On April 15th 2019 the world watched in disbelief as the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame burnt before our eyes. This precious architectural Icon and Gothic landmark , built from oak and love was lost, along with much of its contents .
Like so many others I was in awe of its beauty, scale, and the skill of the craftsmen who created that link between earth and heaven .
This small Ex Votive painting marked that time . Today, two years on the restoration and funding to rebuild continues.
I awoke this morning and listened to the news on the radio about Scottish politics. I wondered why the name Alba was so familiar to me. Then I remembered Alfred Wallis’s painting. For some years, like a number of other local artists, I worked freelance at The Tate St Ives to lead workshops and tours, to offer an artists insight into their changing exhibitions.
This is the work of Alfred Wallis, a fascinating painter, self taught and sadly much faked. But his influence on the Post war artists from London, like Ben Nicholson , Hepworth and Christopher Wood is well known. His knowledge of the tides and sea evident in his paintings of ships and boats in a variety of situations and places. He was a mariner who had a variety of occupations, including scrap. In his painting below which belongs to the Tate he has recorded the terrible event of the wrecking of the Panamanian Steamer, the Alba , off Porthmeor beach in the winter of 1938.
Mental health is important for all sentient beings, and I include animals here. Our life experiences and our response to the difficulties along the way will be different for each of us, as will the quality of help and support.
What do I see when I pass a homeless person in a doorway …. a victim or someone accountable for their own situation and perhaps self destructive actions ? ‘There but for the grace of god go I’ my grandmother would have said to me as a child, she always gave half a crown to the tramp that lived in the woods on the way to my primary school . However she was also a shrewd judge of character, and could spot a user or ‘ner do well’ a mile off, to them she gave neither her time nor energy.
In 2018 the ‘beast from the east’ visited our shores, rough sleepers were helped and some interviewed , one particular comment made by a chap called Dave stuck in my mind, he said ‘I just want to go to heaven’ . In response I made this votive painting, and with sadness I contemplated his words, and his wish to escape this world to find a better place. (David is the figure in the hat in the painting above.)
Yemen’s ongoing crises continues. Today on the radio, I listened to an article centred around education and the conditions endured by teachers and children in this war torn country . It seems that some teachers haven’t been paid for a year, schools continue to operate amongst the rubble and bomb damage of buildings, they have no chairs, doors, lights or enough food. Children say they have become used to the sound of gun fire and the need everyday to confront the possibility of dying. Still, schools continue to teach and their children remain eager to learn.
Today the UN warn of yet another threat to Yemen , famine, if as expected the Uk go ahead and cut Aid by perhaps as much as 50% . I can’t offer an explanation of the why’s and wherefores of the military campaign lead by by the Saudi Arabian coalition, I leave that to those more informed, but like you, I do witness the impact on civilians. The world is struggling on so many levels environmentally and practically, here with the fallout of the pandemic and in war torn countries where life is literally a fight to stay alive every day.
So, as an artist, it is towards our elected politicians , heads of state , weapon makers and international negotiators I turn my gaze, when I hear the UN make such grave predictions . However , the date of this paintings is a sad reminder to me, for things to get better, there has to be a will for change, and the Yemeni civilians in 2021 , they still wait.
The painting is a Votive offering, made in 2016. Title – One Hundred Painted Vows.
At the end of last year I asked a friend who is a carpenter to make me a wooden chair. I had an idea of design I wanted, as I had seen a beautiful old lambing chair that was made from recycled timber, unified with a coat of paint.
I drew out the chair in pencil on a piece of A4 and with a tape measure I worked out the proportions . As my friend went out the studio door with the design in his pocket he said, “don’t worry I will make it, but I wont fix it , then you can make any changes you don’t like , and I agreed.
Some weeks later a message came to pop in and see the chair, and I nipped over. I had really been looking forward to seeing my drawing transformed into 3D, and finally there it was.
Looking at it from all angles the shape was just as I had hoped . We discussed the parts we liked and those we didn’t, he didn’t like the arms which we changed , and I wanted a drawer under the seat, and so gradually the chair took shape . The heavy recycled oak and pine chair finally arrived complete in my studio just before Christmas .
I had the in the back of my mind that this might be a ‘thinking chair’ , a space in which one feels safe and relaxed. The kind of chair that is rarely empty in any pub or meeting place and that has a good view out of a window. In the meantime, I put it in the corner of the studio to get used to its shape, and to consider how best to paint it…..
It was in the new year that ideas of colours and imagery began to emerge, and I started work. This method of working was all about putting paint on and taking it off or painting over the next day. But, this process did build up rich multiple layers and developed transitory imagery, which I thought could fit the chairs space and form more naturally than applying anything predetermined .
And so here are a few pictures of it in progress and situ. The drawer is a proving to be a useful space, the question is, what should I keep in there… drawing books, gin and tonic or a lamb …. as intended with the traditional chair.
I listened with great optimism to the radio recently, a rare thing with all the sad news and angry discord . The speakers were sharing information about Coronation Meadows .
