Griffin & Sabine
An Extraordinary Correspondence
Nick Bantock
Griffin Moss is a poor artist, designer of postcards, living in a garret in London. He gets a love note from Sabine Strohem. She lives on Katie, one of the Sicmons, a chain of five islands in the South Pacific. She too is an artist, designs stamps for the impoverished government to sell to stamp collectors all over the world.

The way they find each other: she has visions of his art work. "When you draw or paint, I see what you are doing while you do it." To prove it she tells him, "Last week while working on a head in chalk, you paused and lightly sketched a bird on the bottom corner of the paper."

Griffin & Sabine came out ten years ago; this is the 10th Anniversary Limited Edition; and the whole thing is a corker. Lovely geckoes, kangaroos with hats, giraffes with cigarettes. Open it, see at first the front of the postcards with gorgeous island stamps (Bali-like masks, birds and butterflies) along with great illustrations and those boring English stamps of the queen.

Then, on page 13, envelope addressed to

    Griffin Moss
    41 Yeats Avenue
    NW 3

Turn the page open the envelope, and there is a creamy paper, the clear writing of Sabine, telling of her father who collected specimens for the Natural History Museum in Paris; who once told her "Pain and beauty, our constant bedfellows." "Don't feel invaded," she tells Griffin.

The next page, envelope addressed to her, decorated in filigree (Renaissance face, long nose being snapped by smiling fish --- see below). Open up the envelope: bad typing, childhood stories of father "wearing his traditional uniform of socks and moth-eaten dressing gown," mother in her "lemon carpet slippers and housecoat." Mother and father die in accident when he is 15, he moves in with mother's stepsister, "a potter, the kindest person I've ever met."

§     §     §

Wandering through Griffin and Sabine is like moving into the lives of two artistic, sensitive people, and having a chance to read their mail. The cards and letters are loaded with drawings and sketches, primitive and Renaissance, naturalistic. Further on in the book the pictures and words get weirder, more violent (banana shooting bullet through apple; four naked featherless birds crowding each other, vacant blue-blind eyes) The words, too, become more desperate: "I never used to be like this," he writes: "My days are barren." She tells him to visit, but:

    Things have become so difficult ... you don't exist ... I invented you ... before it takes me over it has to stop.

Then she:

    You do not dismiss a muse at whim.

--- Kathy Windsor
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