The Blank Wall

Last night, while watching Alec Guinness as the uncouth, incorrigible painter Gulley Jimson in Ronald Neame’s The Horse’s Mouth (1959), I was struck by this image. Jimson, who has a penchant for sprawling canvases, has connived his way into spending the night at an upper-class apartment, and is obsessed with the idea of painting The Raising of Lazarus on a vast, empty wall. The owners have no interest in having it painted; they just want to buy one of his early works. But Jimson decides that he will paint it, even if it means lying, breaking the law, and causing serious physical harm to the owners and their property. Ars longa, vita brevis, after all.

So here, Jimson – wrapped in a plush blanket and suffering from a hangover – gazes on his masterpiece-to-be. The camera pauses in the midst of a dolly toward the wall, hanging back as Jimson takes in the full breadth and width of his designated canvas. It’s a very powerful moment for me, because it’s a reminder of how every masterpiece starts out: clean, blank, empty nothing. Every painting is conjured up out of that nothing; every great novel stains reams of once-white paper; and, of course, every blog post creates new digital information to be indexed. The void is intimidating at first, but it can be conquered. It just takes persistence, aided perhaps by a smattering of talent.

So, in this same spirit, I want you to know that this blog will soon, I hope, be buzzing with new activity. Like I said: all it will take is persistence, and perhaps some talent.


Filed under art, Cinema, Meta

2 responses to “The Blank Wall

  1. KC

    I can’t think of another flick that captures the thrill of creation quite as well The Horse’s Mouth.

    • Having only recently seen it, I have to agree – this movie goes after the artistic process with wild abandon, and Guinness makes it totally believable. Clearly, it was also a creative inspiration to me. I’d recommend it to anybody suffering from writer’s (or drawer’s) block.

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