What Are You Working On?
My current project is an experimental novel composed of assorted stories and ekphratic objects: the stories are told in various narrative forms, everything from short stories to stories-within-stories and novel chapters; the ekphratic objects include iconical and imaginary artworks.
I have no formal background in art or art history, and that is exactly the point of the project: ekphrasis (the most famous examples include Homer's description of Achilles' shield, Shelley's On the Medusa of Leonardo daVinci, Rilke's Torso of Apollo, Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn) has been mostly poetry's attempt to trump visual art. But as words put to music become lyrics, words put to art can become another literary incantation.
I'm interested in purposefully conjoining past to presence, and putting everything under one roof -- so I wanted to have all art within writing, and the one most extreme cohabitation was purely visual art. I started writing a description of deKooning's Woman I, and got more ambitious as it occurred to me that we order our world according to our stories and our snapshots, and how could I write an artefact of purely Western culture that would account for both.
The worst hardest part is writing a straightforward, conventional short story. Biases must be overcome, and strict discipline enforced. The best hardest part is trying to render extremely visual material, like a Rothko painting, into words that evoke the feeling -- if not the view -- of the original.
I've had to immerse myself in the general notion of negative space, but have been specifically studying certain artists, such as Matisse, and works, such as Guernica. Reading Ruskin for the first time, dangerously pleasurable. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking very closely at all sorts of paintings and I've almost convinced myself that I have to go to the Tate Modern fairly soon.
I've no hope of finishing, though expect I will finally stop in three to five years. I don't have a contract, or prospects, for this book, but am dedicatedly unconcerned.
Examples of ekphrasis:
Shelley's On the Medusa of Leonardo daVinci
Rilke's Torso of an Archaic Apollo
Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn
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published 22 Feb 06 on Too Beautiful. email copyright 2006 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco