Sunday, 25 November 2012

celestial body

This drawing is informal, that is to say that it is not framed, and was made on a scrap of paper, without the intention of publishing. In a rare moment of experimentation, I used a luminous yellow marker pen, together with wax crayon and felt tip, after which I drew into the surface with graphite pencil. The image is not intended to be a detailed drawing of the moon, or any other celestial body. Such work is regrettably beyond my capabilities. Rather it was my intent to return to the mode of representation that I may have used when a child to suggest something of the mystery attached to an as yet unknown, uncharted heavenly body which gleams with the radiance of reflected light, as does the moon.

Friday, 23 November 2012


I cannot witness the rising of the moon without thinking of my father, who loved the moon, and used to watch with delight as the first thin slip of the new moon gradually waxed to become a full brilliant disc, upon the surface of which it was possible to see the shadowed outlines of meres and mountains with the naked eye.

For some years my father had suffered cataracts in both eyes which had grievously distorted his vision, presenting the world as fractured and indistinct, ghostly duplications taking the stead of wholeness, print dissolving and blurring before his gaze. He was in his seventies when the cataracts were removed, and his vision restored once more to shining completeness. For him, it was though a miracle had taken place, he spoke of it as such, and to look upon him, witnessing the air of lightness about him, the new assuredness of his step, but above all, the clean, clear youthfulness of his eyes, we could believe it to be so.

We bought him a pair of binoculars so that he could look more closely on the moon, and a moon map, so that he could understand what he saw, gifts he had long postponed because he would not have been able to see the moon without a gleaming twin appearing alongside, the features of both muddled and inseperable.

In the back garden he tilted the binoculars upwards, exclaiming with child like enthusiasm at what he was now able to see, moving us to tears at his pleasure, hopeful that the transformation to his sight would be long lived.

During the last days in hospital, just before his death, his eyes had seemed very blue, opened wide in anxiety, the eyes of a frightened child. It was difficult to recall that night in the garden, when hopefulness had embraced us as the light of the rising moon had enveloped the garden, holding us rapt, bound together, for those precious moments invulnerable to the fact of our mortality, our inevitable separation from each other. It is the frantic intensity of his worried eyes that I remember, and which I would have given my life to assauge.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

ideas and animals

" Ideas are often as stubborn as shy animals. They retreat when you reach for them, won't come when you call and refuse to be lured at all. But at some point, without your having done anything, they are abruptly there, calm and quiet, yet suddenly clear and strong"

This from the introduction to an exhibtion of the work of the American artist Kiki Smith, at the Barbara Gross Galerie in Munich.

I understand only too well  the elusive nature of ideas, and the futility of blundering pursuit. At present I am waiting, standing silently amongst the grasses at the edge of the forest, hoping that a shy wild beast might come to me, that an idea may appear in my mind, and that I have the resources to articulate it in terms of a drawing. I have not been thus visited for a period of three years,  and am pining for the shape of an idea to assert itself, to emerge from hiding as it were, just as, years ago, whilst living at the lodge and walking in the woods, a female dear appeared before me on the track, slipping gracefully from cover to pause in quiet appraisal, before disappearing once more.

It is intriguing to note that the image of the hind appears regularly in Smith's work, drawn with a sensitive awareness of the creature's consummate wildness, it's nervous liquidity, as though it may slip from view at any moment.

The gallery introduction goes on to state that Kiki Smith uses the visual metaphor of the light bulb to suggest the incandescent frailty of inspiration, the force which illuminates but which can dissipate without warning, the light bulb lying in fragments at one's feet. Her drawings are beautiful, possessed of a delicate naivete and fragility of line, an economy of gesture, expressing the force of an idea, yet also it's vulnerability. They pose the notion that inspiration is  achieved not in isolation, but  instead is the fruit of collaboration with others, requiring the openess and readiness of mind to engage in dialogue.