quiet strings bear the mass of bones

Test version only
 a project based upon aspects of the text of Frankenstein

with Diane Powers


'The Journal of Sorrow'

Begun 1822
But for my Child it could not
End too soon.

October 2 – 1822. Genoa

September – 18

"On the Eighth of July I finished my journal.
This is a curious coincidence –
The date still remains, the fatal 8th
– a monument to shew that all ended then.
And I begin again? – oh. never!
But several motives induce me,
when the day has gone down,
and all is silent around me,
steeped in sleep, to pen, as occasion wills,
my reflexions & feelings.
First; I have now no friend.
For eight years
my soul
I communicated with unlimited freedom
with one/ whose genius,
far transcending mine,
awakened & guided my thoughts;
I conversed with him;
rectified my errors of judgement,
obtained new lights from him,
& my mind was satisfied.

Now I am alone! Oh, how alone!

The stars may behold my tears,
& the winds drink my sighs –
but my thoughts are a sealed treasure which I can confide to none.
White paper – wilt thou be my confident?"

                                                   Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


A journal entry in 1815......

 “.....dream that my little baby came to life again;
 that it had only been cold,
and that we rubbed it before the fire,
and it lives.”
“infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet,”


"Quiet strings bear the mass of bones"

Beginnings and miracles....................................
‘White paper – wilt thou be my confident?
I will trust thee fully, for none shall see what I write.'


The modern Prometheus



"It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn"


The bride of Prometheus


"Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divine wanderer?"



"whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature

 and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me,

 still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical,

 or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world"


"he loved the measure of their music, the cadence of their breath"


"my food is not that of man;

I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite"


"the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union….

 if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear…."




  "...I never beheld her so enchanting as at this time..."


impatient thirst


"Thus spoke my prophetic soul"



"a hand holds the darkest light"

“Solitude was my only consolation - deep, dark, deathlike solitude.”  

Victor unbound

“There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.”

"My Dear Elizabeth,"

“How mutable are our feelings,
and how strange is that clinging love we have of life
even in the excess of misery!”  

"I have no doubt of seeing the animal today"






"I am alone and miserable. Only someone as ugly as I am could love me."


"My beloved sister"


"my sight was dimmed by the burning drops"


“Hateful day when I received life!'

I exclaimed in agony.
'Accursed creator!
Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?"

Guided by a silken cord


"My Dear Mary"

"For what a minute did I see you yesterday – is this the way my beloved that we are to live till the sixth in the morning I look for you and when I awake I turn to look on you – dearest Shelley you are solitary and uncomfortable why cannot I be with you to cheer you and to press you to my heart oh my love you have no friends why then should you be torn from the only one who has affection for you – But I shall see you tonight and that is the hope that I shall live on through the day– be happy dear Shelley and think of me – why do I say this dearest & only one I know how tenderly you love me and how you repine at this absence from me – when shall we be free from fear of treachery?–
   I send you the letter I told you of from Harriet and a letter we received yesterday from fanny the history of this interview I will tell you when I come – but perhaps as it is so rainy a day Fanny will not be allowed to come at all –
   My love my own one be happy –
    I was so dreadfully tired yesterday that I was obliged to take a coach home forgive this extravagance but I am so very weak at present & I had been so agitated through the day that I was not able to stand a morning rest however will set me quite right again and I shall be quite well when I meet you this evening – will you be at the door of the coffee house at five oclock as it is d├ęsagreable to go into those places and I shall be there exactly at the time & we will go into St. Pauls where we can sit down."


"I am the assassin of those most innocent victims;

 they died by my machinations.
A thousand times would I have shed my own blood,
drop by drop,
to have saved their lives;
 but I could not, my father,
 indeed I could not sacrifice the whole human race."


"From the tortures of my own heart,

I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief..."


