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Dreams, Crypts and Grottos

A few nights ago I had a dream that made an impression on me. In the dream, I was involved in a centenary project concerned with a crypt. My role was to update the crypt website. The crypt had a story, a legend involving a seventeenth century woman who would steal down into the crypt perhaps to meet her lover (?) One night the crypt flooded and the woman persished. Her ghost walks the crypt to this day.

Dream Ghost in Grotto

The woman in the dream is, perhaps, a part of me, the crypt may symbolize or the unconcious, the hidden vaults, rooms, labyrinths of my mind. And that it is flooded? – I often dream of water – the sea, rivers, estuaries, swimming pools – emotions, the unconcious or memories. Centenary? … well, a hundred years ago, the First World War had just begun.

Dream Ghost in Grotto 2

Shell Grotto Lizard

I made some sketches of my dream but what illustrates it best are a couple of montages I made with an old illustration and photographs that I took when visiting the Shell Grotto in Margate in 2012.

The Shell Grotto is an amazing and mysterious place with an unknown origin. It may date back 3000 years. Some wonder whether it was made by the Knights Templar. The shells decorating the walls are all of local origin but some of the designs are similar to those of ancient Phoenicia and it is thought that the name of the Isle of Thanet, once an island where Margate now lies, derives from the Phoenician goddess Tanit. Could this be a temple to the goddess?

The grotto walls are encrusted with shells in patterns of turtles, flowers, Gods and Goddesses, phalluses, planets, wombs, skeletons and there is what looks like an altar and a skylight, the only source of natural light. One theory proposes that the Grotto imagery symbolizes a journey from Birth through Life and Death to the Afterlife. One walks down into the grotto along passageways until one arrives at the main Altar Chamber. It is mysterious, magical and quite overlooked in a way.

Shell Grotto Altar

The grotto suits the dream well although it’s not a crypt. The woman ghost or goddess of my dream wanders sea shelled passageways throughout the centuries.

Sound II

I googled flooded crypts and seventeenth century ghosts to build a story. I found lovely images of Winchester Cathedral crypt that floods at certain times of year. In Winchester Cathedral crypt stands an Anthony Gormley sculpture of a man contemplating water in his cupped hands; it’s called Sound II. Anthony Gormley believes that there is a connection between memory and the basic physical elements of the world. He wondered whether it is possible to make something fresh like dew or frost, “something that just is, as if its form had always been like this”. I think the flooded crypt and sculpture beautiful. (Image of Sound II by David Spender.)

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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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River Goddess Booklets

I’m returning to my River Goddess long term project. I would like to explore it in all sorts of media -more paining, photography, video, words, movement. Yesterday I was playing with some of my images in photoshop and had the idea of making booklets to either print or make as rough artworks in themselves. Instead of buying A5 sketchbooks or making them from scratch, I’ve decided to use some A5 brochures I found and remake them into artbooks.

Here are some sample pages:

River Goddess Colour Booklet 1

River Goddess Colour Booklet 2

River Goddess Colour Booklet 3

River Goddess Colour Booklet 4

I’ve come up with some interesting images I thought I could make into cards as well:

River Goddess Coventina

River Goddess Hatmehit

River Goddess Book Anahita

River Goddess Book Flora

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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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Back to Pen and Ink with Water Goddesses

So much water this year, the news seems to be inundated with stories of floods and storm surges. Water is taking over, spilling over banks, uniting oceans, seas, rivers… and it is seeping into my art themes once again.

I am into pen and ink once again which takes me back to my days of doing many illustrations for the Brighton based organisation, RiverOcean. In those days my drawings were all about sea creatures and the sea. Well once again my pen and ink drawings are water related but drawn for a small book I’m writing on River, Sea and Moon Goddesses, a theme that I’m especially interested in… back to that underground river that flows beneath my life.
Ved'ava
My illustrations here are of perhaps some lesser known goddesses. Take Ved’ava for example, a goddess of the sea or water spirit placated by fishermen of Finno-Ugric peoples. She is sometimes portrayed as a kind of mermaid with a fish tail, playing, singing and seducing humans. If a fishermen saw her it was not a good omen as she was believed to be a drowned person’s spirit.

Yemaja
Then here’s Vejama, or Yemoja, she has several names. A goddess of pregnant women and the River Ogun, a river in West Africa, but she is also a goddess with namesakes in other parts of the world. In Brazil, she is Queen of the Ocean and a goddess of fishermen and shipwreck survivors. She is a mother goddess, a fertlity goddess, a spirit of Moonlight too. I wanted to base my pen and ink illustration on the photo collage of my River Goddess, Moanna. I’m not sure it works, what do you think?

Sedna
A better-known goddess is Sedna, or Nerrivik, goddess of sea creatures and the Underworld in Inuit mythology. There are various stories about Sedna but most tell of the chopping off of her fingers from which are created the seals, walruses, whales and other marine creatures the Inuit hunt. If angered she withholds the sealife from hunters in her undersea domain and it requires a shaman to metaphorically dive to find her at the bottom of the sea and brush the tangles from her hair to calm her. I am particularly inspired by Inuit culture and myth right now. My goddess still has her hands and she looks a bit wooden so I’ll need to work on her.

This is a ‘taster’ for my book. I’ll be keen to get back to working with colour again soon.

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Some new cards

Blue Goddess card - smallThree Goddess cardsStar Goddess cardNight river Goddess card

I’ve been making some handmade cards for local shops and for sale online. I’ve been meaning to try and design some to get printed but haven’t had the inspiration (I need to knuckle down and find it!) So for an experiment I had some photos of several of my goddess paintings and pictures done and made cards from them. I’ve played around with colours for variety. Soon I’ll set up a shop page.

Having thought a bit about blue, it was interesting to read a couple of chapters in Rebecca Solnit‘s book ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’. She writes about the colour and discusses various artists like Yves Klein who created blue art and even helped discover a deep blue pigment similar to the lapis lazuli used to paint the Madonna’s robes in medieval paintings. He called it ‘International Klein Blue’.

Here’s an excerpt from ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’:

“The World is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water….but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue….the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the colour blue.
….The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go.”

I like misty blues at the moment rather than striking turquoise blues. My River Goddess ‘Moana’ stands in my living room but is perhaps a little too bright. As she lay on the riverbank of natural winter greens and browns, I thought how like a piece of vivid, fallen sky she was, a window into the earth. What would we do without blue?

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Dusk Portraits

Night River GoddessStar Goddess MemoryBack in November when seeking a good river site to release my Moana River Goddess, I visited the River Adur. Dusk was falling quickly and a mist was seeping up from the adjacent fields like some ghost of the land. In the fading light, I walked into the mist’s embrace and tried to capture photos of a sunset, dying pink behind the trees. It was very beautiful.

Now I’ve decided to overlay some of the photos with recent paintings and pictures. Here are the results, my Dusk Portraits. I like the underwater feel to the pictures and wanted them to look like old portrait paintings seeped in a twilight blue of age or paintings that have been x-rayed to reveal hidden images beneath.

NocturneA Letter at Twilight

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

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