There’s a new painting on my wall. It didn’t just appear there out of the blue, of course, although it would have been good if it had (fancy a house where art just appears on the walls, and disappears again, just like that!). No, I bought this one, at least I’m in the process of buying it, because it’s a painting of a room in my house, the doors to the ensuite no less, which doesn’t sound like a worthwhile subject for a painting, and if you could see the actual doors, and the actual ensuite, with its over-cast grey tiling and floor-to-ceiling crack in the wall, you’d think it even less worthwhile. But there it is: a painting of my ensuite doors, a painting by Australian artist Rudy Kistler.
Last month, while I was working words at Varuna, the national writers’ house in the Blue Mountains, Rudy was at my place in Goulburn, ostensibly house-sitting, and chook-sitting, the latter much more important than the former. But in reality he was painting. One of the joys of those two weeks was seeing Rudy post on Facebook the paintings he was producing. There was one of sparrows in the budding Manchurian pear tree in the backyard. Another of a whiskey bottle on my dining-room table, French doors behind, the tiling beneath the table rendered as if peeling away, like baked mud in a summer dam. But it’s the painting of the ensuite French doors that really took my fancy, because – because why? Because here was someone, Rudy Kistler, engaging with my house, connecting with it, interpreting it.
Had he woken one morning and saw something that took his eye? Had he sat up in bed and sketched it? I’ve asked Rudy about the motivation of the painting. He said that he was taken by the light, how it came through ‘three rooms in one’. That’s all; it’s nothing more complicated than that.
To me, however, it’s the magic of being able to see through someone else’s eyes. If writing is all about walking in someone else’s shoes, and communicating that as fully as possible, perhaps painting – all visual art – allows the viewer to spend a moment experiencing someone else’s sight. And how extraordinary that is, because it’s a rare privilege. So that’s why I have this new painting. When I look at the painting of my ensuite doors by Rudy Kistler I’m out of my own wretched body, I’m not of myself, and that’s such a good feeling. Perhaps, for some, religion takes them out, but for me it’s art, art that is as good as this.
To finish with a quote from Rudy himself. You know how I mentioned that other painting with the tiles like dried-up mud? I asked him why he chose to paint the flooring in such a way, especially when the flooring is actually brand new (and cost me a small fortune). Rudy replied, ‘I had a teacher once who said, we’re not interested in your straight lines, anyone can paint in straight lines, we’re interested in your wobbly lines.’
There’s something in that, isn’t there, the startling beauty of imperfection.