It seems that in partnership with conservation charity Plantlife , farmland has been reclaimed for wild flowers, in places where the public can visit. The idea celebrates the beauty and diversity of wildflower meadows for The Queen. Sites where photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas has recorded the resulting abundance of orchids, insects and birds.
Environmentally this is great, and something to look forward to when things improve. If like me, you would like to enjoy the spectacle in Cornwall, at Godolphin Meadows Helston, Cornwall, or to find a site else where in Uk, Ireland, Whales, Scotland or our Islands, follow the link below:
In a new category in the web shop, I thought I’d share some of the paintings I have in the studio that have never been seen, that were made for Sacred spaces.
‘One Hundred Painted Vows’.
These paintings are my response to the avalanche of information we deal with every day, and the feeling that important moments and events were not being given the time they deserved. In response I made this collection of paintings which tell the stories of both personal and international events I wanted to mark over a number of years.
The work also pays homage to the tradition of the Ex Votive and Christian offerings, which are made by and for members of the public. For displayed within a church, they remind the visiting traveller, that there is a shared common good in the world, and invite the Pilgrim to leave their own prayer or thanks vow.
These two very large paintings on board were made for the ceiling of my studio. If you have an interest in angels, you will know that each of these Divine messengers has a different role written down and painted through history. Archangel Michael fights evil and defends integrity . Archangel Raphael brings to us a regenerative healing life force.
I apologise for the basic photos , they were just quick pictures of work in progress. For information on size etc , click link in shop below.
In 2014 I was invited to decorate Godolphin chapel for one day in August. The space is known as the healing chapel . With this in mind, two of the paintings that I made were entitled Sleep I & II. In them I reflect on the death of a child , the darkest experience a parent and family could ever have, and to honour the life long sadness for a sibling as angels watch over in that darkest hour.
Again, these were a part of the 2014 Godolphin healing chapel paintings. I decided to paint, ‘where trouble began’ in the Bible, with the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, when Adam took that bite from the apple, it’s healing that we need after trouble strikes.
Belgian artist, James Ensor is considered an uncompromising painter and printmaker, an innovator of his time, 1860-1949 . Some of his theatrical, macabre and unconventional subject matter made him notable to me as a young student, but the skills he employed throughout his career seem masterly to me now.
It was while studying at Art College at the end of the 1970’s, that I was introduced to this artists extraordinary work by our art history lecturer Peter Gorga, a generous and eccentric tutor who shared with us his deep understanding and appreciation of art and artists.
Here, I offer a few examples of Ensors unnerving subject matter to celebrate Halloween, and to remember this truly skilled, avant-garde artist.
I have brought together 10 paintings that are a part of the series ‘100 painted vows’ made some years ago . Each of them was made in response to Media or News articles. I felt the need to honour the subject matter in the only way I know, through painting, in this case as Ex Votives, both as an offering and a record of that time.
With the prospect of one million plant and animal species in danger of extinction. Sir David Attenborough’s documentary Extinction: The Facts, again gives us the stark warning that humans urgently need to work together to stop the destruction.
With this little painting, I would like to pay my respects to all those who have lost loved ones and friends in recent months, it’s life changing and painful . Today, like many of us, my thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen, the royal family and friends who mourn the loss of Prince Philip ,The Duke of Edinburgh.
Today as part of Lent, the Christian community commemorates Angel Gabriel’s visit to The Virgin Mary . His message is that she will conceive a son , and that he will be called Jesus.
Traditionally known as Lady Day, it’s been celebrated since the fourth and Fifth centuries.
In this painting , my long-suffering sister modelled for me , dressing up, trying different poses and staying still . That day there was a lot of experimenting, and we spent some time discussing just how Mary might have felt about the appearance of an angel and the news he gave her . In the end it was Mary’s modesty and grace that decided this pose, although I did make some other studies that danced to a slightly different beat ……
It would seem odd not to mention – This morning, a Culdrose plane crashed in a field in our village, thankfully I am told the two airmen had ejected from the falling craft, and are now safe . The emergency services and recovery people where on site in minutes. My thanks to the pilots who manoeuvred the plummeting aircraft away from dwellings and to all of those who did such a professional job during this emergency, x.
This is my old rescue dog Ruby, part whippet part terrier. She was known for sharing happiness and any food you might have. When I had a painting studio at Porthleven on the harbour, in the old net lofts, she would come with me each day . While I worked, she would snooze in the chair until lunch time when we’d take a walk to blow the cobwebs away, then it was back to painting for me and back to sleep for her. Contented , with twitching paws, she’d dream of seeing the Ship Inn cat again tomorrow !
This painting, made a few years ago, was inspired by old archive pictures I came across of a Cornish Carnival. These children are in fancy dress as a newly married couple with their dog as the bridesmaid, they have stopped to pose for a photograph on the harbour front .
