Pink Temples and Goddess Figurines

In June I visited the islands of Malta and Gozo. I’m writing about them now as I’ve had plenty of time to digest the visit.

I am drawn to islands and have been curious about the ancient temples and early Goddess worshipping culture of these two. I’ve read quite a bit about ancient Venus figurines and “The Myth of the Goddess”, so it seemed like a good place to visit. These sun bathed islands of desert scrub and rocky coastlines made quite an impression on me.

Malta gave me: temples of limestone – sometimes pink limestone,

Ggantija Temple

Ggantija Temple on the island of Gozo

Mnajdra Temples

One of the Mnajdra Temples which was mainly used as a solar year calendar and astromical observatory.

portals through pitted stone,

Pitted Portal

Pitted Limestone Doorway at Mnajdra Temples – I think of portals, caves and secret chambers.

interesting obese goddess figurines,

Goddess Legs Tarxien Malta

Goddess Legs Tarxien Malta

Small Seated Goddess

Small Seated Goddess in Museum in Malta

and other curious figurines.

Snail Figurine

Snail Figurine Malta

The Sleeping Lady

Postcard of The Sleeping Lady in the Museum of Archaeology, Malta.

Sometimes what is needed is a shift in perspective and that is what I returned home with from my visit. Before going I had a feeling of being constrained, running along tram lines. Every so often I shake out of my mindset and refind what I want, which is a feeling of wholeness to my life and not a narrowness.

In Malta, the temples, portals, giant slabs of pink and white fashioned from raw limestone that have stood solid, timeworn and pitted down the centuries, spoke to me of silence and endurance.

On returning I felt more open to new sights and experiences once again and had a desire to take a more oblique path. I am being asked to lean towards the left, closer to the earth, like a sailing boat close hauled, leaning into the wind. I am setting off on an oblique course to find my way back to myself.

Malta had plenty of other things I liked, mainly natural things that include all the different sorts of limestone; sun bathing and sea urchin fossil finding on the rocks at Dwejra; the lizards, purple flowers …

On Gozo

On Gozo

Hole in Door

Door Hole Ggantija Temple

Dots of Lunar Calendar

Mnajdra Temple. This temple was aligned astronomically. Lines of dots on door post may represent the possible number of days between equinoxes.

Some years ago I tentatively researched into the “goddess” in her varying forms. I made a little book on Goddesses of River, Sea and Moon, and found myself painting faceless images of female figures. They weren’t all faceless but many were, just like the goddess figurines of the ancient past.

Once again I’m experimenting with faceless figures inspired by the female figurines and colours of Malta. I tell myself that it is not necessary to create something good, but simply to do it, indulge in the process of making a mark, marking a point in time and painting a simple figure is one way to start. The work by the artist Laurie Doctor resonates with me at the moment. She incorporates calligraphy into some of her paintings and sometimes her figures are faceless in a desert-like landscape. I especially like the one I found below – whose title I don’t know – and Night Vigil:

Painting by Laurie Doctor

A Painting by Laurie Doctor

Night Vigil by Laurie Doctor

Night Vigil by Laurie Doctor

In an artist statement for one exhibition, she wrote:

I wish to communicate moments of fluidity between this world and the world of dreams. I want to share the sense of confirmation that happens when a dream steps right through the daytime door.

Good words. The desert colours of red, gold, faun – colours of earth, sand and rock – work for me at the moment.

I have painted a few little canvases in acrylic incoporating string, leaves and cloth pieces. Here are Desert Dreamer, Desert Icon, Gold Icon and The Pilgrim.

Desert Dreamer

Desert Dreamer painted in acrylics on canvas.

Desert Dreamer2

Desert Dreamer2

Desert Icon

Desert Icon

The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim

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From the Forests Beneath The Waves

Forests are still my thing, what better than a forest beneath the sea, a kelp forest. The colours, for one, are beautiful – perhaps some of my favourite colours, aquamarine, turquoise, blues. I imagine it to be a world of beings passing through – seals, brittlestars, rockfish, sea urchins, otters – in the arms of kelp – the odd diver, the odd wreck splintering and lost, discarded bits and pieces tossed by muted currents, swaying waters that whisper the secrets of the land beneath the waves. A forest dream of a world.

