My story is like water between the deep earth and the great sky. The story flows and it finds a way into images. It is the journey of the eye which expands and shrinks, carries and unloads. The current path is described by this collection of images. This body of work could have been titled “where the water runs” but on reflection I found “reverberation” more appropriate. The trajectories that I have worked with have had an ongoing effect and resonance.
In 2015 I worked in a Triangle workshop upstate New York. This included time visiting artists’ studios, galleries and museums. In November 2018 I moved my working studio back to our home. Working without distraction and quite isolated from my usual communities I was able to look back and allow specific images to surface. While working on a few experimental pieces the ideas began to describe the way this body of work would come together. Having completed the work I find three starting points, three threads that are embedded in all the work.
The first; as a painter I want to bring what I see outside, in. Into my consciousness and then into an image. This is evident in the mobile where I have tried to bring the “milky way or milky circles” closer to us. Bringing the outside in, transforming it and letting it out again in some form.
The second; the idea of coming home or coming or age. This is evident in working with the irises and the temple tiles. The irises in the marshes, (the Tales of Ise) and the threshold tiles to the chamber of a Syrian home. Two lines from the tales of Genji written in the same era as the tales of Ise are, “here are my roots, here is my heart.”
Thirdly; Working with family and friends, working alone and collectively. The idea of parts to the whole and the whole relating to the parts; the coming and going of breath and of the tides.
The specific ideas for this exhibition are drawn and extended from a sculpture I made at the Triangle workshop and two pieces of work at the Metropolitan museum. The sculpture was made with Perspex stripes. The two images that attached themselves to me from the many that I saw at the Metropolitan museum, were the Irises painted by Ogata Korin and a tile on the Temple steps in the Damascus room. When I looked more closely, I discovered that they are both dated circa 1707/ 1715
“irises in bloom with green foliage creating a rhythmically repeating but varied pattern across the six panels.” (description from Wikipedia) These screens were presented in the Temple in Kyoto during the Edo period and came to the Metropolitan museum in 1953. Poems from this era include Waka poems and Tales of Ise. “here are my roots, here is my heart…” They are poems of love and of nature, nostalgia and melancholy.
The graceful curves holding the pieces together in a semi visible way, the play of the leaves and the grace of the violet/purple irises brings an awareness of life. They are floating on shimmering water. These irises grow prolifically in the marshy wetlands. Although they are drifting on golden water, I want to bring them in and allow them to dance.
The Damascus room is a reception chamber brought intact from Syria. Like the rock paintings on the wall of local mountains, there is poetry inscribed on the walls. Visitors enter this chamber through what used to be a cupboard. Gold leaf and gesso painted on wood bring the colour and surface to life. The texture and varied surfaces respond to the changes in light. There is a small fountain; soothing sounds of trickling water bring a sense of calm and awe to the beauty as we enter and wait. We are visiting a person’s home; we can share a book, we can be there and imagine the past, this place and we place ourselves within and outside of all that this place shares with us. The longing, the natural way of belonging urges us towards a tranquil space usually called home. The tile I saw on the step is the middle one of seven. If we half close our eyes the tile can be an ascending experience (the off centred squares) and it also spirals (the four central triangles.) This spiralling and circling of one object, one tile in time (it caught my eye) reverberates with personal memory, stories, vibrates into our bones and we can connect in silent rhythms and sounds in space.
The Perspex sculpture made of woven strips of transparent colour is immersed in a shallow river bed. The reeds reflect across it. The sunlight changes and the colours seem to move. But it is the fish that move as they weave themselves between, under and over the strips. Perhaps after these years it has submerged and is resting in a bed of mud.
My father always worked with wood. He made spinning wheels and looms; he and I learnt to weave. My mother taught me to spin, sew, knit, draw, paint, crotchet, read and listen to music. They and others gave me love; to work and to love.
I have worked alone as a painter, weaver and sculptor. I work with other artists in workshops and when I teach. I exchange friendships with others and within myself.
The exhibition as a whole becomes a symphony which the viewer is very much part of, as is the reader of this catalogue.
The “reverberations” from work made so many years ago has contributed to what I have made and how I have worked. The skills, craftsmanship and impact of ideas have been passed on and received with care and diligence. Daily observations that are transmitted and transformed become new images after exploring, experimenting and seeking them out. There is a pulse and rhythm to the symphonies that happen alone and in collaboration.
The following comments from my journal may be of interest.
Painting arrives from within although it has been sourced by one’s eyes.
I read quite extensively and find poems, novels, commentary useful to the way I see.
I rarely listen to music when I work; I like the sounds of the day and the night.
The space created by an image makes my imagination open and sing for more; then I have to edit. Erasing, losing, finding, scratching and balming are parts that make up the cycle I work in.
I feel free to move with work and life and not career and fashion.
Frightening images come into focus; I look them in the eye and usually remove them or embed them. I go on, that is the point.
The difference between disordered seeing and practical seeing is very important to me. Disordered seeing happens when you go down a rabbit hole of narrative or are seduced by colour. You become fascinated and intrigued or try to be didactic. Ha! I back pedal after adventures like those and keep to the language of the materials, the language of the aesthetic perhaps, the language of the eye.
I use numbers. I count and I talk to myself as if I am a few people making the decision about what colour or brush to use. ‘you will be able to speak if you listen, I say.’
When to rest and stretch and close my eyes. ‘I need sunlight and air, dark nights and water.’ I look inside and stop talking; clarity nudges me on. This is especially necessary when I have worked physically hard, it feels good. But that is not about the work it is about me and the two are not the same at all.
Much of this is beyond words and recognisable images; the need to communicate what happens during some of the time I have spent being with these images draws me on.
‘Write about colour as feeling and feeling as colour.’
‘the edge of the frame, the end of the work becomes the edge of an inner world. Especially on a flat surface one accepts this metaphor.’ (and in a poem)
‘what has been seen and what is seen in the mind differ; reading these differences becomes a skill.’
‘slow rhythms of visual variation and velocity that creates beats and melodies seducing the viewer into reverie of possible allusion/association/remembering’
‘a single part of a whole movement, a note from a violin within a symphony’
‘narrative is inevitable; there is always a sense of journey on earth or water or air, in shadow that lays itself over great spaces. There is no need for a beginning and an end as such. I am absorbed in a relationship until I separate and let it be.’
‘naturally, to work naturally, needless to say in my mind means connecting opposites and playing with numbers.”
Seeking ordinary, the leveller, the equalizer; a moment of stillness in the chaos of colour and life.
‘numbers are about time, rhythm, pattern, and their opposites. I play with them as I work. Numbers are and do the following; they are remembered forgotten, added together, shuffled, made larger and smaller, darker and lighter. This playfulness loosens my mind, fluid mind and I feel free from my own expectations; (paintings can suffer from expectations). I can just be in time instead of worrying about time. Paintings move when my mind moves easily.’