are seeing Dorian in person. He's not quite as bad an egg as that painted one!

Right, back to the chase. This next photo is of Danielle, an airbnb guest from the Netherlands, and it was taken the day I painted MAY 31, 2022. Which was the day after I finished the penultimate chapter in On' Kawara's story.

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Why isn't she smiling, because in life Danielle smiles a lot? Perhaps because it would have added to the 'magician's assistant' atmosphere of the composition. Though to be honest, in many respects she is the magician and I would barely qualify to be her assistant.

I think of my drying clothes as a happy accident. Patches of blue seem to be spinning all around this extremely intelligent and socially engaged individual. Around her are two of the February Dates that later found their place in the Red Room. Danielle went on from Fordyce to trek with llamas in Peru, so I referred her to
On Kawara's Peruvian experience.

What a marvellous guest in a summer full of marvellous guests.

By the time Louise came at 11 o'clock on a June morning, the day before I finished the final chapter of the story of On Kawara's life, I had applied the first coat of Payne’s grey to the painting that would turn into JUNE 12, 2022. You can still see the raw Sienna shining through.

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At this stage I could still have painted 'JUNE 8, 2002’, which was when we two enjoyed ourselves at a mutual friend's wedding. Or, I could even have made it ‘JUNE 11, 2002’, the evening we stood watching a performance of Twelfth Night at the Globe, which finished with the rain falling on us. I hope Louise remembers. Her face is giving nothing away.

For the rain it raineth every day.

After Louise's visit to me, and after I'd finished the main thrust of this website, it was my turn to visit John Wilson in Kenilworth. I took JUNE 12, 2022, with me, so that it was available to the participants in the Date Painting workshop that took place on June 22, 2022. I then took JUNE 22, 2022 to Tile Hill and spent the day photographing it 'within' George Shaw landscapes. I then left JUNE 22, 2022, with John in Kenilworth (along with JUNE 4, 2021, his previous year's birthday present), and returned home with JUNE 12, 2022. I also returned home with a lot of photos that I spent the first fortnight of July turning into illustrated essays for this website.

Below is Stuart, an airbnb guest who stayed with me for a few days, including July 18, 2022. He told me about his rounds of golf at Rosemount, in his attempt to qualify for the British Seniors Open. Towards the end of his final round, Stuart worked out that he needed to birdie the last three holes, and in the unbearable tension of that, he took par, bogey, quadruple bogie. I don’t think Tiger Woods would have done any better, not under that sort of pressure.

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Danielle's Date can be seen standing on the trolley. By July 18, 2022, we had communicated several times by email. She had not yet gone to Peru but was in training for it. Llama trekking in the Andes is not for the unfit. Though it has to be said that Danielle is super-fit by anyone's standards.

By August 19, Danielle was back in the Netherlands, having pushed herself to get the most out of Peru. By then, Andries was my airbnb guest from South Africa. He is employed by a medium-sized company (150-odd employees), but his job is such that he can do it remotely. He works on his laptop and phone from 8am to 4 pm, then goes sightseeing wherever he happens to be. He was here for a week.

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As you see, Danielle's MAY, 31, 2022, is still on the trolley, while JULY 9, 2022 is on the wall. That is the painting that I've made for Xiaohan Guo. The Chinese artist, studying art at Bourges in France, kindly made postcards for me every day from June 20, 2022, to July 21, 2022, during which time she travelled from Paris to Latvia to Berlin. I've written about Xiaohan's 'I GOT UP AT' postcards (there they are in a pile by Danielle's painting in the above photo) in the last essay posted on this site, so I don't need to say more here.

The open book on the table in the above photo is nothing to do with On Kawara. It's about the mid-20th Century artist, John Piper, and I was looking up an image used for the cover of an Evelyn Waugh novel I was writing an essay about. That's to say,
Unconditional Surrender. The fact is, my energies are no longer flowing exclusively into this On Kawara site. My Evelyn Waugh, Kate Clayton, Enid Blyton and George Shaw websites are all receiving quality time these days.

What an exciting summer I've had! Andries was one of the people I was able to communicate some of the complexities of the On Kawara project to. And he told me that he is at cross-roads in his life, with decisions to be made regarding where to live, what to do with his time and who to live with. He ha lots of options but he only has one life. As do we all.

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He was open and curious to know more On Kawara's art and philosophy. A lovely guy. They are all lovely guys, irrespective of gender.

