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Moving, dancing and fragments of the sea

Mud MaidWe’re emerging from a long, bleak winter, Spring is nearly here and I yearn to move. I have felt like the Mud Maid in The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, taking her long sleep in the earth. The figures in my pictures are stiff too, like winter, but now its time to stir and move.

I felt the desire to dance and move return to me strongly when I picked up a flyer the other day about an exhibition at my local library in Brighton, 14th-27th March that’s called “Inside My Dance”. The exhibition tells through oral history, photography and film the story of the dancer and choreographer Angela Lane and how every aspect of her life was affected by her daughter’s profound disability. It is a collaboration between Angela and oral historian and photographer Noelle McCormack. The film is of dancer, Holly Holt, dancing a piece choreographed by Angela entiltled “For Cherry”. You can see a short trailer here.

Moving and writing can go together. I found some words I’d written in a movement workshop taken by Miranda Tufnell called “Body, Space, Image” (like the title of her book). I’ve made them into more of a poem:
Seaweed

Moving with the Tide
I lie open
Hands the fronds of seaweeds shifting in shallows.
Rolling I greet the studio’s wooden floor,
And catch a warm light cascade from high windows
Aswim with a thousand moat boats.

Sinuous my spine,
Pebbles my vertebrae.
Starfish, wave, anemone,
Salt, snakelock, dahlia.

I rest, a little drunk on backwash
While the tide slips over and spills me back into ocean-swallowed waters
And the pipes on the wall become pillars of the pier,
Strong and steely red with tommorrow’s rust,
And I cling encrusting like coral or the all-muscle of barnacle,
Pulling the earth.

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Water

Sometimes I hate words, they fill up my head like beans in a jar, all crammed in, words upon words. But then, words can be like water, spilling, flowing, spreading across the page in a shifting stream.

I fell in love with water images a while ago. Photos of sea and sky, beach, pebble, seaweed, waterfalls; the glistening light on water mesmerised me. Perhaps I should try harder at photography with its lenses, glass, transparency. And voids. Words can fill voids.

And then I discovered cave pools in Laos. I stripped off and went into sparkling, pristine water with a baking, morning sun overhead and shadows that cut the shallows with cool. I’ve done this before, I thought, – sacred cenotes in the Yucatan, rainforest rivers in Costa Rica, serpents threading the water beside me, almost alone.

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There’s something so precious about swimming in natural, wild places. Water joins up memories like one, giant underground river.

I stumbled on photos of a dancer in water while searching the web. This is of Salma Nathoo, an ecological dance artist taken by Ben Ellis for a ‘Waterdance’ project.

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Water, nature and movement, my interests all coming together. Soon, I went out and bought myself an under water camera case. I haven’t used it yet, but watch this space. I have Roger Deakin’s ‘Waterlog’ from the library ready to read and the other day I stumbled on wildswimming.co.uk. It’s a challengue for a feeble swimmer like me.

To get back to words, there’s Alice Oswald’s poetry that I’m just discovering as well. Here’s a quote from ‘Sea Poem’;

What is water in the eyes of water
Loose inquistive fragile anxious
A wave, a winged formsplitting up into sharp glances

What is the sound of water
After the rain stops you can hear the sea
Washing rid of the world’s increasing complexity,
Making it perfect again out of perfect sand….

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Rumi

woman-with-blue-swirls-for-blog.jpgdancing-woman-for-bog.jpgI’ve been very inspired by certain calendars I’ve seen at the end of last year. I did wonder whether my artwork – eg Spirits of Nature – was good enough for a calendar, so I’ve approached one or two publishers. I noticed calendars featuring the words and poems of Rumi during my browsing and I began to take note. Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet whose work has become very popular in recent years, especially in the US (probably mainly in new age circles). I’ve been searching and reading his poems and find them very appealing, very beautiful, profound.

Daylight, full of dancing particles
And the one great turning, our souls
Are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

That’s a meer snippet, I’m a sucker for anything about dancing. Currently, I’m enjoying “Selected Poems” translated by Coleman Banks.

It seems as though I’m now noticing Rumi everywhere. Whilst googling ‘visionary art’ I discovered the Iranian artist, Rassouli, whose work I love (see www.rassouli.com). He publishes a Rumi calendar and I’m hoping to get one for next year. He’s been inspired by Rumi and another Persian poet, Hafez, who I’ve yet to read. I’ve found myself painting in a similar way recently, I don’t want to copy, but it’s good to be inspired.

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From angels to mermaids….

I’ve been playing with photoshop. Finally I’m surrendering to the possibilities of digitally altering my artwork. I’ve been inspired by artists such as Greg Spalenka and numerous others whose work is everywhere. I have to enter fully the twenty-first century!

It’s been fasinating and frustrating learning photoshop – bit by bit. I’ve also been dwelling on the sea, on watery things. From angels I’m now into mermaids,… fish …..anything oceanic in fact.

Below is a version of a simple mermaid picture, a photoshop experiment. I’m also including a piece of writing I discovered written up on a church wall in some back street of Barcelona. The author is unknown.

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What were the thoughts of those who lived and slept in the vastness beneath the water.
Were these thieves and broken poets, these fugitives affected by some stigma;
Were they jealous or afraid of the world? How had they all gathered in this crepuscular
region?
What had they so much in common that they needed each other’s presence?
Nothing but hope. Hope. Hope like a pale sun……

These words were faint on the church wall, but beneath them was a list of names I could just make out. ‘Mervyn Peake’ was written amongst them; he wrote the Gormenghast trilogy which just happens to be amongst my favourite books.

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