Thursday, September 9, 2010

Odds and ends

Just as when I was cooped up in the army from July 1979 till June 1981, so when I worked for the PFP in East London between 1981 and 1984, I did copious quantities of drawings - often on whatever paper came to hand. I found among my things a notepad made from some printing firm's offcuts, complete with ink marks. The pages are elongated, and I often integrated existing marks into my drawings.

The strange thing is I have no recollection of making any of these drawings. It is almost as if they came directly out of my subconscious and onto the page. Here, a black man seems to eye enviously a bowl (rather deep, really) of fruit, which could be symbolic of the situation obtaining in apartheid SA at the time.

Here you almost don't see the face, initially. The question I keep asking myself is, what would be the point of working this up as a painting, apart from the fact that it would have a longer lifespan, presumably. It is a dilemma that has continually troubled me. When I have attempted to do just that, I do find that it is impossible to capture the same mood achieved in the original.

Red and blue are virtual opposites in the spectrum, and it is this sharp hot-cold contrast which adds an interesting dimension to this drawing. What it was trying to say I can't imagine.

Quite often, as in this case, a note jotted down on a pad - here just a time and a name - would be integrated into some or other finished art work.

We were in Africa, after all. My second eldest brother, Alistair, had brought back a huge wooden drum from "the border", which might have inspired this drum, which is about half its size.

So the country was in a muddled mess, with the National Party's crazy policies making many people's lives a misery. This guy's face seems to reflect that.

And who did we have to thank? Significantly, I have jotted down the date, July 12, 1984, which presumably is when PW Botha became executive state president in terms of the new tricameral constitution.

Time to see a man about a dog.

And, if all else fails, time to get down on your knees and pray, man.

I like the tiny windmill between the clogs, which places this inescapably in the Netherlands.

As a blue tide creeps in, yours truly seems to be getting cold feet. But is he sketching, or taking notes? Because, from August 1, 1984, I would indeed be taking notes aplenty as a reporter on the Port Elizabeth Evening Post.

Here, the blue "water" stain seems to insinuate itself into the cat's bowl of milk.

While this is obviously not my mother, it does evoke memories for me of the days without number that she would have to rise early each morning to make sandwiches for a horde of five children as she packed us off to school.

What was this about? Statues and monuments inevitably have a political dimension, but which politician would want to be shown as two-faced?

Old magnet head. Another weird image from my subconscious.

I think I would have started this by drawing that long-beaked face, and then let my fancy flow.

I see about three faces on this body.

One of the few horizontal drawings from this notebook. But what's with the porcupine-like backs? It looks like a pre-election handshake between out-of-shape politicians with a bit of needle.

Again, notes on a page, supplemented by a drawing, complete with title.

A strange, rocky landscape. Visitors to Port Elizabeth should explore the rock formations along the coast at Schoenmakerskop, which are some of the most sculpturally interesting I've encountered.

Here, I was clearly led by the ink mark, bottom left, which resulted in the drawing of a hilltop fort, such as I saw on a trip through northern Italy.

Again, those blue and red felt-tipped pens fuse jarringly.

This is the first of various-shaped drawings done about the same time. Notice that the creature's mouth is biting a hole left in the paper by a punch, which is where the picture no doubt started.

An innocuous-looking political vulture.

This might even be a hang-over from those years in the military. I remember some us going through a phase of saying "chasps" instead of "chaps".

Drawn on the back of an A4 page printed with a PFP logo and no doubt meant to be cut in half and used for short notes, I think this bizarre drawing again points to a time of both political and personal turmoil.

A palm tree growing out of each cheek. Clearly the intention was to make it look thus. But what's with this nude oke in a mask crawling through the desert? Ask PW Botha. Ask BJ Vorster. Ask HF Verwoerd. Ask DF Malan.

Most of us don't have such broad shoulders we battle to fit on a page.

Bemused. But what was he thinking?

There was a time when a man felt at his most alive, and relaxed, out in the fresh air - smoking a pipe. When last did you see someone smoking a pipe? It was one of my vices in the army for a while - helped to pass the time.

Another note jotted down, another little sketch alongside. This time PFP MP Peter Gastrow has the honour of having his name share space with a bit of Bentley brilliance. Ahem.

This was drawn on the back of a piece of white paper used in our cavass card box. It has the words, "Address unknown", written on it. Miss Elder would have been someone who helped in the PFP office in East London, but what is this figure up to?

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