October 29th. 2012.
In New York for portrait commissions and highly civilised and delightful dinners with old friends, Hurricane Sandy has rudely intruded on my schedule.
This time, no romantic watercolours of falling leaves in Central Park. As I write, the elements are providing me with the ultimate expressionistic fluid kinetic painting - and surround sound by a very avant-garde composer. My high-rise appartment is lashed with savage brushloads of wind and rain. The ocean is surging into the lower end of Manhattan, but forget Debussy’s La Mer. The liquid painting on my imagined projector is accented, or rather savaged by honks, screams and a wailing chorus of flashing colours, reds, blues and whites, police and fire-service tape-barriers zig-zagging across my screen. Definitely New York school of painting, but which composer does this remind me of?
From my back window, I can see a broken crane that hangs, unhinged by the storm, above the unfinished sky-scraper on 7th Avenue, dangling like a long paint-brush ready to strike through Carnegie Hall next door on 57th St. The open skeleton of the sky-scraper sounds like a ghostly express-train, tarpaulins flapping frantically. I feel like I’m inside a horrific Gesamtkunstwerk! All concerts are cancelled of course, whole blocks sealed off, the streets are virtually empty, but the audience is watching it all on television.
Thankfully we have few problems in mid-town Manhattan compared with those poor 220,000 people who are without power, those flooded out of their homes, or victims of crashing trees. The city has never been so quiet. Uncanny. Perfect setting for the “sounds” of John Cage’s 4’33”.