Lozano, the fishing boat and the nun
By Parson Thru
There were three of us: the skipper, me and one other. We were rocking gently, just off-shore. The sun was shining and we were catching fish steadily.
At some point in the afternoon, the skipper called it a draw, weighed anchor and turned the boat towards port.
It was a typical English seaside town. The sea-front was blighted by a rusting structure that ran the full length of the promenade. Girders formed a box-like arcade over the sea. Whatever it might have been once, it was an eyesore now.
Somewhere below the water that lapped and slopped against the sea wall was a small beach.
The skipper brought the boat alongside the promenade and steered us through the arcade with the town above us on our right. The tide was on the ebb and there was probably a metre of water under the keel. The arcade was about wide enough for two boats like ours to pass. Out to the left, you could see there was a sand-bar by the breakers that fanned across its surface.
The skipper moved the throttle forward and the diesel engine throbbed underneath. The boat was probably flat-out, although hull-speed wouldn’t be much above eight knots. We rolled around on the swell and the backwash from the sea wall.
At first, I couldn’t see why he’d sped up, then I noticed a bank of shingle at the far end of the prom. As we neared, it became obvious that the skipper was going to beach the boat. We grabbed hold of the handrails.
The gradient was quite flat; the shingle smooth and wet. I was surprised how well the boat ran up it. Momentum kept it moving up the bank. The skipper killed the engine. We were still moving forward as we reached the apex, but in front lay an area of flat boulders. He threw me a rope.
I leapt over the gunwale and ran forward past the bow. As the rope tightened, I was able to keep the boat moving with enormous effort. The other bloke joined me and we hauled it over the apex and started it down the other side of the bank towards a small bay.
The bay was the skipper’s secret. This had been his plan all along. His surprise gift. The boat stopped just short of the strand. We turned around to look.
The view was blocked by a derelict ship. It stretched almost the length of the bay. At each end, a smaller ship had been beached in the same way. They formed an impassable barrier.
Beyond them, a vessel lay at anchor. Small boats were recovering something from the water.
We could only watch.
I’m surrounded by Lee Lozano’s 1965 “energy paintings” on floor three of the Reina Sofia. In the narrative on one of the walls, I read: “…movement through space triggered by the mind of the artist…”.
They’re large, room-dominating, monochromic canvases. They remind me a little of Rothko, but they're individually distinctive and striking.
I say hello to the guard and sit on a bench.
Half an hour ago I was in a small church close to Anton Martin, where a monument stands to five lawyers assassinated along the street in 1977.
It’s a long time since I’ve been in a church, other than for a funeral or as a tourist. My aunt has always been religious. She follows the family tradition of Catholicism. I used to go to Mass with her when I was young. She needs all the help she can get right now, so I backtracked on my way to the museum and went in.
The place was empty. Three or four people were scattered around the pews, praying or meditating; a bloke in a white safari waistcoat was prowling around the sanctuary photographing altarpieces.
I picked a row on the right and shuffled to the end. I would have dipped my hand in the holy water if I’d seen it – out of habit. I couldn’t decide whether to sit or kneel. In the end I managed a kind of compromise off the edge of the pew.
Maybe I’m a little harsh on religion. Why single-out religion from all the other hypocrisy and wickedness? It’s just another sham.
Perhaps the prayers will help. That’s why I say them.
My aunt introduced me to tea drinking when I was about fifteen. I was like an emissary going between the two houses on the same street. My dad and my uncle had fallen out probably before I was born, but my aunt and I have always enjoyed our chats. I try to call in whenever I’m home.
I slid back along the pew and went to find the door, feeling a little disoriented like I’d been in there hours. The impossibility of the request I’d made left me feeling empty. A nun had appeared, sitting on a pew right at the back.
These days, I’m less inclined towards means and ends. What if there’s no end? That’s what the fishing-boat dream seemed to be saying.
Lozano’s abstract paintings represent her moment of clarity and possibility: highly-defined monumental objects – almost engineered – appear out of a monochromic and brilliant fog. They contrast sharply with her previous work – almost like someone else painted them. It seems to have been an epiphany.
I’m glad I came in here today.