‘He brought her smooth pebbles and winding shells, such things that girls love’
Pygmalion, Ovid’s Metamorphoses
I always found this line charmingly stupid.
But I can’t deny it, I do have a particular affinity for both those objects. Our seaside holiday cottages would end up with piles of shells, stones, smoothed glass and the occasional crab shell (and once a dried starfish-what a find!) pilled up by the front step. Disappointment as the trinkets lost their gleam in the suns heat. Here on the Black Isle I’ve added heaps of sun bleached animal bones to that pile, and the organic shapes and patterns of the ore flecked stones, the pearly shell interiors and curve of the sheep’s spinal bone have been the inspiration for some smaller ceramic pieces. My mood lifted the moment I plunged my hands into the wet clay. After a week of playing with paint, waiting for my sculptural materials to arrive (no I wasn’t dragging 20kilos of clay up on the train) I’m delighted to work the soft pliable material in my hands.
My highland studio is getting cluttered, messy and it’s the way I like it. Paintings are drying on every inch of floor, slightly dryer paintings propped up around the perimeter, I need to dodge the frangible clay work balanced on stools as I duck beneath them to sit on the flag stone floor, chopping out more stencils and cut outs for collage. I’m busy. And it feels good.
What’s been a happy surprise it how strongly influenced my work is by what I experienced and encountered in Firenze. Although I arrived here, ideas of the she-wolf firmly nestled in my mind, a thought perhaps seeded in my Florentine address at Bonfazio Lupi street, which I generously translated as ‘bonny faced wolves’, politely ignoring the reference to the 14th century Italian politician of the same name. The She-Wolf brain child grew as I fed it flickering TV images of scantily clad female chat show hosts, shrines to the blessed Virgin Mary, readings of Dante’s Inferno and statues of the Capitoline Wolf. I talked about this more in previous blogs (is there a way to link directly back or do we just scroll down?)
…… Although I arrived here with the idea of the she-wolf in mind, I’ve been surprised to see many other elements from my Florentine days inspiring and stimulating my current practice. Here in the Black Isle the gardens of the Pitti Palace (that disused fountain, off the well trodden path), the Specola and the graffiti that embellished the side streets and the universities is seeping into my studio work. The vivid colours of the crystal exhibition, the vines reclaiming the ruins and that colossal bone collection permeates the new work.