Exploring the River Adur, Boats and Wrecks

River Adur in MistRecently I added a couple of papier mache bowls to my Folksy shop featuring A Letter At Twilight and Dancing at Sunset designs which I had originally made into cards. I thought about the series of photographs that I used to overlay my illustrations, they’re of the River Adur and were taken one evening in November 2011 when the sea mists were rolling in. We lingered for a while, chasing deeper into the mists as the sun went down. It was very atmospheric.

I thought it would be interesting to explore the River Adur a little, to know a bit more about one of the four main rivers of Sussex. So recently, Kevin and I started our investigation at Shoreham where the River Adur finds the sea.

A wreck that I’d seen featured on a paranormal website, intrigued me and I wanted to find it. According to local legend, the wreck was once a fishing vessel that became caught on the rocks during a massive storm in 1893. It is said to be haunted by a group of shadowy figures who seem to be trying in vain to dislodge the boat. They are said to be the boat owner’s family, destitute after the stranding. The nearby footbridge, built in 1781 as a Tollbridge and now a Grade 2 listed building, is also supposedly haunted by a certain “Blue Lady”.  This stirred my interest a bit as I paint blue “ladies”, but I haven’t been able to find out any more of the story.

Wrecked Boat Shoreham

Wreck at Shoreham

The Blue Lady of The Old Shoreham Footbridge

River Adur Mudbank

Carving in St Nicolas' Church

Green Man?

 

We wandered over the bridge looking upriver where a tongue of mud shaped like a cuttlefish harbours gulls, ringed plover and cormorants open winged like phoenixes towards the sun. Apparently there are over 30 words for “mud” in the old Sussex dialect, from thick mud, “slub”, to “smeery”, wet and sticky mud. The muddy silt of estuaries with mudbanks is supposed to be rich and fertile – full of lugworms and the other life like soup – it shifts and rearranges the land, laying it down and sculpting it in a kind of peripheral dance. A swan signet of beige smudges passed beneath us and I thought about the beautiful work of India Flint and her times spent beside rivers, collecting, dyeing, writing and musing. Over the bridge, we watched a murmuration of starlings over Shoreham airport swirl and pulsate like ink dropped into water. We passed a World War II pillbox beside the path crammed with vegetation and junk; this was becoming an interesting, “Edgelands” experience. (Check out a review of the book, Edgelands, and an interesting radio programme by the poet authors.)

Our wanderings took us to nearby St Nicolas’ Church first built around 900 AD. At first I thought, just another church, but inside a few things caught my eye. First, one of the turret windows smudged green by the foliage outside pressing in against the glass as though seeking a light within, and then, amongst decorative stonework of limpet shapes, a few, charming carvings of heads – could one be a green man? – a cat mask and elf carvings too. There were hints of a maritime nature in the church and graveyard that I liked.

River Adur Gull Mud

Over another bridge, the Shoreham Houseboats came into view; well into Edgelands territory now. It is a smorgeborg of wonderful junk put to elaborate and creative use. I had little idea the place was so interesting and artistically inspiring; we saw a group of sketchers with eyes cast out over the mudflats and boats. The flotsam and jetsum of defunct war shells, sheds-on-stilts, a boat made using half a bus, ropes and tyres, log-piles galore, walkways of flower pots, children’s toys, bicycles,…I half expected to see a figurehead or two.Peace One Day Shell

A Shoreham Houseboat

A Shoreham Houseboat

Today I visited an exhibition at Fabrica here in Brighton called Reef by the artist Simon Faithfull and collaborators. It is a poetic exploration of the idea of collapse and renewal. Back in August, an old fishing vessel, the Brioney Victoria, that had reached the end of its human use, was ritually set fire to and sunk off the south coast at Weymouth in Dorset. It was rigged with five cameras that transmited underwater footage of the wreck for 6 days showing the first signs of colonisation by other, non human life. The artist wanted to witness something that was once part of our human world of appointments and schedules, enter a new ecosystem, a world of which it will be a part for hundreds of years, part of geological time. With Reef, he wanted to create a portal into this “other paralell universe” in the murky green depths of the sea. Reef by Simon FaithfullReef Exhibition

