In 2018 I made a small Ex Votive painting about Goonhilly Earth Station which was part of the 100 painted vows series. Today I was lucky enough to actually visit the site to hear about the amazing and very complex work they undertake, sending and receiving communications from outer space .
The huge antenna of these receivers can be seen for miles, and are a much loved part of the landscape for those living on the Lizard Peninsular, Cornwall. So it was, that on a misty October morning I found myself climbing up inside one of these structures , build like a ship, of thick sheet metal held together with massive bolts. Functional metal staircases took us up and up from one landing to another into a room space with more technology at its centre.
These wonderful sculptural forms when combined with the kind of technology you see on films, and the clever team, collect and distribute radio waves from space , which are transformed through a variety of techniques into readable and transferable data that is so valuable around the world , and goes to provide reference information for all our futures.
It really is another world, and I feel very lucky to have been able to visit this special place, to learn a little bit more about what they do and to have made so welcome today.
Next week an exhibition celebrating the life of Muriel Gardener opens in London at the Freud Museum. It seems she came from an affluent American family and was a woman of enormous courage and compassion, taking great risks to save lives while in Austria in the 1920’s. There, she fought fascism aiding the Resistance movement living a double life, smuggling fake passports into Austria to help resistance fighters flee the country. Her quest for fairness and equality continued until her death.
Then on the news this week we learnt more about the young Journalist Lyra Mckee , two men are charged with her murder.
These two women are a reminder for me, of all of those people with courage, working underground or as journalists, film makers or reporters , that risk their lives to help others and to inform us. With an integrity that comes from being there, seeing with their own eyes, they shine a light into the darkest corners, giving so much of themselves to make the world a better and fairer place for everyone.
In 2019, I made this small Ex Votive painting (part of 100 Painted Vows). Lyra and so many others, represent the best of the human race in the worst of times.
It is impossible not to feel great sadness and compassion for all those involved and living in Afghanistan at the moment, as we witness their escalated fear and suffering.
When I listen to the news each day, I think of the Afghan people, so afraid for their lives and future’s, especially the women. Of those who went there to help the people and animals . Our soldiers, some who remain, what must they have seen and been through. What of of those who sacrificed their lives serving over there or were hurt , and their dignified and devastated families left to pick up the pieces, whatever must they be thinking and feeling as troops leave. I can’t begin to imagine .
Words, paintings or gestures, nothing is enough. As we witness these historic events in the twenty-first century, nothing seems to alter their fateful path. These small votive or prayer paintings made some years ago, keep calling out to me from the corner of the studio. A reminder that so little has changed and illustrate mans continued inhumanity to man through the atrocities of war, while the fires stoked by tyrants rage on.
“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
Milan Kundera, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of being’
Kundera’s novels are intense , and realms of moral judgment are suspended . As a young man in communist Czechoslovakia, he turned to the novel. Kundera recalls: The only thing I deeply, avidly, wanted was a lucid, unillusioned eye. I finally found it in the art of the novel. This is why for me being a novelist was more than just working in one “literary genre” rather than another; it was an outlook, a wisdom, a position . . . a considered, stubborn, furiousnonidentification.
It was as a young painter that I first discovered Kundera’s books, thinking at the time that his particular method of writing bore similarities to my partners working process, he was a painter. Revisiting one his books in my studio this week, it sparked my own thoughts about distortion in art and in life.
Kundera, in his collection of Essays entitled, Encounters, one of the cultural figures he considers is the Irish born figurative painter Francis Bacon, he asks the question, “Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself?” It’s a question that resonates throughout the book. To what degree can we be distorted by violence and fear … in short, by history … and still be ourselves? Kundera sees this distortion everywhere, a distortion that art and artists embrace and explore.
He described Bacon’s portraits as “an interrogation on the limits of the self, and considers “the brutal gesture” , the “hand movement that roughs up another person’s face in hopes of finding, in it and behind it, something that is hidden there”, and I really do see and understand that driving force in Bacons work.
During our lives, most of us will consider to what degree of distortion does a beloved person still remain a beloved person? For how long does a cherished face growing remote through illness, through madness, through hatred, through death still remain recognizable? Where is the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self?”.
Critics tell us that Kundera’s subjects are mirrors, offering variously distorted reflections on his own work and situation, perhaps so. He did say, with reference to a remark by Francis Bacon about Beckett: “When one artist is talking about another, he is always talking (indirectly, in a roundabout way) of himself, and that is what’s valuable in his judgment,” so that does offer us some insight into himself and others .
Milan Kundera, Encounter
Milan Kundera and Francis Bacon, who transcend the mundane .