Kelp Forest

Enter the Kelp Maidens.

Kelp MaidensI have painted two new long boards on reclaimed wood, the Kelp Maidens. They are varnished with exterior varnish and ready for the outdoors.

I am a little familiar with the Kelpie myths – water spirits that live in lochs and rivers in Scotland, water horses that shapeshift into men or women. My kelp maidens are slightly different, there is no hint of horse, no horse’s mane or hooves. But they live in the kelp forests, amongst the fronds of Saccharina and Saccorhiza (and other kelps) in Scottish waters – they are like the names of two sisters :)

While I was painting my kelp maidens, the Guardian published a series of Forest Fable podcasts. All the fables are good, but one of them, The Princess’ Forest by Alec Finnay just happened to be about the myth of a submerged forest off the coast of St Kilda where a giant woman was said to reside. It is said that she was addicted to hunting deer in the forests between the islands of Harris and St Kilda before the seas came and flooded the land.

My Kelp Maidens are now in the lovely shop Way Out There and Back in Littlehampton along with some of my other paintings and cards.

My River Sisters painting, that was in the shop, has just gone to a new home. I’m delighted!

River Sisters

The River Sisters

The Blue Forest

A new painting, The Blue Forest, (yes it’s blue as usual and I’m still with the forest theme!)

Way Out There and Back

Some of my other paintings in Way Out There and Back.

Kelp Maiden Altered Book

A coloured altered book featuring a Kelp Maiden, which I have put on my Reflections Folksy Shop.

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The Magical Land Exhibition

Avocet Gallery FlyerAvocet Gallery in Rye is currently holding The Magical Land exhibition and I am very pleased to have some of my work on show as part of it.

Here are a few of my illustrations in the exhibition:

The Crow from The Crow

The Crow in watercolour pencil. Drawn for The Crow, a folktale by Christopher Meckel – see my The Crow page.

Blue Sea Scene

Blue Sea Scene in watercolour pencil.

Angel

Angel in pen and ink.

Along with the illustrations are cards and two of my long painted boards. One is very much a river goddess board as it is covered with flowing lines of lyrics, poems and words about rivers.

Water Lyrics Maiden top

Come dreamer,
my eyes have been closed so long, cried the river
I see this world but I cannot see

whispering near the surface of the water comes a voice

let all emotions flow from our dreaming together

I am afraid to heal my soul, said the river

then your spirit connected to mine will die
whispered the wind
do not hide from me river, find your ocean
if you listen deeply
wind and river coming together as one
in the great ocean we’re born of the mother.
This is the way she hears your voice now, all of your feeling
easy or difficult,
truthful ones,
do not be afraid
all the rivers are dying

I will open my eyes to see inside
so my soul whispers with the wind.
Take a deep breath…

Words taken from a YouTube video by Condor Shaman that is no longer available.

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New Paintings and a Pop Up Shop

The Forest Rises detailThe Forest RisesGoddess of the VineWater MaidensHere’s an update on the painting front – and back into the world of blue.

In Brighton, there’s a new Pop Up Gallery next door to Retail Therapy where I sell cards and various other creations. Back in August I was invited to display some of my large paintings on reclaimed scaffolding board. I welcomed the invite and painted two new boards in acrylic, Goddess of the Vine and The Forest Rises.

I also gave a large, acrylic canvas called Water Maidens (Emerging in the gallery) which has undergone various incarnations and now features two “Water Spirits” inspired by the Russian legends of Rusalka. ( These are fish women who were said to live at the bottom of rivers and lakes and bring fertility to the land in Springtime. Some thought them to be the souls of young women who had died beside the waters. I’d like to explore these legends further…) Looking at the painting obliquely one can see the relief created by the scrim and oak leaves I added for texture.

