High Blue

By Tereza StehlĂ­kovĂ 


The wanderer is walking through a dream city,
lost in the mandala of its narrow streets.
The outward structure has been rearranged once more
to confuse him: a kaleidoscope of elements
shuffled like fragments of broken coloured glass.

Shops and restaurants line the streets,
strange props placed there to create the illusion of life.
People pass through like sleepwalkers,
stumbling aimlessly over the painted sets.

Is there any order behind all this random movement?

He glides along an invisible threshold
between the inner and the outer worlds,
present in both at once or in none of them at all.

As if to confirm some sort of reality,
he reaches out and touches the glass of a shop window,
behind which a spiritless picture is on display,
a bored naked woman stealing a glimpse
of her own private parts.
Just like the glass itself,
the image feels smooth and cold,
inaccessible not for its complexity,
but the lack of depth to step into.

The insubstantiality of such a piece of work
makes him retreat further inside his own mind.

There, it occurs to him he must look for marks of spirit,
discover its signature within the arrangement of forms
if not in the forms themselves, else he might lose all faith.

He sets out along the streets and narrow passageways,
climbing up and down steep slopes.
The city he brings into being is his own alone,
assembled anew from his memories and impressions,
threaded by his desire for a new configuration.

A castle on a blue hill,
a high window with a tiny balcony,
an austere city of graves,
the interior of a red tram,
a newly opened department store,
a little café above the rooftops,
a silvery elevator to lift him to the clouds…

Pausing for a moment,
he studies the painted tiles on a nearby wall,
looking into them as windows into other worlds.
A rabbit, a rose,
a tree and a boat,
a lion, a cloud,
an angel…

Onward from the angel,
across the tiled cloudy sky his gaze moves,
until it catches a bird in mid flight:
A skylark painted in blue ink.
It must be the heaven itself seeping through
the intense blue tones, the colour barely contained by the design.

He recalls that when he was a child
blue in his eyes was the original canvas
within which all potential expressions lay dormant,
waiting to be given shape.

Now he finds himself in a grey suburban street.
There is nothing sublime here, no spirit to lift him to the skies.
Why did he conjure up this place
from the great number of choices his mind could make?
What significance does this mundane district hold?

His attention is drawn to a strange bleached picture,
a photographic reproduction of an old painting,
hung in a long abandoned shop window.
The image is drained of colour by years of exposure to the sunlight,
leaving a ghostly blue scene –
a beautiful idyllic garden turned an apocalyptic vision
(or could it be the other way round?)

On the right, beautiful ladies and noble gentlemen
stroll amongst trimmed hedges and neat garden paths,
unaware of the destruction and chaos on the left,
where old trees and statues lie broken down,
while dirty men roll around in the rubble of collapsed walls,
they too oblivious to their surroundings.

The two parts seem to exist independent of each other,
with nothing in common but the shared frame.

It would be easy to allow the concept of entropy
to set the direction of one’s thoughts,
and thus imbue the image with a hopeless gloom,
were it not for the redeeming figure of the angel
poised defiantly at the centre of the scene.

Despite his broken wings and cloak covered in dust,
the angel’s marble face retains light, as if he were the only one
with the ability to see beyond the world of division,
into a timeless space of unity and order.

However dated the old reproduction obviously feels,
there is something disturbingly contemporary about it too,
not least because the street in which he finds himself
is superimposed upon the eerie landscape
through its reflection on the shop window,
creating an uncanny mergence of the past and presence.

He remains transfixed,
trapped in the narrow gap
between a number of pressing realities.

In the silence of the scene
a sudden chirping sound rings like a tiny bell.
He recognises the skylark’s ephemeral reflection
as it moves across the cracked glass.
It lands on his shoulder
and in the grasp of his saviour’s claws
he feels a relief at being set free,
his hair ruffled by the breeze
created from the bird’s flapping wings.
He shivers slightly.

Inside the frame the angel stirs, stretching his newly acquired wings.

The sudden movement frightens the skylark and it flies off.

He lifts his gaze to follow its path,
and there, where the bird disappeared, the clouds part,
revealing briefly the deep blue canvas of his underlying faith.

Tereza Stehlíkovà is an artist (http://www.terezast.com/)