The other day I listened to some people discussing ‘Sunshine on Leith’ by the proclaimers and what it meant to them . The words got me thinking of people and animals that have been an important part of my life, and that I have had to say goodbye to.
I would like to share with you a few paintings or details, in which those loved ones became my subject matter, and the happy times I remember . I give thanks .
To listen to the proclaimers ‘Sunshine on Leith’, click the link below.
We all recognise that bullying is delivered in a variety of guises. As it is anti bullying week and ironically there is a bit about it in the news , I wanted to put this post up to support two much loved and bright female members of my family . They know all about what its like to be targeted by a bully and their enabling ‘bully monkeys’, (the folks that protect the abuser in order to benefit from the bully’s actions).
As soon as someone who has been really out of order, tells you its ok because they are passionate, or the victim here, or worse they pretend to defend a cause they don’t give a damn about, or say it didn’t happened , as a means of excusing their abusive, insulting, intimidating or humiliating actions , … the red light should go on .
A cautionary warning for the loyal supporters of a bully, ( who are accumulated for use in the abusers ‘stable’), your position is precarious , they will throw you under the bus without a care …. especially if you do not , support them without question loud and clear, if you can see though them, or if they just need another target to add to their endless trail of a misery, damage and destruction .
In my experience the abuser has a fragile ego and needs to put on a ‘show’, (be abusive), regularly. This ‘maintains control ‘ of how they are perceived ( perhaps as dictator or victim today, maybe both at the same time), and this keeps supporters in line, but more important, these bulling episodes provide the cover, for all stuff they really want to keep hidden about themselves.
So stay in the light, grow stronger and be happy x.
Over the years, like many artists, I have made paintings in which I explore mans inhumanity to man, and to nature. For me a determining measure of a civilised , caring society is its willingness to tolerate harming behaviour.
In this collection of paintings, I have gathered together imagery that illustrates what I consider to be ‘harming’ behaviour . Some of the paintings were made for a project entitled 100 painted vows. These images tell the stories of War & Politics, Sexual Predators, Environmental and Animal abuse, Human Rights & Slavery, Trolls, Domestic abuse & Mental Health .
Spring , to see new growth in the garden and in the countryside, the brightness and quality of light , nature in its newness is such a tonic for us all after this winter. Brave flowers slowly begin to appear and the trees come into blossom . It is also time to celebrate in the Christian calendar , a time of rebirth for us all.
This is a painting of the view from my studio window, together with a poem about daisies , because like poet Marjorie Pickthall, I too love to see them on the lawn and watch the little birds eat their seeds when they think no ones looking .
I’d like to wish you a very happy Easter, with plenty of chocolate eggs x !
I thought I’d post a painting made in 2008 of flowers and the produce from our garden ….. it wont be long before they are real , and we can enjoy them both in our gardens and on our tables . Hang on in there x.
It was world Pangolin day this month, highlighting their need for our help. Life for everyone is without doubt, very complicated and difficult right now , but as a painter, the disturbance I feel in my heart and head for environmental crime continues . It was in 2018, prompted by disquiet when their plight was first brought to the worlds attention, that I made this little Ex Votive painting about Pangolins, sweet natured , minding their own business, just living in the forest, but if found, their gruesome fate is made evident in the background of this picture.
Sir David Attenborough is vice -president of this conservation charity, if you’d like to give them a hand in what they do, here is the link .
There are some lovely medieval paintings that can be enjoyed in the four books that make up ‘The Anonymous Life’ manuscripts, which chart the life and miracles of this important Medieval saint, who died in 687 . It was however his thoughtful relationship with animals, his encounters with angels , a life as a hermit ( in this time of the Pandemic Lockdown), and an article I read by Greg Martin which connected the saint to Cornwall that set the seeds for this painting.
Cornish legend has it, that while St Cuthbert’s remains were being transported to Durham they touched a Well , creating the miraculous healing waters in a Cornish cave at low tide . This place can be found at the south west corner of Kelsey Head , Holywell Bay, Nr Newquay. It was where for centuries, Pilgrims and the sick visited, to drink the natural water from the Sacred Spring .
I made this painting some time ago . This week my little muse is off school again, at home, and feeling rough, like many others are at the moment. It is a difficult time for everyone just now, but for those of any age who’s health issues make them more vulnerable, its tough. Get better soon X.
Its known that many of Edward Elgar’s compositions were inspired by the Malvern Hills and surrounding countryside. I discovered a love of his music and the place when I lived nearby, having graduated from Art College.
Listening to this , I am returned to a time spent walking on those hills. We climbed to the top on a clear morning, catching breath, standing on the short dewy grass nibbled by rabbits . In total awe of the view below , feeling like birds in the sky. On one side the black welsh mountains , the other, sweeping green countryside, dotted with tiny houses.
Elgar put his deepest thoughts , experiences and sorrows into this work. It never ceases to move me, his expression of profound emotion a connection to a time and place.
The wonderful Paul Tortelier plays Elgar cello concerto 1st movement
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