"within the wordless chamber" 

“a hideous phantasm of a man stretched out .…
 on the working of some powerful engine,
it shows signs of life,
and stirs with an uneasy, half vital motion.”

between the corridors of life and lifeless matters

“Thus strangely are our souls constructed,
and by slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity and ruin.”


Elm by Sylvia Plath (underconstruction)

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root;
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was you madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it.
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallup thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, the big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand,a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches?–

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

After bloodworks

After Bloodworks, a series of paintings mixing blood with ink & acrylics that resulted often in a loss of consciousness due to blood loss & starvation, I come to a more extreme method of forcing myself into altered states in order to make paintings. This consists of depriving myself of food & living on extreme stress until the black dog grips my every thought & I can focus on almost nothing but death. After nine & a half days without food I tucked a fresh razor into my top pocket & stepped out into the grim morning & took the shortest route to the canal to search for death.

The canals of SoHo are a filthy mixture of desolate & barely functioning metalworking units backing onto blackened, stagnant water populated only by discarded trash & the detritus of one hundred years of toil & misery on the part of millions of ignorant & unfortunate working poor. Their anger & frustration is tangible in those neglected black waters where I walked in exhaustion absorbing every minute aspect in an attempt to find the strength to quietly & permanently destroy myself.
Every rustle of tiny, coarse earthworm hairs as they creep through the poisoned soil, every dart of every greedy black eyed sparrow who feasts on those unlucky enough to catch their attention, every woodlouse rubbing against the underside of a plastic wrapper, years old & covered with a semi toxic coating of diseased dust, every putrefying, bloated corpse of drowned dogs with their exposed backs pecked raw to the bone like an inverted puddle of stinking soft caustic air as we breathe here had stripped its beautiful brown fur of all its lustre & playfulness & innocence to reveal the morbid obscenity of all life without the aid of those huge & fearless brown rats that crawled from the pit of its stomach cavity & sploshed almost silently into the cadaverous pool where brightly painted narrowboats once carried goods & provided a pittance for those who long ago toiled these waters.
Mile after mile I walked in soreness, the blisters on my feet bursting from time to time inside my sodden shoes. I came upon a section where a footbridge bent its malformed spine near the tracks of the railway & an exposed area allowed me to position myself precariously upon a concrete pillar where I might sit until the rails began to hum with an approaching intercity juggernaut, all 120mph of appalling weight with a shiny aluminium shell emblazoned with a shiny corporate logo raced toward where I had leaned forward to catch its full force & weight with the quarter inch of bone in my temple so that it might liquidate my brain on impact & throw the remains of my worthless body spinning hundreds of yards into the canal to join the dogs, sacks of drowned kittens & other filth.
At that moment, my every fibre fighting the urge to pull back & my thoughts accelerated to a superhuman speed, my attention was caught by a tent beneath the bridge with regimental flags on the guy ropes along with some waterproof clothing, underpants & a single sock, all hanging out to dry. Some poor veteran squaddie with one leg had obviously been living there for some time & scratching a meagre existence amongst all of this in the country he had sacrificed his limb for. I dreamed of rudely waking him so that he would slit my throat in a post traumatic, sleepy panic & of talking to him over a breakfast of freshly caught & horribly ugly fish from the canal & then realised that he would despise me for my weakness as I did myself. In that instant, waiting for the train to strike & distracted by the imagined disdain of the one legged soldier & the face of the train driver & his hundred passengers & of the delays caused by my worthless corpse, the force of the air in front of the speeding train pushed me off the pillar & I slipped from the post & landed heavily on my hands & face on the gravel as the train pushed gallons of air & noise over the top of my head as it brushed me aside & I lay there for a second shocked & embarrassed & angry & thinking that I didn’t land so easily as I had when a child & scraped all the skin from myself. I rolled away in pain & sat up to pick the gravel & dirt from under the flaps of skin on my hands, my face beginning to swell already when the horn of the passing train sounded so loudly & so close that I involuntarily jumped out of my reverie & shocked that I may be reported as a suicide & institutionalised on arrest I scrambled rather messily up onto the embankment & away from the track, the bridge & the tent of the still sleeping soldiers protracted washing.