But sometimes the conservatory is quiet. Sometimes there is only me and the ghosts of Van Gogh and On Kawara. I try and hold my ground in such company, but, needless to say, that ain't easy.


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How the ghosts of Van Gogh and On Kawara laughed the day I briefly hung up JULY 15, 2021. That is the painting that Nila took objection to, in which the first '2' looks like a ski-slope to her. Did it look like a ski-slope to On and Vincent? I don't know, they wouldn't stop laughing. Not until I took it down and, for the first but not the last time, put it out of sight in a cardboard box.

Back to the present. Everything seems tickety-boo. Except the sun has moved around a bit since I took the last photo of this scene earlier today: September 16, 2022.

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You may not have noticed, dear reader, but in all the other rooms which contain more than one Date Painting, the Dates circulate chronologically in a clockwise direction. It seems that this doesn't happen here in the conservatory, where there are exactly two Date Paintings. I had to go against my organising principle because it looks better to have the smaller' painting on the wall and the larger painting under the Van Gogh. And then I realised that I hadn't gone against my organising principle at all, it's just that you have go the long way round the room from MAY 24, 2022, in order to get to MAY 31, 2022.

I suspect , dear reader, that your eye is going clockwise from
MAY 31, 2022 to MAY 24, 2022. Bad eye. But my mind's eye is going from MAY 24, 2022, off the right edge of the photo, in a big circle round to the bottom left corner of the photo, and only then to MAY 31, 2022.

I could sit here forever, playing these games. Just On Kawara, Vincent, me and my airbnb guests or dear friends. But I mustn't. I must take you upstairs. Where this summer awaits.

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Needless to say, the above is a historical photo. We know where the February, 2022, Dates are today, they are in the Red Room. Currently, there are no Dates on the staircase. Stairs should be kept clear of trip hazards. Everyone knows that. And the principle applies equally in The House of Dates.



FIRST FLOOR: WASHROOM

Here we are in the small washroom/toilet between the two bedrooms. For much of the year it was
JULY, 15, 2021 that was stuck into the same corner. Maybe I was thinking that this distracted the viewer from that Date Painting's limitations.

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In any case, I am happy with JUNE 12, 2022 being here. I've just realised that this is the Date that I made on the day Louise visited on her way back to Huddersfield. The same Date that I took with me to Kenilworth.

You may be wondering how seriously I take the 'GOD IS LOVE' picture. Let's put it this way, I see the connections, formal and otherwise, with the much talked of slogan from this week: 'NOT MY KING'.

But there is something about the framed picture that I like. The implied kindness, perhaps.



FIRST FLOOR: SECOND BEDROOM

This is where the airbnbers and other guests sleep.

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I have tried to create a calm ambience. So that when Danielle, Stuart or Andries awoke in the morning, the first thing they thought was 'GOD IS LOVE'. That applies to friends and family too. So that when John and Nila, Alison, Colin and Louise awoke, they thought that too.

The painting at the Van Gogh side of the bed has been constantly changing this summer. I have tried to keep my most recent Date Painting in this position, so that whoever was sleeping there felt they were living their life more or less in the present, one day at a time.

It's only over the last week that I've placed a second painting,
JULY 18, 2022, in the room.

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When I give Xiaohan her painting, JULY 9, 2022, I may simply move the red one over to take its place. True, I like the fact that the paintings line up. It reminds me of the Lisson Gallery Date Painting room back in 1992, when MAY 7, 1991; MAY 19, 1991; MAY 22, 1991 and JUNE 4 1991 spoke to each other. And spoke to me, over three walls of a room, of a month's consciousness.

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Hang on, that reminds me of something. No, not this next photo, I only had JUNE 4, 2021 hanging there long enough to take the photograph.

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Rather this. Another attempt to create the Lisson ambience that I had experienced in the summer of 1992.

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Which reminds me that this room has not always been used as a guest room recently. During much of lockdown in 2020 and 2021, I was using this as both my bedroom and my writing room. When I began my On Kawara project, the computer was on this room's solid wooden table. I'm not sure when I made the switch, but I dare say I could work it out.

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I can say off the top of my head that when I was working on the '1975 (Great Lakes)' page of this site, I was downstairs. I particularly enjoyed writing that essay, and I know I wrote it downstairs because of certain associations. And since then I've done all my writing downstairs.