While civilisations moral compass lays trampled underfoot by so many in the world…. as reported 24/7 in the media. I hope that you can find peace of mind and good health on this wet and windy Sunday. So I thought I’d share with you this gentle painting of my cat and garden fruits painted in 2010, and show you the boxes of new paints that have just arrived in my studio and that will keep me busy. I hope that these colourful jewels … or these tubes of old holland oil paint, will aid my studio alchemy, we shall see x.
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.
I have just taken delivery in the studio, of this recycled wooden chair . It is the second that I have had made from drawings, by a friend and carpenter, he can make and fix almost anything …. brilliant !
After some trial and error I decided on these base colours , which suite the theme I have in mind, but these colours may or may not remain dominant, that will depend on how it all develops and comes together over the coming weeks.
So this will keep me busy for a while.
Right , music on ….. ideas flowing ….. paints lined up, a pile of brushes, empty pots, rags, some soapy water and we are off!
There are artists who lift the spirit with their paintings, perhaps with their skill, portrayal of great beauty, colour or narrative , top of that list for me with his figurative and very personal choice of subject matter is Ben Hartley 1933 – 1996 .
When Ben died, he bequeathed all of his work to Bernard Samuels who was then Director of Plymouth Arts Centre , and in response Bernard put on many exhibitions and made publications sharing these lovely works with us all. Pigs Must Eat on Sunday, by Green Books ltd , remains a much treasured gift on my bookshelves from a dear friend who many years ago introduced to his work . We both enjoyed Bens wonderful observation and the tender humour in his work .
Bernard later discovered letters that Ben wrote to Susan his niece in Manchester during the 1960’s , which were compiled into a book of his drawings of rural life, entitled, Dear Susan by Ben Hartley.
I shall continue to enjoy his uplifting work, perfect any day, but especially on rainy or sad days x.
I was reading an article the other day and thought , they are odd bedfellows, profit hungry firms and animal welfare practices. It seems that there has been a call for Equity Giants to be investigated as more than half of Uk Veterinary practices are now owned by six companies, creating a monopoly.
In advertising, subliminal methods are used all the time to encourage us to make purchases , we are encouraged …. subliminally to think we need some new cream or a particular car to live happy lives. So this works on that psychological spectrum , as pet owners know only too well , a sick animal is family , our defences come down when we go in search of urgent help. So does that make us animal lovers perfect prey for the profit hungry companies? It would appear so, if the newspaper reports are true.
There are stories of pet owners having problems with some private equity vets, being in some way held to ransom, by the prices of out of hours clinics in an emergency. I read that Tory peer Lord Blencathra has become involved and doesn’t want our pets health to be in the hands of venture capital firms and asks for an ‘immediate freeze’ on private companies buying UK veterinary practices, which sounds very sensible.
It seems Medivet, has more than 300 practices and is part-owned by Inflexion Private Equity, which has referred to its vets as ‘cash-generating units’. IVC Evidensia owns 993 vet practices out of around 6,000 in total. It’s owned by Swedish private equity group EQT, with food giant Nestle holding a minority stake. Where did James Herriot and his values and priorities go, all the while we remain in the dark about these mergers and the price links between what we had imagined were different vet practises. Worse, where does that leave the sick animals belonging those unable to meet the inflated costs?
In the meantime , I realise that the majority of vets and their teams have only animal welfare at the forefront of their actions, if they answer the equity companies or not. However , If this take over bothers you, as it does me , you might like to check out your own vets status .
A dogs loyalty is well recognised the world over , their forgiveness and love is so bountiful, even from those that have short and pitiful lives . In my experience having a dog as part of the family is brilliant, sometimes messy , occasionally worrying but mostly good fun and a laugh. The worst and hardest bit, is when you have to say goodbye, they leave a massive dog shaped hole in your heart. In this post I want to honour all dogs with a few of my paintings and some wonderful vintage photos,( unfortunately I am not sure who took those), they all record some very special relationships x .
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 !
I love this time of year. When Mother nature begins to retreat to replenish her reserves. As a metaphor for life , I too think of autumn as being a time of harvest, completion and transition , with winter a time of endings and rest.
In the garden, a few flowers linger, the leaves are changing colour and the light has a different quality . Nights are colder , garden birds are glad of any extra seed and scraps. Indoors jumpers are at the ready and summer clothes put away .
It will soon be time for winter, and those treats that come with cosy evenings tired after muddy woodland walks. Hot chocolate and cake by the fire, favourite books , thick socks , low light and good company .
It’s a time of year that has inspired many paintings. Seeing them , especially as I grow older, it gives me the chance to go back to that moment when they were painted , the places and people …. to revisit the past .
