On Not Being Able To Paint

On Not Being Able To Paint [1]

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


The eye should find out what it liked:

attacking creatures must be really within myself.

Something that often for months together

never happened.

One day,

when beginning to make marks on the paper,

I tried drawing an imaginary room

bit by bit.

But I had no notion how

or where to begin.

It was more a dreaminess

that was the result of a half-waking spatial nightmare,

surrounded by an infinitude of space rushing away.

A garden looking down on it from above:

aimless malevolence

with an urge to study what they were actually about.

A girl in an underground train:

a harmless and innocent creature,

as well as a nasty one.

A transfiguration comparable

in a small way

to the transfiguration of falling in love.

The peaceful summer morning

could turn

into a raging fire or a blasting blizzard.

The death of an oak tree by its voraciousness,

the sheer ‘thusness’ of its existence in space.

The rows of dots in the body of the mannikin,

the gradually growing sense of its ‘thingness.’

The same idea of a deadening routine

being hauled back over the abyss.

What happened when the drawing that emerged

was nothing but an unrecognizable scribble?

It became clear that they were not only clues.

It did not feel entirely like a retreat,

it felt more like a search.

An inherent as well as an implanted morality,

a going backwards perhaps.

Then I began to notice something else:

a going back to look for something

which could have real value,

if only it could be recovered.

What were these spiritual dangers?

Fear of new possibilities,

the separateness or togetherness of objects.

What should have been dialogue

would degenerate into an extreme monologue.

The childish belief in oneself

as the center of the universe:

the irreducible ‘I’,


The Angry Ape and its rage

against authority,

but also the urgent need for controlling

the anger they themselves aroused:

‘That which is above is within.’

No fixed boundary between twilight and darkness,

only a gradual merging

with violently distorting results

totally dependent upon

the transferring of matter


from outside to inside

and from inside to outside


In fact

a fear of being mad:

losing all sense of separating boundaries.

People must surely be afraid

that their hold upon reason and sanity

is precarious.

An experience so intimate and vital

must be kept remote and safe

from the cold white light of consciousness.

I now remembered Goethe’s idea of colour

as something which happens

when white light and darkness meet,

where white merged into red,



A meeting of the conscious inner eye

and the blind experience of colour as something

moving and alive.

Having reached so far

it was now much easier to understand

the potentially sinister aspect of creation


the comparatively sophisticated destructiveness.

Guilt and remorse

certainly threw further light

on the nature of such moments of illusion,

experienced in physical love

combined with in-loveness,

and how such shut-out parts can remain

primitive and cruel.

All these meanings

must not be seen or known,

a state of blissful transcending of boundaries.

Symbols used for thinking about the creative process,

no one differentiated from the other:







All the excited mess.

It was safer to remain ignorant,

now it was necessary to ask another question.

There is more of the ‘me’ in the ‘not me’

and more of the ‘not me’ in the ‘me’?

[1] Field, JoannaOn Not Being Able to Paint. Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1957.

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