Maybe, when the airbnb season is finished in October, I'll move my computer back up here again. It is more peaceful in this room. At least it would be if I could find
a way of somehow adding this text:

SO YOU SIT ON YOUR OWN

WITH EYES OPEN AND HANDS ON KEYS

IN THE BLOOM OF YOUR ADULTHOOD

IN THAT RAINBOW LIGHT



FIRST FLOOR: MAIN BEDROOM

The show wall of my main bedroom is covered in maps mostly showing islands off the west coast of Scotland, including Islay, Jura and Arran. A3 prints of Kate in her Silver Swimmer persona were added a few years ago. And in August - which is to say, last month - Date Paintings were added to the mix.

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Silver Swimmer first took to the water in 2016, when she 'swam' from Dundee to Aberdeen via Arbroath and Montrose. After that she appeared in an LGBT cabaret in 2017, and in a Lanzarote swimming pool the same year. But what you want to know about in this contexts is the Date Paintings.

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And what I've been leading up to is this next photo. You can see that something very strange happened, on what you might guess was August 26, 2022. Alternatively, you might think that the third 'Date' represented June 26, 2022. But then that wouldn't be consistent with the hang throughout the house.

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BUTE 26, 2022 was indeed painted on August 26, 2022. But is it a Date Painting? It felt like a Date Painting for most of the time while I was painting it, but I would occasionally be beset by doubts as to its status. After all, I wasn't even on the Isle of Bute as I painted. I was painting in my usual place, in the conservatory of this house.

Let me clarify this word 'BUTE'. Kate used an inheritance from her mother to buy a property on the Isle of Bute last year, and since August 2021 I have spent a few days of each month (except November and January) in the flat with Kate, staring at the sea for the most part. So the months of On Kawara painting have also been the months of looking out of the Bute window.

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The weather is always changing. The sea is always coming in or going out, approaching high or low tide. You have a view of the main shipping channel up the Clyde to Glasgow, and all sorts of ships and boats use it. Yet there is space in the sea for seals, who occasionally surface to look around, for shining white gannets to dive into, and, one April weekend, a pod of joy-bringing dolphins.

Close by is a jetty from where people swim all year round. They don't just swim, they sail, they kayak, and, when the sea is calm, they paddle board. Very soon I hope to buy a wetsuit and a paddle board, and then I will set aside my canvases and my paint brush. The Date Painter, based in Blairgowrie, will be replaced by a Paddle Boarder, based on Bute, and life will never be the same again. Or perhaps the Date Painter and the Paddle Boarder will coincide as I continue to move from Blairgowrie to Bute and back again.

I did wonder if by painting
BUTE 26, 2022, that would bring my Date Painting days to an end. But I was asked to paint September 11, 2022, by Colin, a second cousin who lives in Canada, and so SEPT. 11, 2022 exists. And you, dear reader, have seen the proof in the hands of another Canadian Colin.



FRONT DRIVE

So there you have it: The House of Dates. I'm going to round things off with a photo taken outside in the front drive about six weeks ago. It shows Michael, an airbnb guest from Denmark.

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Michael stayed with me from August 7 to 12, 2022. Most of the other photos of guests holding Dates are doing so strictly on the day that they were painted. However, I didn't paint a Date while Michael stayed at Fordyce. But because we got on so well, talking philosophically about life, I wanted to record his being here. I suspected that he would agree to pose with the date, any date, and this seemed like the most apt.


Michael is fond of Scottish culture, the novels of Irvine Welsh in particular. In other words he can cope with the working class Scottish dialect and the obsession with sex and violence that pervades Welsh's brilliant books. Michael was motoring south from my place to catch a Kevin Bridges gig in Stoke. I hope Kevin didn't let Scotland down in the foul-mouthed delivery of his stand-up routine that time. In any case, Michael is of a blithe and forgiving nature, and I'm sure he would have been able to see the experience in a positive light.

Positive light, that's what I've been after during this 16-month-long exercise in taking photos, and this four-day-long exercise in tapping keys.

P O S I T I V E L I G H T.

SEPT. 18, 2022



POSTSCRIPT

What next for the work-in-progress shown below in the conservatory? I've got 30,000 years to call on, but we all know I'm going to settle for today's date.

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Of course, there's nothing to stop me scrawling in white letters 'OK' at this point, in the knowledge that it will be invisible once the Date Painting is finished in black or red or blue. I might even scrawl:

'OK, ON, you win.'

Dear reader, you will never know.

I have to keep a few secrets.

I can't give everything away.