More From John Miles Journals
At the age of twenty he was eager to enter the world of his French Impressionist heroes, and arriving in Paris he found accommodation at a cheap hotel on the Boulevard St Germain. At this time many French artists would exhibit their work along the sidewalk adjacent to the cafes and bistros in the left bank district, and John's initial ambition was to exhibit his work along with them.
Unfortunately there was no free space available and the French artists looked down on this arrogant young Englishman with some undisguised distain. After walking the gamut several times John decided to 'pitch his show' in the only small space that was available between two vociferous artists, although he didn't known there was a good reason why this small space had been left vacant. As he began to unpack his paintings and sketches one of the two neighbouring artists began to leashed a torrent of abuse and threats against John, which immediately attracted the attention of everyone in the vicinity. But when John refused to be intimidated by this man and carried on setting up his work, the level of abuse and insults rose to a feverish pitch, until John finally said: "Look I'm staying here. You have a choice; either you accept it or else you're going to get hit!"
On hearing this the French artist made a lunge at John, but John countered with a right hook under the chin, the force of which sent the artist reeling backwards across the street to land semi-conscious on his back upon a bistro table where two American tourists were drinking aperitifs. A roar of applause greeted this incident, both from the onlookers and the delighted artists, who immediately welcomed John into their fold as 'one of them'. It transpired that none of the other artists liked the painter whom John had hit, as he was always criticising their work and would easily become jealous if people showed an interest in any of the other painters.
The books that John made notations upon included: Texts by Kitto, Finlay, Cottric, Bowra, Burn and Armstrong on Ancient Greek History and Mythology: The letters of Freud (Stern), and Freud's 'Interpretation of Dreams': The philosophy of the German poet Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803): Goethe's 'Faust' and 'Wilhelm Meister's Wanderings': Walt Whitman: D.H.Lawrence: Herbert Reed: James Joyce: Carl Gustave Jung: Emile Zola: Jean-Paul Sartre: Aldous Huxley: and many works on modern art, especially those concerning the lives of the Impressionists.
Mevagissey harbour has made a tremendous impact with its ever-changing reflections. I am particularly captivated by the reflections of a red waterline on a rowboat, which breaks up and interacts on the water gradually blooping away. 'Bloop'!
I am keen to try some larger paintings on this theme and also to use a spray gun to soften and effect the necessary transition from dissolving hard shapes to soft nuance areas. Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue Tint and Geranium create and simulate surface movement.
Vibration is the essence of all life and is the catalyst for the conversion of 'emotional residue' through the 'perceptual canal'. Emotional residue is mood.
Psychochromaesthesia = Meaning coloured hearing.
"Luminar" = An invented word to mean a chromatic pulse area made by 'icon'.
Kalotropic = The influence of one's own aesthetic taste on content of imagery.
Mana = Polynesian belief in the natural magic of all things.
Manitou = American Indian notion of mysterious power pervading the universe.
Metempirical = Not open to empirical investigation.
Menoecious = Having both sexes within one individual.
In July 1968 John won a £200 non-purchase prize in the Welsh Eisteddfod. The following is a letter he sent to the Tax Office, written two years later:
Thank you for your letter dated 12th June 1970. I regret to say, however, that I cannot agree that my award in the Eisteddfod is assessable. My motivation in exhibiting the painting (as is always my motivation) was for people to have the opportunity to see my work. I do not seek profit for my paintings, but only visual honesty and the opportunity to communicate with others. I do not expect to have to pay for talking to people in the street, neither do I expect to pay taxes on spontaneous awards which arise from communication.
I teach full time so that I can support my family honestly. I do this so that I can paint what I like in my spare time and not have to seek a living from painting, or to work from other peoples instructions regarding the imagery I use.
Regarding your last letter. How can you prove that a Nobel Prize winner did not or does not seek an award? For instance, even publishing writing could constitute baiting the hook. If you say, "Ah yes, but this was not the intention or motivation". I would say, "Neither was it mine to win a prize in the Eisteddfod. I merely submitted a work for exhibition in a location where, if accepted, many people would see my work, thus giving its existence some meaning".
But I have no right to anticipate your reaction; just as I feel you have no right to tell me what my motives are. I think that it can be proved that the Eisteddfod is a cultural event and not a competition. The competition aspect is minimal. Indeed as this is so it seems a gross outrage to expect me to believe that for tax purposes the assessable potential factor should govern everything.
A fair analogy would be to advertise ten thousand stones and one lump of coal as one ton of coal.
If you insist that my motivation was money then I can merely say that only a small fraction of the £200 should be taxable, and in the light of my last analogy I would tell you that from dealing in ton weights we are now down to splitting the atom!
John F.B. Miles.
France. August 1970
Approaching Arles looking through the blank heat spiral.
Light green on dark, with wine and pipe thudding, eating heat.
Avenue straight with dancing light kicking gentle thoughts savagely,
Cooling heat now burning again, not at rest but moving.
The sun that Vincent felt
(The sun, a huge membrane),
Trees part. Light filters.
Air gushes. Road winds.
Magnetic phosphenes dancing insane
Evading particles rush the brain
Vines equal many minds
Darkness opens, light shelters.
(Soon to stop giving pain).
