Initially Kim Lyons came up with the name “Basil’s Arc.” It was 2006; Baz had written most of the poems on other painters that would be published the next year in 77 Beasts: Basil King’s Beastiary from Marsh Hawk Press. And he had begun to make these paintings. “Arc” is what she named them. “After” is what he called them, “After Schwitters” “After Picasso” “After Beckman.” Homage is a more common term but his intention was not to put these artists on pedestals but to claim them.(To see these images larger, right click “open in a new window.” All are c Basil King, 2006, mixed media on prepared masonite.)
They are his company. No one really works alone. Something always comes from somewhere. These paintings and their painters are his companions, his fellow travelers. Just as all of Chaucer’s characters were his, drawn around him and drawn from a pool of common knowledge, acquaintance, legend, imagination, information. Someone from a Christian tradition could call them a communion of saints with a distinct lower case “S.” How to travel on is always a question. Basil is one of those artists who travel in a large crowd of complications. He has come to welcome and support them, draw support from them, draw their pictures, tell us their stories. Does this work oppose despair and cynicism? Is it an ark?
The Arc poem was published first in Ed Foster’s magazine Talisman (winter/spring 2007) and has since been included in the large collection, Learning to Draw/A History published in 2011. (www.skylightpress.co.uk ) Talisman is now to be online only: but so far, not. See http://www.kalachuvadu.com/talisman.pdf (So, spoiler alert, when it does become available online, the archives probably won’t be there.)
Here’s an excerpt of what Baz said in the poem he dated Summer/Fall 2006:
Basil’s Arc does not copy. It grafts paintings of other painters into my painting . . . .
Unlike Noah’s Ark my Arc is not coupled by animals. My Arc holds photographs, poems, architectural wonders, and paintings, beloved painting. All these artifacts are stored in my Arc. I have over thirty paintings competed for it and there are more.
But after writing this I’m not sure. Am I making my Arc because I am old? Because these continuous wars so frighten me that I have need to collect and store everything that I love before I too am taken?
Beyond that I know I am a violent man and if I hadn’t fallen in love with art when I was very young I despair thinking about what I would have become.
But of course an arc is whole arc, and not a single container. So there’s more to say about this beyond this particular series of paintings. And, again thanks to Kim Lyons, there is more to come about Basil’s Arc. She and her committee are at work on a program called “Basil’s Arc: the paintings and poetics of Basil King” to take place September 22, 2012. The first step is a film being made now by Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. The film is titled “Basil King: MIRAGE” as it uses text from the most autobiographical of Basil’s texts, mirage: a poem in 22 sections.