I’ve been a little bit under the weather and distracted for the past two days. There’s been a storm brewing within me, in sharp contrast to the glorious late Summer days we’ve been so blessed with this week. They come as a gift after the dramatic deluges at the early stages of the Unravelling Time exhibition. I have a large life decision to make, but it’s all good, the kind of inner quake that can prove cleansing and renewing.
The glistening contents of Refuge.
Crispy dry Refuge.
On my last visit to the Abbey, Refuge had slept rough for ten days under the vine. After the last encounter with a glistening wet assemblage, I was met with an unexpected, almost pop-up book folded-in crispness. My thoughts turned to envelops and puff pastry cases to describe the inward sag of the paper lining, seeming to enfold the contents as though to protect them. A sunshade, a tent forming – so many associations. I love the way it’s lining comes away cleanly, no rips or tears.
But I had loved the glistening too, and half expected the suitcase to have slid away in the interim. Complete disintegration seemed possible, such was the unrelenting quality of each downpour.
I did have to rescue the wall piece during the wet period, and was offered alternative shelter indoors with the opportunity to hang my painting in a cosy corner of the kitchen.
When I returned to find the assemblage as crisp as baklava I was surprised to see the painting back again, in situ on the exterior wall. Some other hand had aided it’s migration from kitchen to vine in my absence. The Abbey is like this – many hands seem to tend it and it moves in mysterious ways. Delightful but sometimes disconcerting.
It’s hard to convey my temporary disorientation at this sight, but at once I knew I must waterproof the board support. Who knew where the painting would find itself next and if left outdoors again, the weather could so easily change. It had already sustained some minor damage.
And so, while the Abbey is closed to guests for two days, I have been lovingly restoring it’s surface, and applying layer upon layer of transparent gesso to sides and back. This is matt and pleasingly rough. Not the solution suggested by my local art shop assistant – yacht varnish! I wasn’t sure where I could source any of this in time, but also I resist the idea of a high gloss, even for back and sides.
And so I sit applying and applying, patiently and not so patiently. But it feels worth it. The gesso is plastic after all and I figure with only three nights more to go of sleeping rough, if I lay down enough layers my painting will be wearing a raincoat, delicate and yet resistant. A pack-a-mac of a gesso this is, to be used before Refuge comes home.
Unravelling Time is a group show currently on at the Abbey, Sutton Courtenay.
Alex Forshaw has written a brilliant review of the group show below, capturing the essence of the Abbey and details of the 12 works on display. A highly recommended read.