Friday, 27 September 2019

Fluency

I think I am beginning to develop some fluency after many, many years of struggling to manifest my ideas in visual form. I feel a greater trust in the process now.

This new painting developed out of a spontaneous drawing I did one afternoon, and then refined into a symmetrical design (symmetry seems to be essential to me at the moment). At first I thought she was a river spirit, flowing as she does. But as I explored further, the word fluency came to me and took on significance. 


The word dates from the early 17th century, when it meant ‘abundance’, and then ‘smooth and easy flow’; originally from Latin fluentia, from fluere, meaning ‘to flow’.

The influence of water, and therefore fluidity, has been with me since the inception of this blog, seeing as its symbolism is so tied up with the drip/surge of creativity, with the offerings that I am attempting to draw up from my own imaginative wellspring to share with the world.

Thoughts of language and the way we use words and story have also been important, surfacing in poems like ‘A New Language’ and paintings like Necklace of Mouths and Mothertongue. It’s clear that we need to change the way we speak (and write), and I believe that poetry is a crucial part of this—and poetic art—along with listening to the voices of the ancestors, and the earth herself.

Meaningful words are still scarce for me, though some flow is beginning to return, which makes me very happy indeed. And the symbolic connections that I am finding in my images is also pleasing me greatly. 

This image of Aphrodite seated on a swan (or goose?) throne from 6th century BCE Greece was a core influence, with her hooded, columnar form. 


This I combined with that quintessential Goddess number—three—in the triangles, and the tri-lines emerging from the mouth (already seen in Rainmaker and The Broad One). I was also thinking of the chin tattoos of three or more lines (or more elaborate designs) that appear in numerous cultures, often on women, whether to represent something in particular, or merely for the purpose of beautifying the face. 

The three lines of Fluency—language, nourishment, creativity—flow down the length of the (seed-like or cocoon-shaped?) body, the two outer lines snaking dynamically—because Snake is never far away—while the central line travels straight. Perhaps this represents the stillness at the centre, flanked by the double motion of life and death, ebb and flow. Also, the movement is downwards, as that is my preferred trajectory, back to earth- and body-knowledge, rooted in matter. 

Forget outer space, I say. Go within!

The carved orthostats of the Neolithic, with their repetitive curves and spirals, which I have always found mysteriously evocative, were also on my mind. It was only later that I remembered the painted or engraved figurines so common to Old Europe, their bodies covered in lines and symbols, and thought: Of course! How could I have forgotten?



Not all connections are immediately apparent. They emerge as my thoughts twist and turn and tread over old ground, and I am pleasantly surprised.

The leaf- or flame-like shapes that sprout from the surface of the figure are perhaps the part that comes most from myself. These are lines of connection, or emanations of energy—little jewels of life and sensation.

I am so happy with this painting. She is serene, yet holds dynamism within. She speaks with and through her body, which sparks with aliveness. She is her own wellspring.

Through the silent waves, what does she say?

Fluency, watercolours and gouache on gesso prepared paper (2019)

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Heroines II

The second Heroines anthology is launched today, featuring my story, A New Land. It’s about an old Polish immigrant couple—Agnieszka and Gregor—and a mysterious nighttime visitor to their vegetable garden.


This tale (along with The Fisherman and the Cormorant, which appeared in the first anthology last year), is part of a series of stories I began to write as I completed Sharon Blackie’s online course, Sisterhood of the Bones (now called Sisters of Rock & Root). This course revolves—quite literally!—around the wheel of the year by examining each of the eight Celtic seasonal festivals, delving into the meanings and themes of each, and connecting it with an associated myth or folktale. 


When I began with Samhain in April 2016, my aim was to use the course to deepen my connection to the land I live on, not just by observing the seasonal changes, and thinking about how I could connect my embodiment here in Australia back to my European ancestry, but also to write a story for each seasonal celebration, thus creating my own local mythology. 

Each story would have a number of features: 

1. It would be set, obliquely or otherwise, at the time of the festival in question
2. It would take place either in, or in relation to, a real place near where I live, in the compass direction associated with the festival
3. It would feature, or at least refer to, an animal associated with the festival, though with an Australian twist

With each story I would take inspiration from the themes of the festival, the associated myth/folktale, or a combination of the two, along with what arose from contemplation of the places and animals.

I completed five of these stories, and was very excited about the possibility of self-publishing the whole series, perhaps with artworks too, before I became stuck. That I got stuck at the story for the summer solstice, one of the festivals I feel a little ambivalent about, says something. As does the idea of voicelessness that seems to need expression through it. I feel as if I have lost my voice over the past couple of years, and this is something I wish to overcome. 

That two of my stories from this mythic series have now been published suggests that I was onto something with this idea. At the very least it was enabling me to create more of a feeling of belonging with my own landscape, and that was a powerful thing. I miss that.

I don’t know if I will ever finish writing the series, though I dearly hope I will. Right now I am just trying to take heart from the fact that two of my stories have flown out into the world! For someone who only started writing fiction in 2014, that is a great achievement in itself.

Heroines: Volume II is available now from the Neo Perennial Press.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Broad One

Here she is! 

The Broad One
Gaia
Mother Earth
All-encompassing Mountain Mother

The Broad One, watercolours and gouache on gesso prepared paper (2019)
The inspiration for this painting came primarily from an image in one of the videos of the Cuban-American ‘earth-body’ artist, Ana Mendieta, whose work I have been exploring recently. This enigmatic winged and breasted being, incised into the wall of a limestone cave, as part of Mendieta’s Esculturas Rupestres (1981), was enough to spark a vision. (You can see a clearer image here.)

Screenshot from https://vimeo.com/212831502
The gushing fountains and spilling vessels of the late Meinrad Craighead’s work have also trickled into my consciousness. As have literal vessels—the many pots and jars that represent the body of the ancient life-giving goddess—unearthed from what was once Old Europe. 



Most of the work I have been doing this year has been ‘experimental,’ exploring the possibilities of new painting techniques, along with trying to tease strange and unexpected ideas from my own body-mind, so I am always pleased when something emerges that is successful. 

There is a pleasing symmetry to this mountain-vessel-fountain being who joins sky with earth, and moonlight with the glowing heart at the centre of things. She is Divine Source, bearer of water and light, keeper of stone and darkness. She is both weight and winged lightness, mother and devourer. I am so glad she has come.

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