A film of the boat being set alight was displayed on a large screen in the darkened church that is Fabrica. The clock – that no longer works – is set at the time the boat sank. Below there are smaller screens where films play of underwater scenes described as of a “deep mournful green colour”. Alien or pea green soup came to my mind or a haunting pea green soup. Bubbling, glugging, muffled underwater sounds emanate from the screens. I like the whole idea of the project and that the boat will become an artificial reef, but I was slightly disappointed in the display; I don’t much like tv screens as display units.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

A Few Inspirations 2

Julia-Zanes - A Bird Flew in the WindowI stumbled on the work of my next inspiring artist while doing a search online that took me to ‘Wild Apples’ magazine. I really wanted to know who’d done the cover for the Fall 2008 edition and one of the pictures inside. I delved a bit deeper and found out that the artist was Julia Zanes. It’s always good to discover an artist whose work is new and exciting to me.
Snakes and Ladders by Julia Zanes

Julia Zanes‘ work is blue-tinged; her paintings have an underwater, dream-like quality. I love the detail, the whitish, ghostly overlayering of imagery, the poised figures. We’re given a snapshot of life, a scene within a story that makes us wonder what has happened a moment before and what is about to happen. The paintings wait, layered with stories, flourishing with underwater life that’s broken by something – the observer(?) – like the bird flying in through the window. And they’re blue, as wonderfully blue as a memory.

Another inspiring artist is Irene Hardwicke Olivieri. Her work is surreal and like me, she paints, sometimes, on wood – panels and doors. I love her intricate and beautiful scenes peopled by figures – little or large and often women; insects, other animals and weird, fanciful creatures haunt corners. Some of her paintings depicture figures, half submerged, divided by two worlds one air-breathing, the other sub-aquatic like the conscious, surface existance and the unconscious world of dreams.

Irene Hardwicke Olivieri - Providing The Pollen

Irene writes personal stories on her paintings. This is something I’d like to do at some stage, but I need to learn to write better with paint! I like her use of natural imagery; her paintings seethe with fertile life. And she paints women often interwoven with this natural imagery. I have a strong liking for paintings with flowers and vegetation such as the in Primavera by Botticelli and 15th and 16th century tapestries.

A recent discovery is Moyo Ogundipe. While researching Mami Wata for my goddess book, I stumbled on a bright painting that I liked instantly:

Moyo Ogundipe-Mami Wata

Detail from Radiance of the Queen by Moyo Ogundipe

More of his work can be seen here.

Looking at several of his paintings at the same time and the “blue” is very noticeable! I’m drawn to his work because of his colours but also because he paints mythological imagery – water/sea spirits, mermaids, women and wildlife – imagery that features in the stories and beliefs of his native land, Nigeria.

Researching for my goddess book has influenced my recent paintings. More about them in my next post :)

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

A Few Inspirations 1

Progress is slow on the art front. I’m continuing with my goddess book and every-so-often get drawn to doing a painting or two. While researching occasionally I stumble on an artist, poem or film that resonates with me. So I thought I’d share a few artists and other inspirations that make me feel encouraged to work more expansively.

Firstly I’ve chosen this video clip of Ariel from the film, The Tempest. It aludes to a liminal, spirit world just out of sight, beside the shore, through woodland trees on an island. A haunting, beautiful realm of magic and spirit. Ariel, male or female or both, resides there in this realm. I like the description of him that accompanies the video clip:

“the embodiment in spirit of human emotion, vulnerability and compassion. He can transform his physical presence into essences of light, fire, wind and water, and the corporeal manifestation of harpies, frogs, stinging bees and bubbling lava”.

Freed from his/her imprisonment in a tree by Prospero, he/she is bound to serve the magician but yearns for freedom; (I can relate to that.)

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong,
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

Ethereal, otherworldly, ghostlike, haunting, with nature and water – all ingredients that moved me to paint my Siren picture a few years ago.Siren

I’ve drawn on my Siren painting for my goddess Lethe of the River Hades, one of the six rivers of the Ancient Greek Underworld – a goddess of the liminal world. While researching for her, I stumbled on the an installation which was the result of a collaboration between the sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll and the film-maker Tereza Stehlikova called “Rivers of Hades: Forgetfulness (Lethe)”. Forgetfulness by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza StehlikovaBoth artists were exploring perception and synesthesia. (Synesthesia is something I’m fascinated by … hearing colours, seeing sounds, the blurring of the senses.)

