The Currency of A Cup of Tea
The monks make a sand pebble picture that is a painstaking pebble for coloured pebble placement of precision on a part of the floor. And no sooner are the days and days and hours of work done than they sweep it all into a heap; the performance was the thing, not the product. Well, such is my ongoing lesson. If my door-sized paintings are to be appreciated by another, as opposed to my being sufficiently engaged in brush stroke after brush stroke (one of them a fifteen year project in particular) then I am certainly yet to be completely disappointed. Not everything is everyone's cup of tea.
Rendered in Renaissance oil-glazes and many taking several years each to complete, some twelve or so of my canvas works made it safely, just yesterday, to my apartment. I stacked them in various bedroom locations, the two largest along the lounge wall, where I happen to be working on my current canvas. Admittedly, these are works of intricate and apparently overwhelming dimensions; they challenge rather than entertain. "That long band of thumb-sized miniatures along the top are copies of the great works of art throughout history," I usually explain. Surrealism is not quite readily read; it takes mental acuity, esoteric or at least extant knowledge, a willingness to piece together the many juxtapositions, and an energy of concentration that we are not easily given to, unless we perhaps have paid the museum entrance price and specifically are there to view the paintings. Analysis takes effort. Ask Salvador Dali. My paintings are not pretty pictures.
Perhaps the most insulting term to me about them was delivered by my mother. About fifteen years ago. I had not seen her in over twenty years and I sent her a few photos of my work. The reply came in Afrikaans. The phrase that hurt, that was to teach me to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, was "grotesque". It is spelled the same in the Afrikaans language. Coming from my mother, it corroborated what I had expected from her, and therefore it actually hurt more. But it served to galvanize me toward producing my own product, being my own man, choosing my own visions, and depending less and less on the approbation or appreciation or approval of others.
Then why bother to write this essay?
A cup of tea takes energy to make. The steps involved are multifold. The blend chosen, the vessel in which it reposes, the artfulness of skilfully putting it down, or not, all of which combine, especially socially, to serve another. Even a child likes the currency of respect, of appreciation. Few artists of any genre truly do things just for themselves. Yet as these works of mine sit here, still chiefly unheralded, I am reminded of the lessons of my mummy. The true art of living is in making such a product as even a cup of tea with a consummate care from the first, whether or not the result is truly to be appreciated.