Gerhardsen Gerner

Seth Pick

09 Oct - 14 Nov 2015

© Seth Pick
The passionate struggle for precious singularity (Portrait of I.B.P), 2015
Oil on canvas
50 x 40 cm
9 October – 14 November 2015

My father suffers from a congenital condition called Dupuytren's contracture. It’s a connective tissue disorder, which results in the palmar fascia becoming thick and hard, leading to contraction of the tendons. His hand was beginning to claw; his little finger now suffers muscle loss where therapeutic collagen injections have given some relief. Despite a temporary improvement, he can no longer play the piano, which I think he feels as a keen private loss. More than that, he’s disgusted his body has anything shared with Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan, who both also suffered from what is known as “Viking’s Hand”.

Where Jesus, painted, raises his index and middle finger, palm out, and clasps his little finger and ring finger down. This gesture is a benediction; it is with this blessing that worshippers will leave the Christian temples, once a week, spoken well of. The gesture passes through liturgy, yes; but also it is written deep in the sentimental structures of believer’s lives. To see the gesture, painted on board a millennia ago, the same warmth bestowed in childhood comes back. Repetition gives even more strength to a simple physical act of goodwill.

My niece swiped my mobile device from my hand, as I was distracted, pouring a brown bottle of ale into a dimpled glass tankard. “Let me show you where me and Mummy live”, she said, and my heart was raised as she dived into my notebook, my telephone, my photograph album. She understood the map and the aerial photographs as second nature, and made a simple gesture, pulling her second finger and her thumb into a pinch against the screen. Instantly the frame of the world shrank towards the little collection of streets that make up the housing estate on which she lives.

Autonomia Operaia [Workers’ Autonomy] was a political force in Italy in the ‘70s characterised by absolute refusal. The response of the state matched that ethos, and the years of combat between workers on one hand, and fascists and State forces on the other, was known as the “Years of Lead”. The “Copernican Turn” that marked their rejection of orthodox Marxist organising was gestural too; rather than using the “clenched fist” salute of the earlier workers’ movements, many adopted, instead, a salute of the index and second finger, high into the air with the thumb extended. The salute was intended to symbolise a Walther P. 38, the handgun of choice for those who rejected any compromise with the State. Cities on the verge of civil war and thousands of young people throwing a hand up in common salute.

In his vegetable patch, my Dad forces his foot onto the shovel and turns the earth. It’s full of worms, but in the far North of England, high above sea level, growing anything can be difficult. He reaches down and pulls a fat, heavy potato from the earth, enough for a full dinner. The wet black soil clings in clumps. Holding the potato in one hand, and using the flat palm of the other, he brushes the worst of the muck off with a couple of swipes. It’s like a simple, undiscovered statuette, a clumped golem. I look at his dark hands; a fish-farmer, a mountaineer, a sailor, holding his potato. I try and guess how many hundreds of thousands of feet of wet rope have slid through his hands, as he passes it to me. My fingers are uncracked; I type at 70 words per minute, leaving grease on the keys.

Huw Lemmey 2015

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