I like the description and photos of the installation, how it is about a viseral relationship with nature, memories, feelings and dreams. It is made of translucent rawhide giving it an organic, animal quality and the colours of twilight. It is sculpted in such a way as to suggest water caught in time or a body in water with video images projected on or through it, representative of memories, dreams, the otherworldly, hauntings, ghosts and death. This is Lethe, a river which the dead must cross to forget their former lives, a River of Forgetfulness (like my River of Memory painting that I have painted before). Video images cross and blur boundaries and edges suggesting impermanance and fragility. I would have liked to have seen the exhibition and the Sensory Worlds conference that staged it.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

Pathway Through the Wood

Walking Blind the Night of the CometPathway Through the WoodThis morning I thought about a pen and ink drawing I did years ago titled “Walking Blind the Night of the Comet”. It’s dated 14th April 1997 so the comet must have been Hale Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997. I’d been invited by a friend to go to Devil’s Dyke in the South downs to take photos at night. Fortunately the night was clear and we had good views. I have a photo of the comet somewhere as a faint smudge of light, but here is the drawing I did a few days later.

I’ve looked a lot at the work of Samuel Palmer one of my favourite artists. I love his sepia, moonlit scenes; like him I have put the moon in many pictures. I feel drawn to black and white drawings and photos, and enjoyed looking at the small sketchbooks of Julien Bell in a current exhibition at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery called Dreams of Here. The exhibition also features works by Tom Hammick and Andrzej Jackowski. I was interested in seeing Tom’s work as the flier read that he “uses landscape as his starting point, but a landscape shaped by memories and dreams”. I’m becoming increasingly drawn to landscapes both inner and outer and how they feature in art and literature. Tom Hammick’s work did not disappoint and I appreciated his dark scenes of trees, figures and obscure imagery as well as his vivid colours.

Feeling inspired by my old drawing, Samuel Palmer and the exhibition, I decided to visit some local woods in Brighton and look at trees and paths. I like paths. Paths are worn with stories. I took photos but my creative result is a pen and ink sketch from my imagination featuring a crescent moon once again! I’ve named it “Pathway Through the Wood“. The spindly trunks and coils of bramble stand out at the moment, late winter, hence the swirls in the foreground.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

River goddess project

As rivers have meant so much to me recently, I decided to create a River Goddess. I liked the idea of making an offering to the river in the way that the Celts used to sacrifice valued objects, or how in some Hindu festivals a goddess is given to the waters. My idea was to paint a goddess and set her adrift on a local river. For me, it would symbolize returning something to water, the source, and a letting go to launch a new phase in my life.

Lying referenceMoana in processRiver Goddess Moana

I bought an old length of scaffolding board from the Wood Recycling Store and lugged it home. After sanding it down ready for painting, I decided I needed some reference material for the arms so I lay down and Kevin took my photograph. I was still in my “blue” phase then – which has now passed – so I painted her blue and named her “Moana” which means ocean blue or the sea in Polynesian. I thought she looked a bit polynesian. She wasn’t intended for the ocean though, just the river.

After painting my Goddess, I realized that I’d probably been inspired – subconsciously – by a number of paintings and works of art. Here are a few that I think may have been in the back of my mind: Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon – I may just have just been inspired by Oceanic art as Picasso quite possibly was; Klimt’s The Kiss – I like the awkwardness of the figures and how they lie close to the top edge; Edvard Munch’s Madonna; Ophelia by John Everett Millais – I like the details of flowers and tried to indicate some water plants on my painting; Ana Mendieta’s Silueta earth art has always interested me; a beautiful, haunting photograph from the film Women without Men by Shirin Neshat captures my imagination and an underwater sculpture, Alluvia by Jason De Caires Taylor in the River Stour, Canterbury is something I must go and see. Finally, I love the work of Ahmad Nadalian who has made many ritual offerings to rivers. Below is his Anahita, Goddess of the waters – fertility, healing and wisdom. But there must be others….Gauguin perhaps?

