Death of a Salesman

Selected Jottings and Reflections: January–June 2005

“My fundamental work is the way that I work,” and that I go on. How I stand and move in the studio is crucial to the work: every movement must be graceful, and “All is economical” (Beckett).

With the sheet flat on the table, ‘listening to’ those internal numbers and rhythms that guide my moves, I work my way round the page, turning the paper anti-clockwise through 90° on the stroke of 2, 4, 8 or 16 before starting the count again.

1–2–3–4–5–6–7–8 turn

1–2–3–4–5–6–7–8 turn

5/01/05 - “Where 1000 variations of three simple movements fill up the time between train and train.” Hugh Kenner on Beckett

And also like Beckett, it is the FOOT-FALLS that matter: “It is about the pacing… The fall of the feet. The sound of feet… The words are less important…” (Beckett, in Conversations with and about Beckett by Mel Gussow, p. 34).

This is how I begin each day: by the sound of my feet on the studio floor.

4/02/05 - And then capturing the sound in my marks. This I do, as ever, with “exactitude winged by intuition” (Klee), and with “diligence joined with quickness” so as to bring “promptness” and “dispatch” to the work (Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting).

5/02/05 - Each drawing has its own ‘sound-work’ behind it. You could explore each drawing “movement by movement” (Folko Jungnitsch, conductor).

28/02/05 - “Attention must be paid!” says Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman. Yes. Attention must be paid to the sound, and to the precision of the line that captures it.

1/03/05 - Standing, always, with CORE-STABILITY (stability of my corps). This stable centre is what gives the work its strength, symmetry, balance and grace.

Finding the right posture: standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders relaxed but always LIFTING FROM THE CENTRE: This is my centre of gravity. Now I can begin, and begin again. And fail. “And next time fail better” (Beckett).

6/03/05 - While always in alignment (line-meant). What does the line mean? When it is graceful, when it follows the line of gravity, “it is nothing but the path taken by the soul of the dancer” (Heinrich von Kleist).

It is a self-portrait.



18/03/05 - And the capture of “fluent time” (Folko Jungnitsch).

21/03/05 - Reading about Montaigne’s Essays, how they developed from SELF STUDY to SELF-PORTRAITURE. YES.

1983–94: SELF-STUDY (through automatism and organic abstraction: waiting for my figure/pattern to emerge).

1994: The Self-Portrait appears: the way that I work.

1994–present: The self-portrait develops, in direct response to the changing subject.


1. The self-portrait must remain faithful to the subject, changing as the subject does.

– for me, becoming increasingly pared-down, essential, yet at the same time more complex.

2. Everyone who listens to himself will discover a PATTERN ALL HIS OWN.

– I can hear mine; it’s my numbers and rhythms, complete with directions to turn. (This is my RULING PATTERN to which obedience must be paid!)

22/03/05 - I am, since 1994, SQUARING THE CIRCLE, in time, under conditions of JUST ENOUGH gravity to hold my marks in equilibrium.

24/03/05 - A note on gravity: I learn from Matthias Bärmann that the meteorites I see in his home, arranged on a tray like a miniature garden, were produced under conditions of ZERO GRAVITY. The oldest one, he says, is 4.8 billion years old. And they came from “TEXAS and OUTER SPACE”.

What to say about the regular, grid-like forms one observes on these cross-sections of time and space?

“What do I know about man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.” Beckett, in Conversations with and about Beckett by Mel Gussow, p. 79

25/03/05 - Back in Renaissance Space, reading Alberti’s On Painting:

– we learn that his knowledge of painting came from his own practice. Good.

– that he was interested, too, in a control of words. He learned from Cicero a method of ANALYSIS and SYNTHESIS. We need both: “His was a brilliant mind that could both analyse and synthesize.” Eulogy for my father

27/03/05 - Alberti: On the ORLO – the outline – and VISUAL APPEARANCES. The ORLO marks the extreme limits of the subject (body). So it must be PRECISE.

One could describe the body by its OUTLINE alone: by the length, the breadth, and by the QUALITY OF THE LINE – this quality of the line is what I’m after.

“There must be no filling in.” Marcel Duchamp

28/03/05 - As in those ‘painstaking grids’ – those ‘wheels of incised lines…’ of Michelangelo. Alison Wright – compared by her with my own incised grids.

1/04/05 - And like Apelles, too. I am after the MOST PERFECT LINE, yet made and measured by man alone.

With a SOUND-WORK behind it, which can resonate with the viewer.

2/04/05 - Alberti again: I ‘happen’ to build my drawings just as he recommends:

– divide each line in half, and in half again. YES

– divide each quadrangle into 4 more quadrangles of equal proportion. YES

– to inscribe a circle within a square, divide the square into 4 equal quarters with a horizontal and a vertical line. yes. Diagonally connect these 4 half-points, forming a diamond shape. YES. Draw an arc to connect these points of the diamond. YES


4/04/05 - Here is a poem by Charles Olson (shown to me by Tamar Yoselof):

An American is a complex of occasions themselves a geometry of spatial nature.

I have this sense, that I am one with my skin. (1)



Now, drawing ONLY THE CORNERS of the square is enough to indicate the whole (form and movement).

Or marking only a short dash of line at the TOP, BOTTOM, LEFT and RIGHT sides (of the otherwise invisible square).

17/04/05 - Richard Selby remarks that he can ‘see’ the oval/circle in the form. PERFECT. (So, of course, can I).

“If we think of the forms and light of other days it is without regret.” Beckett, Molloy

Yes. Because in them we see the ORIGINS of today.

24/04/05 - Alberti: Better to correct the errors of the mind than to remove them from the drawings.

– The mind, moved and warmed by experience gives greater PROMPTNESS and DISPATCH to the work. So practice. Daily practice.

6/05/05 - Saul Bellow dies; I feel the loss.

“They told me that the truth of the universe was inscribed into our very bones. Tat the human skeleton was itself a hieroglyph. That everything we had ever known on earth was shown to us in the first days after death. That our experience of the world was desired by the cosmos, and needed by it for its own renewal.” Bellow, ‘Something to Remember Me By’

5/06/05 - Matthias promises to get for me a small meteorite for my 60th birthday. I hope – I expect – this small slice of the universe will be inscribed with marks like my own:

HORIZONTAL and VERTICALS, never confused. Leaning into the wind, just a little, so as to KEEP ON GOING.



1. ‘Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]’, from Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 185