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Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870.

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Roman Scott Letter from Winchester, November, 1985


  Here is an extraordinary letter from November 1985 my friend, the late artist, Roman Scott, mailed me, when he was an exchange student in Winchester, England.  I transcribed and lightly edited his words.  Written on a lithograph, the epistle, in its breathless mystery, almost feels like a page from a Mayan codex. The writing, including the section concerning his wrestling with his art's direction, is remarkable. The envelope is a striking example of mail art.

 

Novr 9, 85

Dr. Jonahan,

I go through phases here with astonishing speed. One week I’ll believe only in painting, the next, only in sculpture, the next only in literature, the next only in prints, the next, only in comix. For the past week or two I have been in the comix phase & I wonder whether or not it isn’t permanent. I see that comix are irremediably imbedded in my blood, & that nothing gives me greater ecstasy than the times at which I am immersed in drawing them. Likewise, I have seen them regarded as an “high art” (not here in England, but in Holland, Skandinavia, & to some extent Germany & France, though there they are more commercialized & base), so that it is easier to reconcile them, since I have been so indoctrinated with the idea of “fine art.” I spend the good part of the day drawing madly at my table, keeping myself warm with dark coffee. Since the days have lately become fierce & miserable, I am not guilty of wasting my time, since I would be drenched & chilled if I tried to draw anything outside. I have come to a time when my mind wishes only to create, not to see; any trip that I now take is slightly tiring & difficult to absorb, so much I have seen. I have drawn up several scripts for my old character Pete Moss, who is now a wanderer, & have created a new character called L’arteeest, & have continued old Mr. Spleen as well. My “fine art” of prints & painting deal now with comix, which I refer to as “time art,” the back of this sheet being an example. Comix hold an additional appeal now simply because they are not an academic art – the students in this school are so horribly academic, seeming to be continually performing autopsies on Matisse, always the same old buttery, huge canvases with designer colours splashed around, a chess game on the canvas, the solution of which (composition & colour harmony) is the sole reason for the painting. To hell with solving composition & colour – there are art forms of other cultures which have no idea of colour harmony (as Indian music has nothing to do with harmonics) or the balance of composition. (the above entry, written in a somewhat depressed state.)

21 Nov I was glad to have gotten your last lettre. Your assertion that I must live in a dream world is fairly accurate; as a matter of fact, I have many dreams now directly influenced by England; stone passageways in fog-choked meadows of dark colours, usually ultramarine blue & viridian-type colours. Indeed, my unconscious assimilation of a given sight is often more important than the sight itself, which is the same for all people. I take every opportunity to travel; last weekend I spent four days in the North: Newcastle (as far as the Romans got), where all the great John Martin paintings are displayed, including The Bard, and Belshazzar’s Feast, Durham (the most massive of all English cathedrals), & York, with its impressive cathedral, & an interesting recreation of life in Viking times, when York was called Jorvik (thus, New York should really be New Jorvik, if not New Amsterdam). Winchester is like the spot at which all blood vessels & nerves converge in an eyeball’s retina: though the center of the town may be somewhat unpleasant because of all the automobiles, virtually any direction one chooses out of town leads to wonderful, peaceful places: ancient, seemingly forgotten Saxon-like churches, rolling fields divided by small woods, & even occasional stately homes surrounded by incongruous trees, the houses chimneys now clogged with growing shrubs, reminding me slightly of an Edward Gorey story. I’ve eaten a number of kidney pies which are strong-tasting. Apropos to Ravi Sankar: I recently went to South Hampton to hear a lecture/concert by Vijay Rao, a main shisya of Shankar, who has a bearing not dissimilar from that of Ginsberg or Seidel; the moment I entered the auditorium he seemed to look through me, nodding to me, for I was the first to enter. The music was amazing – I need not even describe to you what it did to me. Likewise, his description of the structure of his music & its goals brought me to an unknown world. If you have about 4.00 to spare, there is a Shankar tape well worth having, published through Deutsche Gramaphone &; Walkman – a fairly popular series. It is two albums worth of some of the best music I’ve heard. Englishmen tend to have rather rough-looking mouths – broken or missing teeth, & prominent, gleaming crowns. This is no wonder: their food is dangerous. Recently damaging a molar on a damned pebble embedded in a chicken, I was today greeted by a horrible crunching, tingling sound of another piece of grit, this time within a Swede I had just cooked. I hope I have escaped damage, for this was close to the other casualty. Tomorrow I head into London to see a show on German art, a comprehensive exhibition at the Royal Academy, after which I will attend a two-day seminar on “The Nazification of Art,” an in-depth examination of film, painting, music, & architecture during the Nazi era, paid for by this art school. Yes, I shall be home for Christmas, though only for about 10 days; definitely we should schedule a visit. Your Dali dream struck me with an odd pang: it recalls a similar dream which I had years ago: Also in a supermarket (at the same time a giant stadium), Dali walked in a frozen-food section, seeming to defy gravity as the aisle was on the ceiling’s curve. I shall be interested to see yr. pan pipes. Oddly enough, I also bought some in Cambridge. I have no ability in playing them, however. Yes, I remember every scene of that divine Leone film as if I saw it just yesterday. I would kill to be able to witness such a poignant film – no, such a life – for the first time, as you just did. It is good that I am writing this, for if I tried to speak of the film, my mouth would sputter my eyes brim with tears, remembering such greatness as that. Your stamp-laden card could not be verbalized – it is so ingrained into truth; I tried to read it out-loud, but broke into spasms, at reading of the Cyclopean thing. I wonder how the English would regard your interpretation of England.

Yr. Obt. Servt.,

H. Hauser (sic)

2 comments:

  1. A wonderful letter/art, Jonathan. There must be times when you really miss him. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Thank you, Ray. He was tremendously creative, up to the end.

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