That was earlier.
After all this time……
Now the burning is here again.
It begins in my brain & continues along every nerve fibre taking its sickening numbness into my fingertips, lips, mouth.
It hurts so much.

There was never any poetry for me.
No one ever really cared that much, still don’t.
I am jealous & angry that it was never that way for me.
I was never anyones ideal.

It comes so easy to those who don’t care & I will be forever passed over for anything else.
Don’t ask, don’t pretend out of pity or obligation to make a gesture of concern.
I know. That you hardly cared at all & all I ever amounted to was a momentary distraction.
I can feel it spreading, that burning. It is harder to write now………taking much longer.
To die this way is awful. Burned through every nerve & sick at the knowledge of it.
I could have saved us both if you had only believed in me.

Now it is almost done
Come death, come violence.
Take my pain

Why won't it stop & just let me die?

This hurts so much........................

Grey Thanatos

The contents of this post are quite extreme & I would advise that anyone who is easily upset should take heed & stop reading now.
I would also point out that I am alive & well & operating on a stable basis but I wrote this, particularly the later section, honestly & that can be a difficult thing to experience.
I have previously stated that painting is a life or death issue & here is the proof.
Don’t say that you have not been warned…………………………………

The reason why I destroy the larger part of my output is so that I may preserve my memory of each piece in its perfection & not have them exposed to further critical analysis, mostly by myself but also by anyone else who views them. They are only important to me whilst providing the possibilities to produce further works that may excite or interest me. It is the journey that interests me & not the destination.
This is selfish & I am aware of this, but it is only because I hate to experience what other people call reality.
Throughout my life I have experienced extremes of joy & misery. The point at which time ceases to exist & the moment is all that there is. At this point anything is possible: uncontaminated by any external influences such as breathing, eating, society, morals or any other physical criteria.
I have a form of synaesthesia which is particularly apparent when under the previously mentioned extremes.
Joy has a colour & it is a rectangle of gently ululating gold surrounded by orange & red.
Misery is a tunnel of static like greys with sparkling flashes of silver & black.
Despair & panic are shaped like a killer whale & are black & white with flashes of red.
The world seems to rotate upon an invisible axis whereby an infinite number of possibilities occur or depths of perception that were previously invisible line up & can be observed. This state can be momentary or can last for several days according to general perception. It is because of this that I have attempted a number of times to achieve a form of visual depiction of these states in a variety of ways.
Whilst strictly a graffiti artist I applied multiple processes to letterforms to achieve a complex of purity that could not be altered & from this I developed a two dimensional form of compressing time into a single point that would allow the viewer multiple possibilities of perceiving a single form, this was born of a form of vorticism but embraced aspects of perceptual theory learned from 9th degree & other forms of perceptual experimentation as a method of compressing every possible essential variant of a letterform so that when viewed the observer chooses one or several interpretations of a commonly understood element (ie the letter).
After this I became more interested in a search for a type of thematic lyricism often associated with figuraton that combined a blurring of multiple methods. Again this begins with a readily understood common cipher, in this case being the human figure, & applying one or a number of processes to it. These processes are in this instance ones of symbolic resonance often taken from literary sources or a number of mixed metaphors that will reveal themselves over time & research. This means that there exists a thematic motif that can be perceived in a number of ways & when subjected to closer inspection should reveal layers of meaning in much the same way as symbolist poetry operates. I mention this because it has become a straining for pushing myself into greater extremes to experience the delirium that allows these worlds to become apparent.

Stop reading now because it is about to get nasty……………………….

To illustrate the practice:

I have been deliberately forcing myself deeper & deeper into areas of misery & depression in order to suck the marrow out of these feelings, I would rather have joy but it is elusive & fleeting & I cannot seem to find anything of this type to inspire me. I would also mention that I am something of a coward in terms of physical pain & so require an external driving compulsion to send me into areas where I am so tormented that action becomes inevitable.

