Eustace and Makepeace - Their Final Encounter
MK Calligraphies | MK Gallery | 15 Feb - 17 May 2020
Eustace and Makepeace - Their Final Encounter, the work in the MK Gallery exhibition, refers to the final section of a graphic novel by Nick Malone, The Disappearance of Makepeace - A Tale of Two Lives, a mystery thriller tracing the relationship of Eustace and Makepeace from their first childhood meeting to their final encounter. It is a story of disappearance and change, and is based on events in Nick Malone's life.
The springboard for developing the work was a recent exhibition at art Bermondsey Project Space in London. Here is a three minute film that the gallery made of Nick Malone talking about the development of the ideas:
This is a short podcast of Nick Malone reading from the novel:
And below is an extract containing the novel’s opening paragraph and the last section when Makepeace is finally found:
The Disappearance of Makepeace - A Tale of Two Lives | Nick Malone
For thirty years I have wondered what happened to my old friend Makepeace, who disappeared without trace sometime during the autumn of 1986. Although he vanished into thin air, I have always felt his presence guiding me, without precisely knowing whether he had arranged his own disappearance, (as he sometimes talked of so doing), or whether he was, in fact, now dead.
Until then we had combined our skills, he the dreamer, the Prospero of fantasy, I the practical, the arranger, the interface with the everyday, negotiating our passage. Thus, when I arranged finance or cars or accommodation, it was Makepeace who suddenly opened what seemed like trapdoors or windows into another world beyond.
All of us have different personas struggling inside for dominance, different characters with their different drives and life views, gestated and emerging out of the wide range of experiences that build up to form our lives. Yet if we were to somehow try and categorise them, I feel that they would all fit into two elemental groups - on the one hand, the fixers of everyday life, the pragmatists who deal with what they consider to be the true realities of life, timetabling and organising our experience, feeding the mouths and fixing the roofs of our mortal existence. And on the other hand there are the dreamers that live out of time and place, that in the wink of an eye open the trapdoors of eternity.
And certainly within my own life the latter came to be personified by someone who entered my existence when I was still at school, and whose constant presence drew my concerns away from the numbering distraction of everyday tasks into glimpses of the ineffable.
- -- -- -
It felt as if by following the precepts of Makepeace I had been able to achieve all my youthful dreams to become an artist, and yet in some way throughout, although he had disappeared, his presence had been strangely palpable.
I decided to have one final attempt to locate him. I went back to Summerfield, to the house of my childhood where I had first encountered him. The house itself was instantly recognisable but renovated; I sensed it had changed owners several times, and certainly the present occupants new nothing of its former history.
I drove to Manchester, the nearest city, and located the largest private detective agency, asking them, in my search for the childhood Makepeace, to identify all the previous occupants of the house.
When I returned a month later, I was solemnly lead into a small, private room overlooking the Irwell, Parsons, the head of the agency, waving me to a chair on one side of the desk. Looking at me rather directly, and with some curiosity, he began:
"Well, Mr. Malone, after extensive research we did manage to identify a child of your description, one of a small family, living exactly as you described in one section of the house, that was, at that time, partitioned off. But Mr. Malone, John Makepeace, as you correctly identified him, died one hundred years ago".
My brain pounding with disbelief and confusion, I immediately left Parson's office without further conversation and headed south to London. Over the next few weeks I attempted to dismiss the absurd implications of Parsons' questionable research. I continued frenetically with my work, crossing art forms, interacting text and image for a new series. At the suggestion of my studio assistant, I wrote in giant letters on the wall the contents of an page of forgotten, recently-discovered manuscript, adjacent to new constructions in wood and canvas.
Suddenly I could leave the unanswered questions over Makepeace no more. Ever since Makepeace had made his strange disappearance I had searched for an explanation of his vanishing. Of course, one reason for this was my dependence on his extraordinary gift to open new vistas of enchantment that broke through the everyday, like a magician who could just touch his wand-like finger on some mundane object - say, a document or a piece of wood - for it to spring open, as through a magic window, into a galaxy of dreams and possibility.
But there was also the money, the vast sums that he seemed inexplicably to have access to, my realisation that in my own case it had only been by following his nefarious advice, leading to my criminal encounter with John Brace, that had enabled me through smuggling to pay for my art education. It was then I remembered that Brace, (also now strangely vanished), had visited Makepeace’s house on a number of occasions after his release. This house had been locked since his disappearance, and it struck me that there might be some clues there to the mysteries that had haunted me for so long, not to mention some indication of the source of that huge wealth on which Makepeace had always seemed able to draw.
During the time I had known Makepeace, it was always an absolute taboo that under no circumstances was I to visit his house in Elm Street, and the keys he had entrusted to me were under no circumstances ever to be used to gain access, and were only entrusted to my possession for use in absolute emergency, and only following his express instructions. It was therefore with extreme trepidation that I approached the house that November evening, inserted one of the keys he had given me, and slowly turned the lock.
On closing the door, I was enveloped by a fused rush of darkness and buried smells as I located the bannister and hauled myself up the stairwell to the dormer bedroom at the top of the house that I had identified from past conversations as the one he habitually used.
