Shannon McClennan invited me to put together a painting around the words to a Weyman Chan poem. I felt I had no option but to begin with layers…and in the end, create a pseudo-portrait on the surface. I think that as artists, we all inject ourselves into our art. The process is very personal and I think the product becomes that. The painting was started at the Gorilla House this past Wednesday and finished over morning coffee this morning…a challenge after a night at the Alberta Flood Relief Concert. A wonderful part of this particular event was sharing time with Margy and meeting up with Jackie and Rick on the train. We visited about music and just how artists are called to create from an innate place in their spirits. We are a blessed people. While the journey of the artist is sometimes a tricky one, it is so essential and at such a deep level, rewarding.
Drawing on more than two thousand years of ancient Chinese tradition that present diverse philosophical modes of being, whether it be the spiritual teachings of Kong Zi or Lao Tzu, the military dicta of Sun Tzu or the complex sensibilities expressed by poets such as Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju, Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei in the wake of a tumultuous imperial government, Weyman Chan restates these concerns of the past while addressing other “first world problems” in our own contemporary era.
In Chinese Blue, the poet “character” sifts through the earth’s long history of geological layering and forgetting, grappling with the perpetual fragmentation of identity. The poet struggles with the prospect of any inky blots that suggest the finished work of a creator, subject to expediencies—ambition, romance, betrayal—that leave us flawed and human, taking the reader on a spiritual quest burdened by an endless sea of flotsam.
In a stoic attempt to reconcile biological drives with a stance of non-presence and to find a place beyond “perpetual worry” where he can accept ancestral mistakes while tentatively channelling the voices of advertising that condition our vernacular and massage our minds—offering a cliché happy ending to what remains of our physical existence—the poet finds himself wading through jazzily visionary delineations of the modern city, numbed and soundly crushed between “the word and the thing.”
Here is Weyman Chan at his most fiercely ironic, tracing a lineage he interprets subconsciously and through the intricacies of its raw genetic material, with keenly biting language that echoes the rhythms of Qu Yuan in contemplation of his own mortality beside the flowing waters of impermanence:
I would prefer to jump into the river and be entombed in the stomachs of fishes than to bow while purity is defiled by vulgar pestilence.
The break up by Weyman Chan
Go on. Fight desire with clarity.
Why bother our muscle with
Your Dadaist halo? We
eat from the same neglect,
athletes run, they don’t argue about synaesthesia-isn’t
that the reason? The terms.
There’s no saint of snow. Only fire.
If Roman baths were an escapement,
misery wouldn’t run on
second hand news.
Tonight, an ant speared
the moon with her salacious
purse. You, even pursier.