The taste for endless day is first and foremost a taste.
(In the Bay of Billionaires, he told me about the laws of physics while I sucked cherries and rubbed oil on my calves. The sun made us slick.
I daydreamed about his eyelashes.)
Anna-Eva Bergman was receptive to nature’s sublimity and documented it with acuity and vision. Taste evolved into appetite.
Years of training imparted a skilled sensitivity to the world around her, and yet she remained at the mercy of a life of illness between moments of stable health. Her digestive system, intact but faltering, became the vibrant matter that risked unsettling her practice.
(The Hartung-Bergman Foundation was a prism of white light. When I walked up to one of Bergman’s giant, silent paintings, I was surprised to feel my eyes fill with tears. I turned to him, said look, I’m moved.
I needed him to see that I was moved.)
Bergman wanted to hold on to the magnitude of ecology’s charm when she found herself on a fishing boat off the coast of Lofoten. How do you steady the intense magic of the horizon as it shifts out of grasp? The world of perception casts yearning, expands the spectre of unknowing. She delighted in its untenable parameters. The light and shape of the far north is spiritual geometry.
(We drove for hours, out of Nice sun and into a large feeling.
He had become used to driving on the other side of the road, particularly after leaving the Foundation. He’d careened delicately towards an oncoming car that slowed and flashed its lights. He often lazily held the steering wheel between two fingers
and a thumb.
I sometimes asked him to step on the accelerator and he would, and I’d feel my stomach lift and then plummet.)
Moon and myth, mountain and glacier: all seem far removed from the messy bacterial coils nested within a human body. But the body is part of the essential forms that Bergman rendered in her paintings; if not the subject of her paintings, then it is,
at least, the unyielding interface between paint and landscape. The body mediates, interrupts, governs: it is soft power. It reverberates, grows slow under ice, churns with hunger.
(We passed towns on our journey to Mercantour National Park. Most of them had shuttered windowsand flaking ski season signs; all felt out of date. It was greener and
rainier and still we drove. Let’s get you some altitude, he said.)
The primal, the unanswerable, some original chaos, are all at stake in Bergman’s work.
(We drove through ruins and began to see snow. The top of the mountain was a cosmology of black and white, and hail came down on the windows, and the verge cut away steeply, and we kept driving until we saw the remains of an avalanche.)
Ancient light makes hard structures in Lofoten seem transparent, susceptible to rupture as gauze would be. The luminosity is seductive, defies capture. When Bergman was there in 1950, she remarked that the mountains seemed to emit a vision of the future.
(We looked at it silently. He made a three-point turn that marked the beginning of our descent.)