So I take Friday off, having worked through a weekend and through a very nasty bout of something feverish and aching. I plan to get up at the usual time and go first thing to the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern. And I don't. I wake up and think about it and then fall asleep again. And I dream of this vast, ugly, inexplicable building adjoining my workplace, where I get completely lost one day with a new, young colleague. Strangely, we never turn back and try to retrace our steps into the university, but keep on going, up a tall, tall tower, through a crowded hotel lobby and out onto a deck and down a long metal staircase with no handrail. He stops to take a photo and, jammed up behind him, teetering, I urge him on, urge him down into the deep water, where he disappears below the flat, brown, shiny surface. And no one reacts; they keep right on sitting there, chatting, staring out across this wide, dark, reflective expanse. And then, of course, I wake again. Thank you, sad and scared subconscious, for coming out to join me on my day off. Shit.
My dream came with me, later that day, to the exhibition, melding with the phantoms and dream figures that lurk in Gauguin's paintings, the spectral intruders amidst the lollipop hues and the sinuous play of shapes. Twined through the colours, the grey. Right there with the pleasures, the sharp intake of breath at what he called 'the muffled, powerful thud I am looking for in painting'.
I'd read artist friend Natalie d'Arbeloff's comment on the show, surprised and intrigued by her major reservations, and Peter Campbell's review in the London Review of Books - subtle and penetrating as always. Their voices deserted me, though, left me squeezed and alone before so many pictures, among such milling crowds. My small, hemmed-in response: still, yes, and always, seduced by the flat, insistent, gorgeous palette, the blue and turquoise, green and yellow, orange, pink and purple, by the equally insistent play of form and pattern; surprised and haunted, too. And frustrated, as ever, by the 'blockbuster' experience. Too much. Too rich. Too long at table with too many courses.