After ‘Uncompromising Courage’
Oil on Canvas 32” x 57.5” 2004 Kathleen Gillis
To Liu Chengjun
Emptied reed in prison-issue-green,
Your still strong, near-death body slightly leans
Up the structure of the wood-like chair
Your unseen arms must be loosely tied to.
Your bare toes touch a floor where demons’ heads
Blare discomfort (burnt browns, black clays, clot reds) …
Walls ripple with the colour of the chair
Your laid-bare ankles’ skin is loosely bound to …
Your being tips its drenched and haloed face
That twists towards the gift of warm, gold light
That gushes down with grace that enters you.
From that corner, too, with equal grace –
An open, God-sized hand, buoyant and light,
Is offering, beckoning, you.
Art House of God
You move quite slowly and seem reverent,
Your art displacing ceremonies to God.
Your sauntering seems holy, prayerful, odd,
For worship here’s no longer relevant.
In White that masks each face and female form
And cowls your heads so delicately bleached,
You show a sacred balance has been breached
When feather-headed judgements are the norm.
So many walk right past you dressed in black
While you put down pierced pearls in squares of wood;
Each bead could be a soul, not bad nor good
But lost, that has no thread to take the slack.
You hint that saints’ and angels’ hearts prevail
To mark our actions of this lowered scale.
Concerning a performance, called Weighing Pearls, by Pink and grAy as part of the art event The Science of the Soul held in Sheffield Cathedral during November 2017.
You’ve slaved at imitations of our age,
the moral vacuum where life’s ‘problem’ lies.
You’ve thumped its essence like an artist sage
and tracked its spreading filth, not its demise.
You’ve met contemporary ugliness
and sniffed out laced, consuming, sick’ning lines
and set its rank, chaotic, awkwardness
in made-up monstrous art like Frankensteins.
But Mary Shelly’s book was far from fact.
It’s more a cobbled clone of jigsaw death,
a thick, grotesquely warm, absorbing tract
we feel we must attend to like a moth.
Elites sweep patchwork fields and send in drones,
assessing if the target is as named.
The distant, programme operator hones
and, needle killing, spares civilians (maimed).
This forms the art you’ve grown from living mess,
a culture used to counterpoint the cries
of corporate capital and coined success
that flames the poor and helpless where it flies.
With rockets of unbalance and regress
deflating seas and skies, its soul explodes
in some dimension, zone, or other-ness
where karma works through retribution’s codes.
No earthly smell or sight or touch or sound
will give our orienteering brains a map
to guide us passed what’s lost or put in pound
but deep compassion fords across the gap.
A taste for beauty or its counterpart
can draw on splendour or on ugliness.
One form lifts up and salves — though both are ‘art’.
Though both can thrill — it’s hearts that heal and bless.
Collateral Damage, by Bryan Eccleshall and Chris Graham, a complex and disorienting installation and publishing project from a re-thinking of the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ in terms the burgeoning refugee crisis.