To my surprise and pleasure, the first two paintings sold quite quickly and journeyed up to Derbyshire apparently. The gap they left needed to be filled, so I gave two more painted boards, my Moanna, River Goddess – she’s well acqainted with the River Cuckmere – and one called Mother Nature both of which had been happily guarding my living-room. (See the photo with both either side of a lamp in the gallery.)

Ten days later and Mother Nature acquired a new home. So back to painting I went and created another two goddess board paintings that are currently on sale in the gallery, Wings of a Dove and Butterfly Maiden.

The imagery for the paintings just comes to me. I’m not looking for anything typically symbolic, I guess I just like doves, vines, waves, macaws and butterflies – morpho butterflies of the tropical Americas especially! I am influenced by shamanic art and traditional religious art too and I think of the paintings as sort of totem poles or stelae, without the grave association :)

Butterfly MaidenWings of a DoveGuardians in Retail Therapy

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Two New Paintings

I was really pleased to sell my Water Goddess tryptich recently. And on the same day I had a commission to paint a version of Sun Dancer that I sold a few years ago. This was good encouragement to get some more paintings out there. Here are my latest, a River Goddess painting and another version of Siren:

River Goddess

Siren 2

River Goddess is on sale in Goddess Temple Gifts in Glastonbury and Siren 2 is in the Park View pub, Brighton.

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Psyche Painting

Psyche

Here is a new wooden board painting, called Psyche because of the butterflies in it. (You can read the myth of Psyche and Eros here.) She is the latest in my series of Goddess paintings.

Below are others from the series: Abundance, Soulful, Nurture and Moongazer. They have all gone to loving homes in the big wide world.

Abundance

Soulful

Nurture

Moongazer

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New Water Goddess Paintings

Goddess TotemHere is a recent painting, Goddess Totem, done on scaffolding board like my River Goddess. Both of them currently stand either side of my bathroom door.

Fish, a snake and butterflies feature in the painting. Fish symbolic of faith, transformation, fertility, wisdom? Snakes – eternity, rebirth, and healing perhaps? Butterflies may mean the soul, transformation, lightness? The woman has folded arms suggesting an Egyptian sarcophagus. Buried and obscured by golden leaves the arms of the goddess are held up from beneath by a sunken angel who fades into watery depths. Perhaps something is oppressing the religious spirit in this painting? :)

Water Goddess TriptychAfter Goddess Totem, I painted a triptych based on a combination of the Three Graces, my River Goddess and Mami Wata. I’m hoping to display this at the Brighton Wood Recycling Centre soon.

I painted Goddess Totem around the same time as researching Mami Wata and I realize my recent board paintings have certain similarities to the African Mami Wata spirit. Mami Wata is often depicted as a mermaid-like woman holding a snake.

Below is a pen and ink version of Mami Wata for my Goddesses of River, Sea and Moon book.

Mami Wata

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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.

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She: an icon of return

Despair Icon
Sometimes it seems I’m juggling fragments. Sometimes my art is born not from joy but despair. This picture followed other pictures I created in anguish. Here She plays with a butterfly against a background of bits and pieces; fragments of letters to the Earth, the lyrics of The River of Despair, the torn pieces of life and the swimmers and dancers amongst them, branches of The Tree of Life like arteries from the heart.

The whole is a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. Following despair, She is an icon of return.

Peeling world within the frame,
in the sky a butterfly…
as a torn and urgent wing
tries to fly…

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Cave of Dreams painting

Cave of DreamsI’ve done a new painting in a style that’s new for me. Kevin says it looks a bit ‘new agey’ and I can perhaps see what he means. It might be the subject matter or the colours, I’m not sure. I have been thinking about gathering birds, swallows in caves and starlings over the pier here in Brighton. They’re like twittering thoughts or memories in the loft of my mind; like a sixth sense telling me something is going to happen; there are dreams ‘waiting in the wings’.

The painting is not my favourite but it’s good to be back putting paint on canvas!

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