10th. August 1970 - Hotel room in Perpignon
Hot - Lift shaft noises pervade the room with a consistency similar to last night when I slept out in a vine field in Provence, staring at the stars and moon, whilst the huge grasshoppers set up an enormous barrage of sound. Ate grapes from the vines greedily, not sorting the ripe from the unripe.
2nd January 1972
Pale translucent flickering flows
Into and around my presence.
In the studio light, colour and love boomerang.
I am contained in my studio.
The world disappears.
The outside is a vacuum.
The radio brings music and voices,
As if they form only as I hear them
And are not transmitted.
My mind has censored so much that
Would displace the painting flow.
School growls at me from tomorrow
It will stop me from being here.
It will stop me from painting.
It will displace time in the synthetic way,
Which I find repellent.
Doubly repellent when I am so aware that
Great love displaces time in a beautiful way.
Is this why I smash the structure of society's
Opinion of what a teacher is and does?
Will it destroy all else and lead me back into
My studio where once again the glow of warmth
And colour can cradle me?
To lie under an oak tree with a wanton woman
harms not in the least that oak tree.
Mother love oozing sight
Magic vision into light.
On Collecting Specimens to Draw
The woodland is a vast city of non-human life.
A spider, no, it has wings, runs across the page.
Ferns shoot up with a freshness that amazes.
Life forms here are for the most part silent
Although a singing bird incessantly makes sound.
The gnats move in like invisible vultures.
The human made sound of a bell is for a moment
Drowned by the bumble bee visiting his own church.
Beyond the trees is the sea.
My face has itched, it has been scratched.
I look knowingly at two tiny gnats, which dare to hover over the page as I write.
Now they are more plentiful and settle on my writing hand.
A gale has blown them off into the now still confusion of the woods.
A silence has blown me into the now still confusion of the words.
Man plays a stop-start game, but nature is eternal.
9th Jan 1974
The Cerulean Blue Tint is no longer available. Windsor and Newton do not make it any longer. It must be four years since production stopped, and perhaps two years since I managed to get a tube of it in a little art shop in Cornwall, which had some old stock left.
I now use Manganese Blue pigment, which I at present prepare as a water-based paint. It is as bright as the tint and also permanent, however, the colour value is not the same. No oil colour on the market compares in chromatic intensity, but I still cannot get a blue-green as Manganese blue is without the greenness. Also it will not take any other pigment for physically mixing without losing intensity.
A painting 5' x 5' has been underway for two nights. It is concerned with the return of bright red to my painting. Not occasional flashes of red, but rather a solid red space-less backcloth to the centre area that is enclosed by a very ethereal mandala, which hovers in pale blue, turquoise and ice-greys.
"Synaesthesia - Erotic Turbulence" conveys the feeling that has gripped my being. It is an energy, which pulsates its life through my mind and metabolism. The tide of irrationality has swooped over my daily consciousness. Yet the painting proceeds with tremendous certainty.
My cruelty to people is becoming frightening. It sickens and repulses me, and yet it is difficult to dispel. I must believe that love is natural! Why do I hurt her so!!
10th Jan 1974. 3am
The red painting is filling me with tremendous excitement. Another painting - 6' x 5' on a red background - I must start soon. Working feverishly to avoid too much energy being left in me when I go into hospital (imminent) to have the cartilage of my knee removed. I hope that after the anaesthetic I will not lose any of this!!
15th Jan 1974
Hospital is here. Quiet ward. Van Gogh and St. Remy jump into the mind. Painting, painting, waiting on your easel! I only wish that I still worked figuratively for I could then do some drawings in the ward. I am not in bed yet!
16th Jan 1974
At 5am a cup of tea. Later a bath and the first injection. I am now recovering from the operation. It is marvellous to know that the surgeon has removed the defective cartilage. Painting again, in my studio, is not many weeks away, surely!
The physiotherapist was very pleased when I was immediately able to lift my leg twenty times to 45 degrees. Almost unprecedented! As I write this I realise how proud I am! What a contrast to all the apprehension I felt before receiving the anaesthetic.
Friday Jan 25th 1974
Time has flowed by, while the leg has quickly healed. Today, nine days after the operation the stitches are to come out and once again I will go back to my studio.
The hospital world has seemed completely detached from life outside, to an extent that has made it seem as though the only living 'cell' is within these walls. Nothing is outside, just a timeless, formless void. The elements have disappeared from beyond these walls. Sunlight lives only within the loving smiles of the nurses who appear as ministering angels. Heliotropism is extinct, long since replaced by 'nursiotropism'. Their eyes explode with a million love crystals. One has a purple aura and seems in my eyes to walk about with the entire life force of the universe locked within her beautiful frame.
The faces have changed of those in the beds surrounding me, only one other has remained as long as I have. That magical blend which brought together individuals whose presence and humour flowed into a single happy laughing oneness has now dissolved. Fate and the recovery of limbs have shaken the kaleidoscope once more. The image that was will only live again in the collective memory of each one who was part of it. The 'dodo' is gone forever but its presence will be eternally 'cocooned' in the eternal memory bubble.
One has laughed so much. Horace, the patron saint of toilets, has flowed from the rear end to excess. A frantic rate has accompanied the change of pyjamas. He changes pyjamas as the pulses of others beat. Horrendous Horace's bowels reign supreme, the tempest has formed within these walls!