blue blue and more
Writing by Beppe Sebaste
For the exhibition on Cathy Josefowitz, The Thinking Body, on view until 19 June 2022 in the ARRHYTHMICS section, we present a very intense text written by her companion Beppe Sebaste after the artist’s death. The piece was included in the small catalogue blue blue and more… produced by Galleria Susanna Orlando of Pietrasanta for an exhibition held from 6 to 18 September 2014, the first show of Josefowitz’s work after her premature passing.
FOR CATHY JOSEFOWITZ, BLUE BLUE AND MORE
Ces jours qui te semblent vides
Et perdus pour l’univers
Ont des racines avides
Qui travaillent les déserts
Patience dans l’azur!
Chaque atome de silence
Est la chance d’un fruit mûr!
Dear Cathy, since you left I have learned to appreciate silence again, so much so that the phrases that come to mind evaporate before I can manage to formulate them. Is this the natural fate of words, to dissolve like music in contact with the air?
In words, with their continuous wavering between sound and meaning, you have effectively always preferred the former over the latter, their sensuality more than the presumption of meaning, their openness to the dance rather than the claim of information. Your paintings teach us that openness, not only of words, is the virtue of patience – which after all is the other name of passion. Painting is when passion is converted into patience – to perceive and retain, to transform and offer – that ritual, physical and transcendental dimension with which you have joyfully shaped the world and coloured life.
My words long for this patience of yours. And as I watch you swim and twirl in the blue, and I want to touch you but cannot, I realize that you have used the most beautiful of words to accompany one of your latest canvases: blue, blue and more.
Those three and a half words could suffice. Everything is there: the adventure of colour, the announcement and omen of the journey, the salutation, your beautiful smile. There is the “dancing & painting” of your intense, infinite life, the skies in which you saw your reflection, and which are reflected in your paintings – of Tunisia, India, Ojai, Pietrasanta… The sky that reflects the earth that reflects the sky, father-sky and mother-earth, with humanity in the middle. There is the blue of love and of the joined hands that appeal to the Highest, to that “patience in the blue” you explained so well shortly before departing, looking at the sky: “I am much happier now than in the past, because I have learned to do this (you joined your hands and bowed your head) and to thank the universe”.
A few days before your last voyage we spoke again of blue, pink, yellow, the light of Tunisia, a real place and place of the soul, a metaphor of painting, a symbol from which you have drawn other symbols, like the universal Hand of Fatima, the Madonna, namely Myriam, the Five, the Hamsa, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Heh – a letter also used to represent the name of God, saying “the Name” Hashem, without saying God, without directly pronouncing the name, and so on.
You had decided to continue, to celebrate in your own way that labyrinthine proliferation of signs and meanings that translates into the dense decorations, miniatures and arabesques portraying the Hand of Fatima, seen in your beloved Tunisia, on the doors of houses and on women’s jewellery. And we discovered that without even knowing it, you had already summoned and depicted it some time ago in the geometry of your marvellous Prayers on canvas…
The decorations that shift and concentrate the gaze on a point of the surface of the visible, in the world as in your paintings, are so many prayers in the mystery of vastness, tiny and almost imperceptible imprints in infinity. They are light wafts of humanity, whispers, sighs, discontinuities in the constancy of colour, in the apparently immobile monochrome of the Divine – be it desert or sky. They are pathways and doors on which to knock, knocking at the heaven of colours – as in the blue voice of our Bob Dylan. In effect, don’t we say “heavenly creatures”? And doesn’t the adjective “heavenly”, the lofty synonym of spiritual, speak of the freedom to serve others, Creation, the way your paintings generously serve us when we gaze at them, raising us into the blue, “and more”?
“Patience in the blue”, Paul Valéry wrote.
“The air is a root”, said Jean Arp.
Things you have often demonstrated.
I am reminded now, without changing the subject, without discontinuity, that on the day we spoke about Fatima and the hand, we also talked about Sagan and the novel you were reading or re-reading, Bonjour Tristesse, whose gentle, ironically resonant title has something blue about it, and in fact that story takes place on the Côte d’Azur, the blue coast. The sensuality of the tale reminded you of Versilia, our golden age. It was June 21st, and though we didn’t know it, it was Françoise Sagan’s birthday. I don’t know what was the (blue) thread of these words then, what it is now, unless it is femininity, blueness, the industrious patience whose praises I continue to sing, to weave. Praises of your art of weaving, drawing and painting, creating forms with every material; but also of living and making the forms joyously inhabitable, constructing in your own paintings the canvases and colours of worlds in which to dwell, of houses, like the Tunisian villages and the weaving rooms of this exhibition.
In the tradition of enchanted wayfarers, who immersed in the immanence of the present find themselves in the Highest and narrate transcendental adventures with blissful wonder, you tell us about a celestial and earthly Tunisia. The best way to listen to you is to believe you, because as your beloved Boris Vian wrote in L’écume des jours, “the story is entirely true, because I imagined it from one end to the other”. And, if you have dreamt it, it is because you have lived it, from one end to the other.
And the rest of us who are still here, who were already all eyes, who are all ears, become all soul thanks to you.
Beppe Sebaste, summer 2014
Thanks to Beppe Sebaste his kind permission to use this text.