Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk in the grounds of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas (Photo: Getty Images)

The Friday Poem: (Turquoise: Art & Magic) by Chris Tse

A new poem by Chris Tse.


(Turquoise: Art & Magic)


Rothko Chapel, January 2014

  1. A room in which my hushed mind was a kaleidoscope waiting for light.
  2. I thought about the past year and the absences I allowed to fill me.
  3. I thought I’d never rid myself of the intimacy that pained my heart.
  4. The three words I’d later use to caption the moment: calm, peace, shadow.
  5. Memory tells me I saw black, but each passing year leaves me in doubt.
  6. Rothko said colour is “merely an instrument” for expressing emotion.
  7. I’ve spent my life ascribing too many meanings to every bloom and blush.
  8. There were times I thought I’d die under the weight of a rainbow.


Len Lye Centre, January 2017

  1. Every line jumps like tiny thunder caught in a frame.
  2. Crushed jazz—metallic growl—people falling in together after disaster.
  3. Paint like blood that’s been asked to give away the world’s secrets.
  4. I find myself backing away from every screen that knows too much.
  5. I used to think meaning existed between capture and disappearance.
  6. That the way we allow ourselves to be overcome by colour is human.
  7. I worry that I’ve been conditioned, perhaps softened, by its frequencies.
  8. I have to ask myself why I consider that to be such a bad thing.


Olafur Eliasson, Tate Modern, October 2019

  1. The surrounding light drains us; we become monochrome.
  2. But in the big room we are split into our separate shadows.
  3. The spectrum still dances when no one is looking. It is always alive.
  4. The bridge between art and magic is an eye looking through a prism.
  5. What I know to be art can only be explained by the thumping in my chest.
  6. And the stillness in my blood. And the undoing of how I view water.
  7. Looking up is the only way I’ll see the whole—the hoop that holds our gaze.
  8. Even a black sphere casts colour when it is opened up just so.

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