GAME ON (28)


After finishing the last essay, I travelled to Manchester for a few days. In fact, why don't I create an 'I MET' list for Sunday, September 24, 2023:


One of the highlights of this day was a trip to the Lowry Museum at Salford Quay. The permanent show of L.S. Lowry paintings demonstrates that there was more than one string to his bow, that he was a dedicated and deep-feeling artist. I bought a single postcard, and later was presented - for my birthday - with the same image in poster form, chosen independently by my cousin, Alison.

L.S. Lowry. Man Lying on a Wall (1957). Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the artist's estate.

Why does the image fascinate me? It's an excellent example of how so much of Lowry's work was self-portraiture and discreet autobiography (note the L.S.L. initials on the briefcase). It also strikes me as a plausible portrait of On Kawara. On Kawara, the chain smoker. Indeed, it transports me back to Stockholm in 1979: so that was the set-up five minutes before On Kawara lost his briefcase! I should have known that the theft of the case was his own fault. Though don't ask me how the umbrella fits in to the story.

Back home from Manchester, I painted the Date. I had resisted memorialising my own birthday in 2021 and 2022, as I thought such a gesture would be too self-referential. But this year's birthday was a bigger deal than most. I have now turned 66, which means that I start receiving a state pension. My financial situation is transformed! Instead of going to work every day in a factory, I can lie down on the nearest horizontal surface and smoke fags while focussing on an ideal 33/66/99 life cycle. As such, I fully accept that I am
exactly two-thirds of the way through my allotted span.

At the end of my birthday, I laid the new Date alongside the last three I've made since June, while at the same time ensuring that the book given to me by my brother, John, was visible at the bottom right of the composition. By placing the Dates on the narrow carpet, I was thinking of them lying along the wall in the Lowry painting.


Let's revisit the age thing. I'm now, as from SEPT.27, 2023, aged '66'. Or 'clickety-click' as the Bingo readers say. I can write these numbers using a plastic template, as On Kawara would occasionally do. If I turn them around, I can get the numbers to read '69', '96' or '99'. So there is no escape for me it seems. Just a long, leisurely life - hopefully - in which it is up to me to find joy. Joy in 'I GOT UP'. Joy in 'I WENT'. Joy in smoking 400 fags a day.

Is this a better way to show the Dates?

L.S. Lowry. Man Lying on a Wall (1957). Reproduced and annotated with the forbearance, I hope, of the artist's estate.

It must be better, cos I've remembered where the umbrella fits in. At the beginning of July, when I was in Stockholm, the rain came down so hard that, already soaked from my brief time exposed, all I could do was stand at a sheltered spot in the city and watch the water bounce off the streets. Except I couldn't do that. I had seen the four Date Paintings in the Moderna Museet and was on my way back to my airbnb holiday flat where Kate awaited me. And so I get to contemplate once again the only four original Date Paintings of On Kawara that I have seen since I began this project in 2021.

L.S. Lowry. Man Lying on a Wall (1957). Reproduced and annotated with the forbearance, I hope, of the artist's estate.

You might think the Dates are in reverse order. But that is how they're presented in Stockholm. In any case, it doesn't take away from the quality of the collection. Two made by On Kawara when he was resident at the
Museet in 1972/73. One from his first year of Date Painting in New York, and one from the year of his return to Stockholm and the alleged theft of his briefcase. I should mention about this scenario that L.S. Lowry had his house full of his mother's collection of clocks, all set to strike at different times.

So what about the umbrella? I had promised Kate, aka Silver Swimmer, that I'd bring back
two umbrellas as it had been raining since the beginning of the day and rain was forecast for the next day. I was already soaked from my few seconds exposure so I dashed into the department store where I reckoned I would find a choice of umbrellas. They were all so expensive that I only bought one, telling myself that I'd buy a cheap, black one for myself at the rail station that I could pop into on the way back. And that's what I did. End of story.

Silver Swimmer, Tay Estuary, Dundee. (2016). Photo by Duncan McLaren.

It's not quite the end of this story though. Just before my birthday I received a postcard from Sweden. This is the third card that Anders Delbom has kindly sent me. This first was on July 18, the second on August 13 (both of which you can see in this essay), and now this:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I like the choice of photo: the card that On Kawara sent over 100 times to his friend, Dan Graham.


Besides, it fits into my current obsession, as it shows a lamp being held aloft. The lamp and/or lamppost is possibly Lowry's principle motif, and I have a book all about it, called Lowry's Lamps.


As it happens, there are no lamps in my favourite image of Lowry's. Just the man who is lying down on a wall as he focuses on all that is good about being alive. He can remember the first time he set eyes on a Date Painting. ('He' must be me, then.) There were four Dates in a room of the Lisson Gallery in London in the summer of 1992, when I was 34-years-old, the same age as On Kawara when he began painting his Dates. MAY 7 1991, MAY 19, 1991, MAY 26, 1991 and JUNE 4, 1991. Thirty years later, as a 64-year-old, I made tributes to that summer day in 1992, a day which will never come back, except through an exercise in memory, as illustrated below.

L.S. Lowry. Man Lying on a Wall (1957). Reproduced and annotated with the forbearance, I hope, of the artist's estate.

So it's all about consciousness, is it? It's all about smiling or even laughing at life, smiling/laughing as you live your one and only life. But not on your own, dear reader. Life is an exercise in communication. No point in writing: 'I AM STILL ALIVE' if there is not another human being to read the good news in a telegram or an email or whatever. So here goes yet again:


Do you want to see the key image one last time? This website really is into repetition, is it not? Well, here it is. For your pleasure:

L.S. Lowry. Man Lying on a Wall (1957). Reproduced and annotated with the forbearance, I hope, of the artist's estate.

If I have done my job properly you will actually visualise the artist get up and walk off, stage right, at this point.

Picking up the umbrella but leaving behind the briefcase.

Though when I say 'done my job properly' that's exactly what I've got up from the wall in order to do. I need to go all the way back to On Kawara in 1968, with the knowledge I've gleaned from Tama Art University's publishing initiative. See the chapters at the top of the menu as I update them.

Hang on, we're not quite finished here. I've asked Anders to send me a scan of my postcard with the postmark on it, if he can spare the time. He's done this. And told me that the blip on the 'Bl' of 'Blairgowrie' came about when he opened a bottle of fizzy water. Ah, the fingers gently turning the cap, but not gently enough.


What I haven't told Anders, is that the two distinct bubbles on the '04' and the 'A.M.' are from a carelessly opened bottle of fizz. I mean, champagne, of course. There's always something to celebrate in the world of On Kawara.