C.H. Sisson by Patrick Swift, Oil, c.1960, London (poor quality reproduction)


I was not obliging in the time I gave but Paddy seemed to accommodate himself to anything. Indeed, I got the impression that, so long as he was painting, it did not matter what. In fact, it always turned out to be a tree or a poet- this secondary, and no doubt less satisfactory, subject-matter has since been eliminated, and not only, I imagine, because the supply ran out. It was as if to lie in the line of vision of that eye inevitably involved translation on to canvas. Paddy fussed about none of those things I imagined a painter who kept his reference to the external world would fuss about. He did not mind if the sitting was short, he did not mind if the times and so the light were different. He ignored the state of light, so far as I could make out, with his trees, for he started early and worked all day at them, except when a poet crossed his path. These variations were part of the nuance of reality. The finished picture would perhaps be one that captured enough of the nuance. On these matters I speculate ignorantly. The finished picture, on Paddy's account, had to be one that looked ordinary but proved in the end not to be so. I have not put it as he did. While he painted, Paddy talked about the stream of friends which flowed through his flat or whom he met in pubs. Although when painting Paddy appeared to be all eye, with the hand just doing the necessary, the conversation which ran in parallel with this performance showed a rare lucidity. - C.H. Sisson, Gandon Editions, 1993


For Patrick Swift
by C.H. Sisson

The dishes are untouched
And yet I see them all
Spread out under the moon.

Quiet which nothing spoils,
Not even appetite,
Hung on the point of wish.

Milk-white, with ruddy fruit
Only the angry heart
Is mean enough to ask.

Ice in the silver night
With the bird voices held
In silver cups, tonight.