The action on this most recent occasion was to attempt strangulation.

I achieved the initial stages pretty quickly & effectively & blacked out with a minimum of discomfort but something must have gone wrong because I regained a form of consciousness during which I saw a portrait that I had previously disregarded as being not worth completing as a personification of a fuzzy grey Thanatos with piercing eyes emerging from a sparkling suicidal greyness.
The blood vessels in my eyes & all over my face had now blown so it was difficult to see & I was very disorientated & slightly concerned as to how much permanent damage I had done now that I was still alive & too exhausted for another attempt immediately whilst the impetus remained. I considered opening my wrists but when I tried to reach for where I had a pack of razors so that I might complete the job fairly painlessly whilst I was disoriented I fainted almost completely & lay wheezing on the floor with the tourniquet still partially in place & the painting became a focus for my blood swollen, semi focussed eyes as I drew half breaths around the obstruction knowing that I was foolish & my torment would not cease & that I would have to face another morning. Not only this but unusually C had decided to come down & talk at me about being miserable so I cleared the equipment as best as I could & sat by the easel with my back to her & pretended to be interested in a distracted way until I could make no more pretence at being ok & snapped at her unfairly so that she would go away & let me vaguely compose myself.
I slept in a shirt when going to bed later so the marks on my neck where covered but she noticed the blown veins & concluded that I must have a heatstroke & a rash to which I concurred. I have no wish to worry her any more than is necessary with my stupidity.

When people comment on my paintings & say that they are beautiful & that the eyes are filled with something otherworldly I generally avoid a direct response because to me they represent a failure to interact with a world that I can barely tolerate. A failure to speak openly with anyone close to me & a failure to communicate correctly in anything other than ciphers that no one will ever understand. When I attempt to be as accurate as possible people think that I am being difficult or obtruse & this increasingly so in these times of unfettered opinionated ignorance. I have tried to edit myself into only the best parts so that most of the whining, frightened corporeality is removed & that I can perhaps survive as an idea or memory of these better elements of myself, however mistakenly, in the minds of just a few people who took the time to be interested. I have a problem with not being able to prevent the negative aspects of my personality from leaking out & poisoning things. Most often it only serves to hurt those who I care about which has the effect of amplifying the initial influence. When I get this way I often try to withdraw & limit the influence.

Is it wrong to want to cut away all that is bad about me so that only the better aspects remain?

It is painful to have to exist closer & closer to normality as the only thing that keeps me going even vaguely is the wonderful panoply of possibilities that can be viewed at the apex of creativity even if it is destructive in its nature when I apply it.

My beautiful, hateful, grey faced Thanatos.

Grey Thanatos
How I despise your face knowing that your presence means yet another day of misery. Your disparaging glance is a reminder of every one of my myriad failures & the inescapable , red hot pricks of conscience & consciousness, a measurement of just how far I will always be from that blue lit oblivion that I crave.

Today I have tried to catch something of the grey Thanatos that I glimpsed through the noose & I thought that it was time to be honest about aspects of the creative process & about just what an idiot & coward that I am for thinking any of this makes any kind of difference. I am a stain on the world & the sooner that I get up the courage to wipe myself from its appalling surface & stop snivelling the better it will be.


I am still here after this episode & still struggling along just like everyone else. In my view all artists are bloody selfish & self absorbed & it isn’t really as romantic as it seemed when reading about those tortured souls chronicling their own downfall. What started out as a poetic ideal of redemption has turned into a horrid, desparate & ugly grind & overall I would have preferred to not have made this journey but whilst I am capable I thought that it may serve to explain what it was like so that no one else has to.

