Forty years ago this summer, this month, I was seventeen, and on a group bicycle tour in Europe. A couple of weeks into the trip, we were in Oslo, Norway, five of us were riding along a city street toward the train station. One of the boys, Tom, who was riding behind me, fell off his bike into the path of a bus. It ran over him and he was killed instantly.
An ambulance came very quickly and took poor Tom away. The rest of us were told to wait at the scene until a police investigator could come and take our statements.
It was dark and damp, it had been raining earlier, and the sky was still heavily overcast, lead grey, very depressing. It seemed approprate, I had never even known anyone who had died. I didn't know what to do but stand by the curb, there among the old grey buildings in the heavy grey light. There was one spot of color and brightness though, Tom’s blood, a pool of it, spread across the stone paved street. I stood there and stared at it as I waited.
It was amazing, I had never imagined that one person had so much blood, it covered an area as large as Tom’s whole body. The pool was deep and solid in the center but out on the edges it began to follow the squared off contours of the paving stones. It filled into the lower stones but flowed around the higher ones, making a checkerboard design. In some places it followed the cracks between the stones creating thin zigzagging lines leading from square to square. It was a beautiful pattern.
I was amazed how fresh and vibrant the blood looked; shiny and slick. Its color was such a deep intense red and of course the cool grey tones all around highlighted it beautifully, making it seem brighter and richer. I kept expecting it to congeal and turn more of a brown but it didn’t. I could see it was thickening a bit because the breeze, blowing now and then across the crimson surface, built turgid little waves that flattened out very slowly.
I stood and stared at that pool of blood for a long time, fascinated. I remember thinking that I would never in my life forget its sheer visual impact; its color, its shiny surface, the wonderful pattern it made there among the stones. I was sure that someday I would capture that scene in some kind of art, though I had never really done any serious art at that point in my life. I wondered how I would do it.
After a while a workman came and spread sand on the blood. He shoveled the sand into a wheel barrel and took it away, as they had with the rest of Tom. The police came and asked their questions. They didn’t speak much English so it was sort of an interesting challenge to talk to them. It didn’t seem right for the group to just go on, but there was nothing else we could do. That evening we left on a train for Sweden.
On Seeing Red Dave Fitzgerald July 1, 2004 link
Blood Net was presented alongside Tom's story in a 2004 exhibit called "Seeing Red"
Blood Net - 2004
Rope, canvas, acrylic paint
approx 7' high, (varies)