Summer is a special time, perhaps that feeling began in childhood having time to yourself because of the school holidays. To me it now offers the opportunity to recharge low batteries after the grey winter months . Flower filled borders, colour, the chance to throw open the windows and doors, cast off old jumpers and have picnics outside, sharing unhurried time with family and their news. A tonic for us all.
This poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, called The summer shone around me, reminds me of rural life in my childhood , playing in nearby fields, discovering the rich diversity of unfamiliar insects and wildlife that lived there and making up names for some that bore no accuracy other than perhaps in colour or shape .
THE summer sun shone round me,
The folded valley lay
In a stream of sun and odour,
That sultry summer day.
The tall trees stood in the sunlight
As still as still could be,
But the deep grass sighed and rustled
And bowed and beckoned me.
The deep grass moved and whispered
And bowed and brushed my face.
It whispered in the sunshine:
“The winter comes apace.”
As the quality of light changes and the evenings begin to cool my senses are heightened by the changing colours and textures in nature. Admiral spiders appear in quiet corners of the house in spite of evictions. In the garden fledglings have grown fatter and wiser, those that have made it that is. Only stumps are left now where the spring cabbages once flourished before the caterpillars moved in and were left to have a party ! The scarlet runner bean flowers and green tendrils twist ,reaching into the air because they have grown so tall and run out of poles, the potatoes are ready to be lifted and the apples are falling. It is beautiful to stand in the garden to hear the crows calling across the fields , I feared they had all gone after so much gunfire in the last days of August. It never ceases to amaze me how nature continues through adversity, to bring us its amazing seasonal gifts .
I hope that you have had a good summer and enjoy the last of its warmth and colour x.
Hokusai returned again and again to Mount Fuji as subject matter. He considered the mountain to be the source of the secret of immortality because of the goddess in the tale of the Bamboo cutter, who deposited the elixir of life at its peak.
Katsushika Hokusai, (1760–1849), is a wonderful artist, printer and engraver. I was introduced to his work at college where I realised I was already familiar with his famous image of the wave, because it is so universally popular. Wood block printing is a real craft, a traditional form of art in Japan known as ‘Ukiyo-e’ which refers to pictures printed in many colours using woodblocks, and popular in Japan around the 18th century .
He played a significant roll in influencing Western artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries , an influence that is evident in many of the works by Monet, Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh. I was surprised as a student to learn that this influence on the impressionists and post impressionists began, in a way, because of the ceramics that were being exported to the west, they were being wrapped in Ukiyo-e prints, because they were were not valued, and were used as wrapping paper to protect the pots on their journey. Of course when the western artists saw how different they were, their influence began to spread .
These images come from the series of 36 and more wood block prints that Hokusai made of Mount Fuji, and I this thought it might be a good way to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
A special good wish to John Rudd and all , he is leading Ireland’s Swimming and Diving team in this years Olympics.
I have over the years often returned to children and childhood as the subject of my paintings. This follows two paths of exploration, my own childhood memories and experiences, and the lives and moments I witness of children that are part of my family or that I happen to encounter.
Children are so full of hope, and unencumbered by ego. They live for the moment and embrace life, real or imagined . They trust us to do the right thing, by them and for the world, the same things that mattered to us when we were small, and that so many adults have long since forgotten or abandoned, for whatever reason .
In some paintings I have explored the moment a child recognises the power they hold over a weaker friend, I wonder, what path will they choose, to be kind or to harm?
Those I know hold a lust for life, like to laugh, are full of hope and want to learn, to know how things work. Viewing the world with humanity and openness, uncluttered by too much analysis. They are good company with amazing ideas, which are refreshing and humbling.
Just a few of the reasons children and childhood continue to inspire my work.
As the great and the good are meeting here in Cornwall very soon, I thought I’d post a few of my paintings with old News Headlines, which highlight a few of the G7 issues to be addressed.
The seven G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. Represented jointly by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, the EU participates in all discussions as a guest. The UK has also invited leaders from Australia, India, South Africa, and South Korea to attend the Leaders’ Summit as guest countries.
Issues on the agenda – Biodiversity, Governance, Health, Sustainable Development, Industrial Development, Economics & Investment, Climate Change, National Action.
G7 set to strike deal on global corporate taxation
Delegates at the meeting said the G7 would agree in principle to change the basis of international corporate tax law for the first time in a century. The historic plan aims to force the world’s biggest companies to pay more tax in countries where they do business, not only where they are headquartered.
G7 nations committing billions more to fossil fuel than green energy
The nations that make up the G7 have pumped billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than they have into clean energy since the Covid-19 pandemic, despite their promises of a green recovery.
