Archive for February, 2011

It’s Impossible To Know Precisely What Catullus Was Thinking (i)






Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.

T.S. Eliot



What a sight for the traveller! Let us imagine it now. From afar I spy the city: its towers, whose points disappear into the sky, inform me of  its religion. Further along, I remark its ramparts, which show me its protective forces;  then approaching the city, I see its buildings, which tell me about its size, its commerce, its riches, its taste. There I am sure to find the living, for I know that the dead are all within the expansive confines of those funerary buildings that I noticed along the way.

abbé Porée, as quoted in Mark Lewis’ film Two Impossible Films

That city might be New York, Jerusalem or Rome. It might be your city. Or San Gimignano:

It was within the walled perimeter of San Gimignano in Tuscany that we were staying. We were unusual in that most of the tourists who visited this citadel would arrive in the morning, wander predictably around, take their photographs of the towers, and sample the famed Vernaccia by the cisterna, before leaving by sun fall.

On our first arrival, the hill town appeared across the countryside as a distant mirage, its strange skyline touching the clouds. Inside its ancient walls, however, we could not escape the ubiquitous presence of the towers. Their gigantic forms loomed over us and their great shadows crossed our every path.

Thirteen towers punctuate the town. These are the remnants of a mediaeval Manhattan where the towers could once be counted in their dozens. Feuding families vying for status built them competitively – each with their own megalomaniacal agenda. Each tower, then, is the physical manifestation of its owners wealth, and moreover the embodiment of its family’s story, its family’s history. The towers preside over the citadel with a gargantuan, biomorphic omniscience, watching over its inhabitants and the surrounding vineyards alike.

It was when the tourists had left and the evening was setting in; when the carved-out streets had become quiet that the effect of the towers became intensified, now as apparitions.



He that to what he sees, adds observation, and to what he reads, reflection, is in the right road to knowledge, provided that in scrutinising the hearts of others, he neglects not his own.

Caleb Colton

Act of Painting


Painting is a singular and integrated act in which the hand sees, the eye paints, and the mind touches.

Juhani Pallasmaa The Thinking Hand