Lily of the Sparrows

Phillip Evergood wrote of his painting Lily of the Sparrows that he had spotted the subject whilst,
“ walking along that section under the old El, between Sixth St. & West Broadway… a little bald headed, white, beautiful face was in the window with little bits of crumbs- alone. She could have fallen from the window & been killed.”
When attempting to create her likeness he added layer after layer of paint but was dissatisfied with the results & slashed away all of the coats until the various attempts coalesced & he was left with the amalgam of beatific idiocy that remains.
For me it is an echo of my own painterly methods of frustration with a result that is a harbinger of instability & simple joy in the face of neglect.

Lily of the Sparrows 1939
Phillip Evergood

Inspired as much by the story as by Evergoods painting methods & the resonances with my own search for threads of meaning I have made my painting with a somewhat different reasoning.
I call where I paint the batcave & it makes Francis Bacons studio feel like a Trappists cell. It is the room at the front of my house where there is a perpetually shrouded bay window & outside of this window there is an overgrown dog rose bush that has often been the cause of arguments between my neighbours & myself as I allow it to grow so wild & unchecked. Initially this was a protection from the local teens who used to sit upon my wall shrieking, drinking cheap booze & discarding fried chicken wrappers as there was an old red telephone box directly in front of it that they obviously felt an obligation to be near. When the box was removed some years ago the rose had become home to two male house sparrows & their numerous mates who would fly in & out of the treacherous thorns with indecent speed. I have often been prey to those thorns when to-ing & fro-ing & I once used the branches to frame a large canvas for an exhibition & was dutifully scratched until my hands were swollen & sore & wept copiously for days. The painting was rejected from the show as being a health hazard. I was of the opinion that if anyone was stupid enough to hurt themselves on what was obviously sharp & painful then it was their own fault. When the wind blows the thorns scratch eerily against my window & I can hear the fluttering & desperate cries of the birds who call it home & I am reminded of how short & violent are the tiny lives of these creatures that we commonly perceive as so sweet & picturesque. I listen to them often & am struck by the fact that they are generally violent, territorial & aggressive. They make me question my own tenuous relationship with existence & if the roles were reversed how I would fare under their circumstances, if I too possessed a tiny, fragile body covered with minute soft feathers in a symphony of soft browns & greys that appear at first drab & those legs so thin & fine that the surging blood that swells through them ending in the perfect claws must pass one platelet at a time & the pert & inquisitive beak with a labia like crest & finally the eyes that blaze with cruel life that is all impulse that never questions itself but is vibrant & violent & ceaseless until snuffed out in a rage of down & blood by some barely interested local tom or pecked to pieces by a magpie over a morsel or frozen in perfection by the combination of starvation & colder bitter winters that obscenely strip its bones of all feather & flesh till they are hollow & the lightest whisper of a breeze plays a tune so small through that ossified marrowless flute that not even metaphors could hear it. They are ciphers for me of bubbling insanity: enigmatic & beautiful from the outside but tortuous, painful & miserable to experience first hand. Pain looks great on other people.
The vitality of the tiniest creature astounds me as I am so far away from empathy.
The calls of the sparrows mock me from just beyond the glass whilst I scratch away at paintings that are filled with the unending wish for death & pure blank black misery watched over by a painting from my childhood of tumultuous storm driven waves crashing against rocks as black as my own selfishness.
I managed to catch a tiny fragment of this for once in my version of Lily of the Sparrows & in my clumsy way distill it into a single image of tumult & misery & torment in the shadow of vibrancy; eyelash by eyelash & feather by feather. I retreat to the grave one grey hair at a time; painting by painting, tooth by tooth, second by second, breath by breath. Unusually I actually kept the picture upon completion & made a frame from the dog rose once more, much to the chagrin of my poor fingers which are swelling as I type. This does not mean that I am any more vital or placated or satisfied with the result but that there is some small & almost silently apt lyricism remaining within me to torment myself with during every drear moment in much the same way as pressing briefly at these cuts on my fingers provides some momentary relief whilst inflaming the wound.

Lily of the Sparrows2013

Lily of the Sparrows2013
Earlier sketch for the portrait