Les Demoiselles D'AvignonMadonna by Edvard MunchThe Kiss by KlimtOphelia by John Everett MillaisFrom the Silueta series by Ana MendietaAlluvia by Jason De Caires TaylorFrom Passage by Shirin NeshatAnahita by Ahmed Nadalian

After several trips looking for the appropriate river site, we chose a small section of the River Cuckmere where it was shallow and flowing gently. There I gave her to the water and we watched her slip into the flow like a piece of sky. Kevin took a video while I ran along the bank to bring her out further downstream.

Moana in the treesRiver Goddess in the River

Odd, clumsy, crazy project but fun to do. Moana’s now propped up in the kitchen like a totem pole, all 5ft of her. Perhaps I’ll find a home for her somewhere, or one day release her forever and see where she ends up!

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

Art in the woods

Face sculpture at Hannah PescharReflection in sculpture at Hannah PescharReflecting triangle sculpture at Hannah PescharGreen sculpture at Hannah PescharI visited Hannah Peschar sculpture garden in Surrey recently. It is a beautiful setting for sculpture with plenty of water everywhere. I took photos of several pieces I liked – a giant rusting face/mask; metal triangles that reflected the environment so well they were almost invisible; a metal ball that was like a crystal ball and a green marble-like statue that blended in perfectly with its surroundings. (I’ve used part of a metal ball photo to change my blog header, I thought it sums up the changeable autumn weather.)

My favourite piece was a sound installation by Robert Jarvis. Walking beside the Japanese Maple, the Umbrella Bamboo, the Silverbell Tree and the Giant Rhubarb – all growing around the Oriental Pond – music starts to play. One can’t see where it is coming from. Robert Jarvis created the music based on patterns derived from the DNA sequences of the plants and the processes that determine their growth and ageing. The result is simple and interesting. You can here the music here.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

Marine dreaming

Water: Origin of Life by Diego Rivera

Marine DreamingA recent television programme, Timewatch: Atlantis: The Evidence has fired my imagination. A summary of the documentary is as follows:

‘Around 1620 BC, a gigantic volcano in the Aegean Sea stirred from its nineteen-thousand year slumber. The eruption tore the island of Thera apart, producing massive tsunamis that flooded the nearby island of Crete, the centre of Europe’s first great civilisation – the Minoans. This apocalyptic event, many experts now believe, led to the eventual downfall of the Minoans, and provided the inspiration for Plato when he later wrote about the people of a mighty island, Atlantis, which sank beneath the waves and was lost forever, ‘in a single day and a night of misfortune’.

Minoan ceramic jar after Thera explosion

I’m once again back into drawing. I wanted the woman in my picture to be “awash in a pearly dream” of sea creatures – just like the sea creatures on the Minoan ceramics after the Thera explosion that caused a tsunami to reach the shores of Crete. I thought I could perhaps use the idea in my Turtle Dreaming story.

I have been inspired by other art namely Diego Rivera’s Water: Origin of Life mural, my favourite mural that sadly no longer exists as it was painted in Mexico City’s water system and has now been washed away. The theme was homage to the life-creating power of water. I like the hands, the myriad of protoplasmic life forms, the crabs, lobsters, representations to people and god-like figures and the cross-section nature of it.

And recently, I have dreamt of boats leaving their moorings and the arms of the harbour, setting out to sea on voyages into the unknown. It is good to feel as though I’m once again going somewhere :)

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

River, sand and tree goddesses

Nadalian's Rock of FairiesI have recently discovered the lovely work of Iranian environmental artist, Ahmad Nadalian. He carves stones with fish, other creatures and goddess-like images associated with rivers and the sea around the world. He carries out rituals of returning his carved fish rocks to rivers to raise awareness of pollution. In his words:

I was in search of my lost paradise. I wished to spend time surrounded by nature and living with nature. Upon my return to the land of my forefather I found that my paradise no longer existed. The wellspring was polluted and river no longer had fish. The rivers are sown and the meadows are planted with villas.… I have created hundreds goddesses and fish on the stones of the river and have dedicated them to nature. I wanted to build his own paradise. I liked to believe that these fish are alive, and were swimming against the tides… they are metaphors for nature and the life of living creatures who endure pain, suffering, and are destroyed by the evils of our time.

I have taken refuge in the deep ravines where I can overcome evil. There is a temple where I am at peace to worship water. I am not tired. I am determined as ever to build my paradise.

