Painting, Absinthe, and My Dinner with Andre
The joys of delirium, painting, absinthe, and My Dinner with Andre
I created an painting based on surrealism and delirium…
Every idea entangled within this piece is some absurd figment of my mind. I threw water at it, ruined it with spray paint, generously coated it with varnish, poured glue on it, re-painted over and over, and cut off an arm of my most precious plant and put it on the canvas. I listened to music and just painted; it was dancing.
Absinthe is made using wormwood and fennel and other ingredients. It was banished for a while for being satanic or demonic or crazy-inducing and causing hallucinations, and thus symbolizes a state of delirium or insanity. I like to think of it as clarity though, because the great artists — Hemingway, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, Picasso, etc. — were all known absinthe drinkers; with Hemingway even creating the “Death in the Afternoon”.
I used it because I love absinthe. I have, of course, never drunk absinthe before in my life. But the way it is prepared, with the absinthe spoon and the sugar and the haze, is quite beautiful.
The painting was also inspired by Leonid Afremov — aforementioned in my previous article, Locus Amoerus — the painter who illustrates with such a deep sense of color and light. Here is one of my favorite paintings by him: Foggy Rain
And lastly, I was inspired by a character in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; the tragic character of Delirium. Sandman is a story that passes through one like a dream, or like an “absinthe hallucination”, or a feeling. There are archetypal symbols, and references, and a sense of purpose, but the truth about what makes it great is that it describes us, and everything we hold dear, in a real and genuine way.
My Dinner with Andre was a lot like that. Where Sandman has imagery, and can extend beyond the realm of acting and film, My Dinner with Andre has humanity struggling with existence. I guess that’s a point in my painting as well. A sort of self referentiality between words and ideas… “Absinthe is by blood”. The absinthe glass, pouring the liquideous venom-like absinthe upwards — defying laws of gravity — parallels the dripping of blood from the trickling heart downwards to the plant, watering it. If you look closely at the painting, you will notice the slight shape of the transparent sickly glue I poured over the absinthe and the plant. There is also the bending and snapping of the blue streetlamp. It is a paradox, both bending and snapping at once. It of course pays homage to the streetlamp in Afremov’s paintings, and also, now that I think of it, pays homage to George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog paintings: which I grew up with as a young child.
The words echo away from the perceiver, and contain both literary, figurative, and personal meaning. The literal meaning is that the absinthe lays next to the blood from the heart. The figurative meaning is that absinthe is a liquid much like blood, both being symbols and satanic things (I am not a satanist, at least, not consciously). The personal bit is that “Absinthe is by blood” was a text I sent while delirious from the nitrous oxide and sedative-fluid they put in me during a wisdom tooth extraction. I was literally delirious, and misspelled “my”.
The girl in the painting is both a representation of delirium and a normal girl. She is both Sandman’s Delirium and a random girl trapped in a painting. There are many dualities within the painting, however this one is sort of invisible. The scene itself is chaotic, as I dripped ink and water and spray paint over it, eventually scrubbing it down in a spiral form to create the green background. There’s also the duality between the background and the paint: the background being a water-color texture and the paint being opaque. I tried to use a color palette comprising mostly of yellows and greens, however I strayed away from that when I — upon impulse — got bored and started messing around.
OK. YES, WE ARE BORED. WE’RE ALL BORED NOW. BUT HAS IT EVEN OCCURRED TO YOU WALLY THAT THE PROCESS THAT CREATES THIS BOREDOM THAT WE SEE IN THE WORLD NOW MAY VERY WELL BE A SELF-PERPETUATING, UNCONSCIOUS FORM OF BRAINWASHING, CREATED BY A WORLD TOTALITARIAN GOVERNMENT BASED ON MONEY, AND THAT ALL OF THIS IS MUCH MORE DANGEROUS THAN ONE THINKS? AND IT’S NOT JUST A QUESTION OF INDIVIDUAL SURVIVAL WALLY, BUT THAT SOMEBODY WHO’S BORED IS ASLEEP, AND SOMEBODY WHO’S ASLEEP WILL NOT SAY NO?
— MY DINNER WITH ANDRE
There are many questions I ask myself. Why is the lamp on fire? Why is it breaking? Why would I paint this specifically? I cannot answer them, though I know that there are answers. I enjoyed painting the brilliant blue in the background, and furthermore coating that brilliant blue with a dust to take away its sheen, only to run over it with my fingers: restoring brilliance to the paint I had touched by rubbing the dust off of the paint on the areas where my fingers touched the canvas. The result was the night sky, dark as the streetlamp yet somehow more deep and introspective. I loved painting that part.
There aren’t many more things I would have done with this painting. Perhaps I would have sprinkled salt and sand and sugar over the painting and created sand dunes, or I would’ve literally painted absinthe or blood on the canvas for super-realness. Perhaps I would’ve cut out felt for the dress, or burned a part of the painting. But just this, this raw, unedited, real version of my produced work, it represents what i’ve learned about art this far. Looking back upon this work I am proud and voracious for more artwork like it. For more mediums and experiments and ideas.
It is now 2:58am. And to conclude this article I will quote the end of the opening monologue
“I COULD ALWAYS LIVE IN MY ART, BUT NEVER IN MY LIFE”
— MY DINNER WITH ANDRE