Untitled – Series : Paisajes
Oil on canvas
150 x 200 cm
Courtesy of the artist
It all ends in sex or death, usually.
I think I’ve been writing about shadows on bedroom walls and tangled sheets all of my life.
These will, with some likelihood, be my last thoughts as well. The sheets: the crisp unloving whites of a hospital bed, the shadows: dancing on the bloodless eggshell of a nursing home or an intensive care ward.
But there have been other sheets and other walls. I think it comes from the stillness of a wakefulness that occurs whilst laying in bed. If you immediately roll out, bare feet scraping on hardwood to the bathroom, the normal course, you miss this calm, the still point in a turning world. Perhaps it is a wholly unnecessary stillness, brought on by sloth or indolence, but its quietude is indelible. The sheets wrap your limbs, the play of light and shadows, a hint of what the world has to offer, Plato’s perpetual tease.
I linger in bed because I’m too sick to get out or of the body lying next to mine.
In detective stories, tossled bed sheets are a clue. In The Maltese Falcon, they are a false one.
Empty bed sheets seen like these here mean the lovers have left. One of the great heartbreaks in recent art sadly gifted to us by Félix González-Torres is his billboard snapshot of an empty bed, two pillows printed with the heads of the lovers who slept there. It was a memorial to Félix’s partner Ross, who died of AIDS. Félix would succumb a few years later himself to the disease. Their bed forever emptied.
I loved a girl once who as a teenager, regularly had sex on a tombstone shaped like a bed, the crumpled sheets carved from marble.
In Naples’ Capella Sanseveroo, lingers the marble statue by Giuseppe Sammartino, Veiled Christ, 1763. The sheet that wraps Jesus is so carefully wrought, it looks see-through. The body of Christ beneath it is long and lithe, beautiful. You feel in that carving a hint of lust, the violent longing found in Caravaggio’s men. The veil between us and him so thin, the body so real. Make no mistake that nuns are told to consider themselves brides of Christ. An embrace that is only ever truly consummated in dreams and perhaps for some perhaps in heaven.
A better sculpture yet might be the shroud left behind, the naked Jesus moved onto better things. His body imprinted forever on the tangled sheet, the shadows of its folds.