Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: more from The Black Notebook; Gaston Bachelard

“And all the spaces of our past moments of solitude, the spaces in which we have suffered from solitude, enjoyed, desired and compromised solitude, remain indelible within us, and precisely because the human being wants them to remain so. He knows instinctively that this space identified with his solitude is creative; that even when it is expunged from the present, when henceforth, it is alien to all the promises of the future even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams. These retreats have the value of a shell. And when we reach the very ends of the labyrinths of sleep, when we attain the regions of deep slumber, we may perhaps experience a type of repose that is pre-human, pre-human in this case, approaching the immemorial. But in the daydream itself, the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut-in space are experiences of heartwarming space, of a space that does not seek to become extended but would like above all still to be possessed. In the past, the attic may have seemed cold in winter and hot in summer. Now, however in memory recaptured through daydreams, is is hard to say through what syncretism the attic is at once small and large, warm and cool, always comforting.”

from The Poetics of Space
Gaston Bachelard

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: more from The Black Notebook; Barnett Newman

‘The driving force of modern painting has been to change, to reconstitute the painting medium from a photographic technique of realistic rendering into a medium of pure expression. Modern painting is an attempt to change painting into a poetic language, to make pigment expressive rather than representational.

It is in poetry that the problem of handling a realistic tool, a tool that permits of realism without being realistic, has been solved. In music, the pure abstract element of tone has made it easy. Sometimes attempts have been made in music to imitate naturalistic sounds, but those attempts are unnatural and not very usual. It is easier and more natural for music to deliver its message, to present its concepts, in terms of the abstract nature of notes of sound. In music there never is an attempt to relate sound to any conventional prejudice, or natural sound, whereas in literature and in painting it is natural for us to associate the word or the painted object with the thing in nature, to combine its evocative nature with its appearance. In poetry, however, the element of music contained in it has permitted the artist to approach the abstract handling of the language usual in music, so that we have learned to react to the words themselves. The whole drive of poetry, therefore, and in recent times of painting and prose, has been in the direction of music, to divorce the languages of literature and of painting from the conforming dichotomy of meaning inherent in their media so that they would function purely and abstractly in the manner of musical notes.

…since the important truth underlying the creation of any art form and determining any style concerns man’s relation not with the universe but with himself.

Selected Writings and Interviews
Barnett Newman




Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: more from The Black Notebook; Aldous Huxley

“Everything seen by those who visit the mind’s antipodes is brilliantly illuminated and seems to shine from within. All colours are intensified to a pitch far beyond anything seen in the normal state and at the same time the mind’s capacity for recognising fine distinctions of tone and hue is notably heightened … At the antipodes of the mind, we are more or less completely free of language, outside the systems of conceptual thought. Consequently our perception of visionary objects possesses all the freshness, all the naked intensity, of experiences which have never been verbalised, never assimilated to lifeless abstractions. Their colour (that hallmark of giveness) shines forth in a brilliance which seems to us preternatural, because in fact it is entirely natural – entirely natural in the sense of being entirely unsophisticated by language or the scientific, philosophical and utilitarian notions, by means of which we ordinarily re-create the given world in our own drearily human image.”

Heaven and Hell
Aldous Huxley

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: more from The Black Notebook

“Blueblacksliding constellations”
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake – before you ask, no I haven’t.

“Thou hast curiously embroidered me”

“Thou hast wrought me up after the finest way of texture, and as it were with a needle.”

“That Augustus had native notes on his body and belly, after the order and number of the stars of Charles’ Wain.”

The Garden of Cyrus
Sir Thomas Browne

“Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so anatomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms – up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested – probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven ..”

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson


A Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: The Black Notebook

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Funerals, Love, Death, Grief, Friendships, Deptford, the Creek. Ghosts, both alive and dead, march through these pages, some lightly, some with a heavier tread. Arthur, Dorothea, Albert, Susan, Shelly.

Albert’s funeral at St Brides, dear, dear Dorothea visiting the studio and liking my lithographs. Lithography paper so creamy smooth and tinged with rose, like a baby’s skin only smoother.

Pressed flowers, roses, wildflower, rosemary for remembrance. A dried flower is so redolent of death, drained of all colour; veins and dessicated skin. Sepia; the colour of Victorian photographs. The light pouring into the Deptford studio through the huge windows. In a previous century.

The death of friendship, the death of hope, the death of  love.