Thursday, November 01, 2012


I don't believe in coincidence. To me, Co-Incidence (an unlikely meeting between two incidents) is a phenomenon which is much more interesting and, yes, mysterious, than the purely rationalist dismissal of it. But, rest assured, I'm not going to launch into mumbojumble. The story itself is good enough.

On December 23, 2009 I wrote about and posted a photo here of a portrait I'd painted in 1981 of Rennie Walker . In my memory, as I wrote Rennie (who had suddenly contacted me, wondering what happened to it) I had painted over it and it was gone forever, apart from a small snapshot of him sitting beside the work-in-progress. Feeling sad and guilty about the loss, I sent Rennie a digital re-working of the portrait that I did from that snapshot. I thought that was the end of the story. 

Never trust memory: it often invents things when it can't remember the facts. 

Late last night, I was looking for some frames in a crowded closet in my studio. I opened a large container that I hadn't touched since I moved to my present home about seventeen years ago. Inside it, amongst various other things, was a tall (4' x 5') rolled-up canvas. Curious to know what it was, I immediately unrolled it and....the lost portrait of Rennie Walker! Fresh as the day it was born. 

Here it is, the original, finished painting, rediscovered. And below, the earlier stages.

Of course I instantly emailed Rennie to tell him the news. It looks like this painting has found its home.



Dominic Rivron said...

Yes - memory is more fictional than we dare admit. If we think we did something we can easily think we remember doing it. It's hard not to escape the conclusion that part of that accumulation we think of as our "life" must be an illusion. And then there's the flip side: significant experiences we forget.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dominic, there's a book out now - can't remember the title but it's been reviewed in various papers - about exactly this subject: that much, if not all, that we think we remember is mostly fiction or 'reconstructed' memories.
But you're right, great chunks of significant events are wiped out. Or hidden, according to Freud & co.

addon said...

Try to find Inevitable Illusions:
How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini - a fascinating, fun and surprising read.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Thanks Adam, I'll look for it. The concept that 'reason' (or what's generally accepted as rational thinking) is always the right way to go is, in my view, not reasonable!