You should always look down on a circus
Charles Bukowski said “we’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus!”, at least according to the internet – I’ve got several Bukowski collections and I can’t find the quote. Bukowski is one of those writers who have hundreds of publications it seems, so it may exist somewhere. I read Bukowski because of the manner he works in, the continual production without, apparently, applying quality control during the process. It was my greatest frustration when I taught that people couldn’t grasp that creating anything works in stages and requires editing. It’s an iterative process. I also like the way Bukowksi throws out a thought and runs with it, following the route it takes towards whatever he ends up with. The quote above continues “That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”
There is an obvious metaphor for life with the circus, the backstage (off ring?) living and the performative presence, the constant practice before the audience gets to see the output and the sense of separateness, of being in a community that does not belong to the general population, of being a way out. (Have I ever written a longer string of cliches?)
The circus, and it’s all a circus, should be witnessed from above. You should look down on the performers and the audience, freezing the action often to contemplate the ludicrous pirouettes and somersaults.
You should watch the purposeless gyrations and applaud, then make your choices like Beckett’s ‘Molloy‘ “[…] I came upon a kind of crossroads, you know, a star, or circus, of the kind to be found in even the most unexplored of forests. And turning then methodically to face the radiating paths in turn, hoping for I know not what, I described a complete circle, or less than a circle, or more than a circle, so great was the resemblance between them.”
Beckett, S (1979). The Beckett Trilogy. London: Pan Books Ltd
Sometime in 2003 or 2004 I made a set of wax maquettes for a group of sculptures and produced a couple of drawings from them. The other day, mid March 2021, I woke up having dreamt about one of the drawings and with an idea in my mind of a new figure for the group.
After producing a set of new drawings I set about finding the original drawings to compare to the set. The drawing above is the first one I found. I still have the idea of the drawing I woke up with and it’s closer to the image below but that’s not what I remember.
Both these drawings are 100cm x 70cm or thereabouts.
The title ‘You Should Always Look Down on a Circus’ is scrawled at the top of a each of two sketchbook pages that I found. I remembered the images were suggestive of circuses. Late nights watching Tod Browning’s 1932 film ‘Freaks‘ may have contributed to the feel of the portrait drawing, which I think was the first, but also the grouping of the objects and their interactions, including shadows, is also suggestive of a circus ring.
The new drawings started with a set of arches, referencing an unmade sculpture ‘acrobats’ from around the same period – Virtual Sculptures Gallery –
The large group in the centre of the gallery is ‘Acrobats’
The dream suggested a set of tumbling arches and an almost tied knot that I’ve explored through a set of thirteen drawings, twelve A1 size and one 130cm x 100cm. The drawings eventually suggested a harlequin. –
I built a maquette for the group that I imagined and have since remade the original objects to reproduce the drawing that I had in mind. That drawing either never existed or has been lost.
The first maquette ‘harlequin with tumblers’ made at the beginning of March.
I then recreated the original maquette from my drwings so that I could remake the drawing I think I remembered in my dream.
It’s a rough maquette but from this I did some more sketchbook drawings until I got the composition and then made the big drawing below.
I’m building a version of the combined maquettes as a larger sculpture, that will form another post.