White-ness

Ellen Bell MORDANT © Stephen Lynch Photography 053

In the morning……I can open my eyes to nothing but whiteness, writes Jenny Diski in Skating to Antarctica, a repetition of white when I raise my eyes. Morning moments of indescribable satisfaction. Eventually, I’ll have to let colours in to my day, but for a while I can wallow in a seemingly boundless expanse of white.

Stephen’s Lynch’s photographs of MORDANT are gorgeous. The white of the painted plaster looks like snow.

MORDANT space - Stephen Lynch (1)

Like Diski, I find complete white so restful – joyous even. There is nothing to disturb, just a blissful nothingness. An emptiness of white.

White. White and red. White, red and black. I remember writing about the symbolism of colours in my English Literature A Level exam. I think it was for Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The red of the strawberries that Alex drops into her mouth and the red of his blood as it drips through the boarding house floorboards. Red and white the colours of life and death.

It had been a good day. I’d finished painting the first two coats of white for MORDANT at Oriel Davies, Newtown. And I was just getting ready to get out the car when I felt it. A pin prick of something on my thigh. Then it began. The running of red. So fast. My trouser-leg soaked in red. It had been a scalpel blade that had come loose from its protective cover. Poking out of my cloth bag it stabbed my thigh. Red everywhere, even into my plimsolls. They turned a yellowy-pink in the washing-machine. My blood. My own personal dye. And more patches on my trousers. There are four now. I don’t want to let them go. You look good in them, he says. That’s enough. That’s enough reason.

In The Piano Harvey Keitel puts his finger into the hole in her black woollen stocking. So sexy. That detail of it. The revelation of flesh. Pink against black, soft against rough. Waiting for a massage, I watch as the receptionist bustles into the treatment room to prepare the bed. In and out she goes, carrying out hot stones and towels. Her hair is pulled hard off her face. She scowls a little. A busy little body of a woman. She wears black leggings and a black shiny tunic. Do you want to go in now and chill a little till Veronica is ready for you? she asks. Thanks, I say, I will. It’s nice to have a little time before, isn’t it, she says. Yes. Her leggings are very tight and there is a hole in the inner thigh. Does she know it’s there, I wonder.

Oh, I think I’ll just pootle a bit, she says. Pootle, I say. I like that word, I think I’ll borrow it. I love her voice. It’s soft and treacly. She says ‘don’t know nothing’ a lot. Oh, that’s my slang, she says. And I can hear her giggle. Is she happy? I hope so. I try to imagine what she looks like but in a way I don’t want to know. She is in my head. That’s enough. I look forward to our chats, she says. Me too, I reply and then ask myself if it is true. Sometimes, I don’t want to pick up the phone. Phones are an intrusion and I know she feels the same, for sometimes she doesn’t answer and I must wait another week to hear her. And yet, once I’ve done it, it is good. It is a good feeling. In the end it is about a connection. A connection with another being. There is a warmth in making one. One feels enlarged by it. I surrender to their lives, stepping out of my own, just a while. So, this is how it is to be you. Tell me, what is on your mind? Tell me, a little about your life. Will you? And I will listen. I will listen. I promise.