On entering the room, it had, to my astonishment, the appearance of somewhere still in habitual use, an impression that was no doubt created by the room being his main base immediately before his disappearance. There was the refectory table covered in drawings and papers, there the open dormer window overlooking a sea of slate. And walking forward into the room, it seemed that everything fused into my own room back at Summerfield, where I had planned so many adventures. An abrupt movement and noise made me spin round, and there, in front of me, stood Makepeace! With a fixed, blank stare, his face white with determination, he walked slowly towards me. I staggered backwards, flailing, moving, I realised, toward the open window.
My nails embedded as anchors in the soft wood, I heaved the world vertical, held it still, dropped the weight of my exhausted arms, my chin, through the open sash, and then peered down.
Fragments of wood
on a straight, grey stream;
the morning traffic was already moving. I looked above
and the sky seemed filled
with blossom where lozenges
of cloud slid in position
like coffins, like petals
on slow moving water
viewed from the riverbed.
From below the drones of engines rose In swarms
to fill my head
then fixed in the wings
of something hovering
by my shoulder in the empty house. Twisting round, I saw an effigy hanging in green armour
in the empty air of the room,
now finally cleared
of all visitation;
I stretched a hand;
the dragonfly swung, then sped through the open window
where squadrons of insects
were swimming through the moving skies.
I watched the collapsing banks of cloud struggling for structure and again reforming new shapes that changed or dissolved, their shifting fleeces drenched in gold. A flock of wild geese circled in silent sweeps, their white necks so stretched they might choke with longing. Below, the world wheeled on the spokes of streets.
I pressed against the sill, I stood up. I saw in the banks of cloud a roaring chaos dissolving on; and again in the middle of this, something struggling for structure being dissolved and then again rising before final collapse and replacement. I heard the wind to Callisto blowing through my body's frame and on past those random, sky-flung symbols of the night, its gentle roar as a rising flame, as the morning's first cars.
I was one with each struggling shape that mute in the mass of dissolving cloud sang with silence through my every cell as some inchoate consciousness struggling fitfully for meaning and form before being tumbled back in the void for fragmentation and change. The sky stretched taut, lit and translucent, each building vibrant in its frozen light, the distant bridge a blanched rainbow of stone. I was going, making my escape to barely glimpsed worlds beyond all comprehension, a runaway chimpanzee in the dawn and rain, free on the high, empty roads striding for the distant train, tears streaking my tired, century-creased, simian face; or swung from the trapeze to soar without end, the torn tent of the world growing smaller and smaller below.
I found my feet on the window's ledge.
Surely now, now, this time, this time I could fly, could join them? I thought I heard myself whisper, yes, I can, I can fly, I'm, I'm
I saw the terraces of the turning town
that suddenly flapped skywards, their cobbles as if nailed in the gates of heaven; I flew
behind them to ranges of mountains that steamed like cattle in the early sun, and on past oceans of cobalt, the frames on their littered beds lighting like x-rays. And then I could see past the world's rim as a driver over a wheel, steering through the gaps of stars
to where, it seemed, all whiteness failed.
I am now with Makepeace.
I am in the trees.
My arms reach out to touch
the skies, wave to the stars
of hooded nights that chant gaudetes through my cloistered woods, their processional lights passing
in orbit, candles
of ghosts on my seas' deep eyes. My knees, throat,
in each rock, chasm,
I struggle to stand,
shape gales to prayer
for the vaults of heaven - crowds of starlings lift
my cries, my hair
the white, dissolving clouds.
All things metamorphosise
The glacier holds my thoughts, my dreams. They shine through mica from his green lamps
in my subterranean chambers. Their crystal structures break and thaw;
the deep ravines, erases
all my galleries. But it cannot take the psalms in me. I burst from springs to a thousand streams, I swim for the frozen sea.
fly to ice leaves,
follow where my waters go,
in streams, in flakes,
for the distant range.
All my dreams the cold embalms. Now awaits the frozen land, the zero of its blanching psalms.
As white flowers flake
the icebergs break
in waves of southbound waters;
the seas rise through the tropic trees in bales of steam
the cloud owls take, spinning
rain in drifting veils;
the torrents flow
through buried caves, they spring again above the snow;
all streams as one in a dance of change; now we wait in the glacier floe; here
we dance forever.
here through the green-fogged pane of the névé,
peer past the ice-hung bars. Slowly, waiting
for the coming thaw,
our frozen forms emerge -
a menagerie of crystal light rising for the distant stars.
Ice to leaves.
The owls are rain.
The cave streams rise.
The snow cap dreams.
All things metamorphosise.
All spins as one in the dance of change. Here we shine forever.
In every locked room strain the rays of the moon to pull you through your house of ghosts. Stretch for the hands of the conjured dreams, drift-dust from the waiting lands,
the movers of your waking days,
still they elude. See them rear
and guide your way, feel their soft power. They fly for the clouds,
melt and reform. Leap
to where they disappear
as all your drives dissolve and change - The owl is a flower.
The goat is a flame,
The lidded ground flies up.
The hour dissolves the ice, the flower. We are all around,
in water, air.
we shift and change,
Dance in dust above the floor, ascend on light the sleeping stair. Melt before those yet to come, pity, lead and wait here fór them.