Another Monday and another morning devoted to sorting the detritus of the weekend. I spend a considerable portion of my life on this planet just clearing up those things that others can’t be bothered with themselves. That’s fine if you have nothing better to do but desperately frustrating otherwise. Over the years I’ve developed a routine whereby I sacrifice Monday in varying degrees to the drudgery of household management, which leaves Tuesday relatively unsullied and available for work. Not that this Monday was overwhelming as detritus goes, partly due to some very sharp warnings and partly that we spent Sunday on the road in forlorn support of our football team. I could have started: another Monday, another football match (or 2). If you’d told me 15 years ago that football would loom so large in my life, I would have cried laughing. But like taking on detritus, a mother has to subscribe to the interests of her children or risk a commonality based solely on filial relationship. At the moment, football and academic pressures various are all consuming. The only upside of having lost so ignominiously yesterday is that we won’t have to make the gruelling journey to Cardiff and back next month, not to mention the money we’ll save.
I write this as I wait for the sun to take the chill off my workroom. It seems to have its own arctic micro-climate which has made working very uncomfortable over the cold winter. Today is bright with sunlight after the wind has blown off the morning mists but the wind still has its winter accent. The kids are back to school, meaning that I have no dog-walkers. Apart from detritus, I’ve spent part of the morning rounding up wayward terriers from various fields and retrieving some particularly noxious rotting viscera from my Newfoundland. No wonder it takes me time to get down to work…..
I have all but finished the last of 3 paintings for my final show. They are based on the alchemical sequence of nigredo – albedo – rubedo; that is the transition from putrefaction to the red elixir of the philosophers. Along the way there are many allegories and interpretations but my interest lies in the Jungian interpretation of the alchemical process: that it signifies a union of the conscious and unconscious which affords knowledge of the force of life or the divine, if you prefer. Not being religious, I prefer the former but it is difficult not to associate the symbolism of alchemy with that of major religions. After researching my dissertation, I could have chosen countless directions in which to take my work all based on the theme of a sublimated, primal consciousness. Most tempting, and one to which I shall certainly return, was the development of the alphabet as the prime form of communication and record. Appropriate as it was to making books, it was less conducive to painting and, in any case, I had already put a great deal of thought into the universality of certain symbols, in particular the mandala or circle within a square. Mandala is a Hindu word meaning ‘magic circle’; to Jung, it represented symbolically the ‘nuclear atom’ of the human psyche. I was fascinated, especially after I had found an enormous zodiac on the wall of a 16thC Greek church, by how the symbol appears everywhere if you’re looking for it. It forms part of a body of knowledge that has been superseded by rational science. At present, when time allows, I am reading about Paracelsus, probably the most famous alchemist who ever lived but also regarded by many as the first scientist as well. He marks the parting of the way of magic and intuition and the way of science and reason.
So, the first painting in my sequence of three is Quintessence, comprising 4 canvases, each a metre square, which all fit together as one whole. I will explain the numerological significance next time but suffice to say at this juncture that the physical assembly of the finished painting is far more onerous than I’d anticipated. All the paintings have proved problematic in different ways. This one was structurally problematic from the start. I used a conventional stretcher but, in order to make the painting more of an object in its own right, edged the stretcher with MDF to a depth of 10cm. Of course, when the canvas was stretched over the support, the edges warped so I had to resort to bolting and bracketing in order to get a fair fit of all 4 together. Here’s the finished article which is propped up on my dining room wall after spending 3 months in sole occupation of our spare bedroom. If you think it resembles a dart-board, then ask yourself why the perfect ‘hit’ is the centre of a dartboard…..and why a bull’s eye? Answers on a postcard, please.