“The Roses of Heliogabalus” (1)Let me paint flowers and men, some death and joy.
No! Let me listen to soft music and write about it.
I also want to see my naked eyes, without colours,
without eyelashes that float and envelop me;
I want to see men running to save themselves, and then... to sleep.
Let me feel a smile for what they say about you,
and see those flowers that they say you let drop from heaven.
I want to see your painters and poets,
I want to listen to those narrators that don’t know how to sing.
I want to see kerchiefs and roses!
...millions of roses falling.
Let me see your flowers, your men and your stories,
and so I can inspire myself on death and the past.
Let me see your painting coloured in shades of red,
and of pink and violet,
then lick your dirty hands,
then lick your mind too,
... is that possible?
I have eyes no more, don’t be afraid,
I will only be able to hear your sketching,
I will only feel your breath while painting.
I want to write some more, but my hands become tense!
... I walk like a handicap on the passage to the mythical world.
So let me stay here, since I don’t harm,
I only want to see what I cannot see without you
About half a year ago the modern art museum of Beijing hosted an exhibition of the collection of Pérez Simón: “Masterpieces of the 19th Century European Paintings at the Pérez Simón Collection”. It was the first time I was going to look at, with some awareness, some of the originals of the most famous paintings by the so called pre-raphaelites and classical victorian artists. Tales, novels, simple stories and myths, cinema itself, legends from old Europe, all of them gathering before me as images. The experience of the exhibition became a feast of figures, colours and textures, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty and finesse of the paintings and the stories flowing from them.
Walking along the exhibition I remembered some words my teacher, a writer as well as a painter, once said to me about those victorian painters: that they were immensely famous in their time and Oscar Wilde (who was an art critic as well) dedicated whole pages to them, but once the impressionists made their appearance, they all disappeared from the map. I didn’t know what to think, I love impressionists and I simply could not compare; what I saw now, in those forgotten artists of the 19th century, was completely different; I was discovering a new world, a world that inspired me to action, theatrical action.
Lovers of history and detail, the victorian painters of the 19th century were closer to photography and the soon-to-come cinema than to the theatre of their time (in fact, what they were close to was to literature and the myth that derived from it); their epic was atmospheric, their action was dream-like. In their paintings what is shown is the before or the after, not the decisive moment; the massacre doesn’t take place, it’s the road leading to it that is important, it’s the preparatory action to the brutal action, as if Chekhov had wanted (and he did it) to write a poem about a scene taking place before his most dramatic scene...
That’s why I enjoyed it so much, because, being a stage-oriented person, I could still perceive the dramatic action in unbearably beautiful surroundings, in this case in a delayed dramatic action, submerged in silence, a most beautiful subtle action.
“The Roses of Heliogabalus” was etched unto my mind, I’ve dreamt about it and I’ve woken up many mornings looking at it and trying to write a play thanks to the inspiration it’s left me; flowers that kill the guests, tragedy in an empire, passions and indulgence. Petals, soft gestures, music and incredibly beautiful textures (2)... Some scenes have surfaced, still few, but it doesn’t matter, something more complete will arrive when the time comes.
For the time being, a poem is what came from it, and is now my best memory and my best way of sharing.
(1) Translation by Tadeo Berjón. The original is in Spanish:
Déjame pintar flores y hombres, un poco de muerte y de gozo.
¡No!, déjame escuchar música suave y escribir sobre ella.
Quiero también ver mis ojos desnudos, sin colores,
sin pestañas que floten y me envuelvan;
quiero ver hombres corriendo para salvarse, y después... dormir.
Déjame sentir una sonrisa por lo que cuentan de ti,
y ver esas flores que dicen dejas caer del cielo.
Quiero ver a tus pintores y poetas,
quiero escuchar a esos narradores que no saben cantar.
¡Quiero ver pañuelos y rosas!
... millones de rosas que caen.
Déjame ver tus flores, tus hombres y tus historias,
y así inspirarme en la muerte y en el pasado.
Déjame ver tu cuadro pintado en rojos,
y en rosas y en violetas,
entonces lamer tus manos sucias,
entonces lamer tu mente también,
... ¿es posible?
Ya no tengo ojos, no temas,
sólo podré escuchar tus trazos,
sólo sentiré tu aliento al pintar.
Quiero escribir un poco más pero, ¡mis manos se tensan!
... camino como un lisiado en el pasaje al mundo mítico.
Por eso déjame estar aquí, que no hago daño,
que sólo quiero ver lo que no puedo ver sin ti.
(2) Contrary to many other paintings where photography improves on the colours or dimensions of the original painting, in this case, the original of “The Roses of Heliogabalus” is truely impressive. Take the photograph I’m publishing as a simple visual reference point.