Sand Goddess

Words to ponder on. I too want a paradise, a beautiful natural place in which to dream, to take refuge. And I need to dream. Nadalian’s Rock of Fairies done in France captures my imagination the most. See the photo above.

I need nature, earth, leaves, grass, rock, water. And I sense a return of my interest in goddess imagery. I wanted to find and connect with some rocks somewhere. I like the idea of creating with natural materials that are present wherever I happen to be – beneath my feet; to make a small gesture in nature that arises from and belongs to the place.

I visited the nearby Blackrock beach to look at the cliffs, the sea-sculpted chalk shore. I found myself doodling in some patches of sand,… moulding.. a Sand Goddess figure that the tide will return to the sea!

Tree woman carving Cae Mabon

Alexi engraving rock

I’ve just had a replenishing trip to Wales staying at Cae Mabon eco-retreat. It is a place to dream, indeed, to reconnect with oneself and nature. I love the wonderful round cob buildings, the rushing river, the peace; the moss covered hillside and lichen-loaded trees; the fires each night beneath the moon shrouded in its “winter halo”…

Someone had carved a beautiful woman in a tree beside the river; she holds a heart above her head… a River Goddess?

Kevin and I spent some special time there in nature – pottering about the river and woods. I even found a lichened rock to scribble on :)

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

A visit to Chagall’s windows

Chagall window

Chagall window detail

At last I have managed to visit Chagall’s beautiful stained glass windows at All Saints church, Tudeley near Tonbridge in Kent. They have been a source of inspiration to me for past projects and I can see that they will be in future as well.

We drove through many old villages, houses with crooked chimneys and blackened beams, and through woods bright with autumn yellow. Yellow is definitely a colour I’m noticing right now in nature, paintings and other things but it was the blues of the windows that I was keen to see. They didn’t disappoint.

All Saints, Tudeley is the only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by the Russian artist Marc Chagall. According to Chagall the windows were inspired by Psalm 8; despite being jewish, Chagall found the Bible captivating. I wondered why such a small, simple church in an otherwise ordinary area was favoured with the work of so great an artist, so I looked up the story behind the creation of the windows.

The windows are a memorial tribute to Sarah D’Avigdor-Goldsmid, a 21 year old woman who died in a sailing accident in 1963 near the town of Rye in Sussex. She was the daughter of Sir Henry and Lady D’Avigdor-Goldsmid who lived nearby. Apparently Sarah had been enchanted by Chagall’s designs for the Hadassah windows, exhibited in Paris sometime before the accident. This led her parents to ask Chagall if he’d be willing to create the east window in her memory. Chagall was very happy to, and ended up creating all twelve windows.

In the magnificant east window Sarah lies adrift in the arms of the blue sea, a peaceful figure, while a few figures watch or mourn and Christ on the cross hangs over them all. I love the blue.

“The colours address our vital consciousness directly, because they tell of optimism, hope and delight in life” says Monsignor Klaus Mayer, who uses Chagall’s work in mediations and books.

“In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.” Marc Chagall.

The story is very sad but has been made into something beautiful with glass and light. It has sown seeds of inspiration in me for the continuation of the ‘Turtle Dreaming‘ story that I began creating and illustrating earlier this year. Embracing the waves

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)

Doodles on wood

Primavera Three GracesMy flat piece of wood from the allotment was sitting waiting for me to paint it or mark it in some way. I’ve been thinking of old wooden desks at school engraved with the initials of countless children and of trees engraved with messages, “so and so woz here” etc.

And, because I’m waiting for Spring to arrive, I’ve been admiring Botticelli’s “Primavera” as I have a print of it on my kitchen wall that I took from a book of mine. I particularly like the Three Graces in the picture and thought I’d add my own three graces in my next piece of art.

I had a picture to draw in mind, a woman bathing in a green sea. I was thinking of it as a Sea of Tranquility (keeping the moon theme going.) I hesitated a bit, not knowing quite how to create the picture I saw in my mind’s eye. In the end I just plunged in as though doodling on a desk with a biro and made a sketchy, scribbled drawing and went over it with watercolour pencil. The wood has it’s own history of moss stains and knots.

It’s rough, it’s sketchy but I made something come to life on the old wood, and, I rather like the ghostliness of it, the scratchy lines and layers.

Bathing in the Sea of TranquilityThree Graces

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)