"I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past," he says
Bob Dylan has written a lengthy introduction to his latest art exhibition.
The Beaten Path opens at London’s Halcyon Gallery on Saturday, November 5 and features drawings, watercolours and acrylic works on canvas which depict Dylan’s view of American landscapes and urban scenes.
Vanity Fair have published Dylan’s essay for the exhibition catalogue, which is his most extensive piece of prose since his memoir Chronicles: Volume One in 2004.
The essay begins with Dylan recalling his 1974 tour with The Band. “The Band and I hadn’t played publicly together since 1966 where our shows caused a lot of disruption and turmoil—a lot of anger,” he writes. “Now we were in Chicago starting up again. There was no way to predict what was going to happen. At the end of the concert we had played over 25 or 30 songs and we were standing on the stage looking out. The audience was in semi-darkness. All of a sudden, somebody lit a match. And then somebody else lit another match. In short time, there were areas of the arena that were engulfed in matches. Within seconds after that, it looked like the whole arena was in flames and that all the people in the arena had struck matches and were going to burn the place down. The Band and I looked for the nearest stage exit as none of us wanted to go down in flames. It seemed like nothing had changed. If we thought the response was extreme on the earlier tours we played, this was positively apocalyptic. Every one of us on the stage thought that we’d really done it this time—that the fans were going to burn the arena down. Obviously we were wrong. We misinterpreted and misunderstood the reaction of the crowd. What we believed to be disapproval was actually a grand appreciative gesture. Appearances can be deceiving.
“For this series of paintings, the idea was to create pictures that would not be misinterpreted or misunderstood by me or anybody else,” he continues. “When the Halcyon Gallery brought the idea of me doing American landscapes for an exhibition, all they had to do was say it once. And after a bit of clarification, I took it to heart and ran with it. The common theme of these works having something to do with the American landscape — how you see it while crisscrossing the land and seeing it for what it’s worth. Staying out of the mainstream and traveling the back roads, free-born style. I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past. That you have to master the idioms of your own time before you can have any identity in the present tense. Your past begins the day you were born and to disregard it is cheating yourself of who you really are.”
Bob Dylan, The Beaten Path runs from November 5 – December 11.
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