The support for fossil fuels from seven of the world’s richest nations included measures to remove or downgrade environmental regulations as well as direct funding of oil, gas and coal.
Paul Cook, the head of advocacy at Tearfund, which operates in some of the poorest countries in the world most affected by global heating, said: “Every day, we witness the worsening consequences of the climate crisis for communities around the world – farmers’ crops failing; floods and fires engulfing towns and villages; families facing an uncertain future.
‘Stop talking, start acting’ on plastic waste, Chris Packham urges G7
300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year but less than 10% of all plastic has ever been recycled. Calling for the issue to be a priority at next month’s G7 summit in Cornwall, television presenter Chris Packham, along with Nestlé, the Co-op, and Aldi, as well as raft of politicians and NGOs are all urging the government to set out a globally aligned approach to deal with the problem.
Migrant crossings: Almost 200 people cross English Channel
Nine boats carrying almost 200 migrants crossed the English Channel in one day.
The Home Office said a further 53 people were prevented on Thursday from making the journey by French authorities, who stopped three boats.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Criminal gangs are putting people’s lives at risk. These dangerous and unnecessary crossings to the UK from safe EU countries are taking advantage of our broken asylum system, which is why we are working to fix it.”
Dominic Raab welcomes G7 foreign ministers to London for first face-to-face talks in two years as they discuss ‘rising threats’ from China and Russia
Asked what message the summit communique to be issued on Wednesday will send to authoritarian regimes, Mr Raab said: ‘We believe in keeping trade open, we believe in standing up for open societies, for human rights and democracy, we believe in safeguarding and promoting public good, whether it is the environment and tackling climate change, particularly with (climate change summit) Cop26 coming up in November, but also dealing with pandemics and public health more generally.’
G7 ministers will invest 15 billion US dollars (£10.9 billion) in development finance over the next two years to help women in developing countries access jobs, build resilient businesses and recover from the impacts of Covid-19.
They are also expected to sign up to new targets to get 40 million more girls into school, and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 in poorer nations by 2026, the FCDO said.
But the commitments come as Mr Raab faces sustained criticism for cuts to foreign aid, from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, citing the financial impact of the pandemic.Those attending were also due to discuss violence in Ethiopia, Iran and North Korea, Somalia, the Sahel and western Balkans, as part of what the UK Government said were ‘pressing geopolitical issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights’.
G7 leaders told to scrap discriminatory gender laws from statute books
(This article is more than 1 year old) G7 leaders at the summit in Biarritz.
The G7 leaders have been told to get rid of discriminatory gender laws that still exist on their statute books and begin enshrining equal rights in the legal system.
Discriminatory laws range from the UK’s legal position on child marriage, to limits on free contraception in Germany, or regressive laws on abortion in certain US states and a lack of federal law guaranteeing paid maternity leave.
The leaders were addressed by the Nobel laureate Nadia Murad – a Yazidi woman from Iraq who was kidnapped and raped by Islamic State before she escaped, going on to become a human rights campaigner –– and Denis Mukwege a Congolese gynaecologist who has treated tens of thousands of rape survivors.
Mums too poor to buy nappies, 200 rise in families using food banks – why Biden’s G7 heaven is hell for residents
But as Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, Angela Merkel and Co discuss cancelling Third World debt, they will be doing so in one of the poorest parts of Britain — where thousands struggle to feed their families or buy nappies for their babies.
The use of local food banks has soared by 200 per cent in the last year alone.
“People think Cornwall is the second home of the rich and famous — well, a small part might be but the rest of us are really struggling.
“We’ve got a real problem here. I’ve been out of work for ten months and using the food bank for six months because it’s the only way me and my ten-year-old son can eat.
Government continued to source PPE from Malaysia suppliers accused of modern slavery
Gloves manufactured by a company under investigation for labour abuses, are being used by frontline healthcare workers in the NHS. The government continued to source personal protective equipment (PPE) from companies facing modern slavery allegations, despite promises to crack down on suppliers accused of labour abuses, The Independent can reveal.
I came upon the work of Photographer Craig Easton recently. He has made a wonderful study of contemporary Fisherwomen of the country. In his work he celebrates the roll of women in the fishing Industry, communities and their links to centuries gone.
Living and working in Cornwall I have gained the greatest respect for anyone who lives from the sea, out in all weathers and conditions, when any misjudgment can have serious consequences .
The Newlyn School Artists told of similar stories at the time. Perhaps offered in a less fashonable form. All the same, the painters skill and narrative brought those women to life , they’re faces and clothes, red working hands , the community, and the tragedies .
To find out more about both Craig Easton and some of the Newlyn Artists follow the links below.
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 .
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