Tag Archives: poetry

lost in translation

Wednesday 9 July 2014

it took me twenty four hours [well, three days] to finally decide on a title for this piece… which translates timewise as eight hours per word, or one hundred and two minutes per letter, four hours per vowel, three hours per consonant.

titling art [paintings] can be a tricky and solitary task – well, if i could say it in words…

i also had to write some other words to go with the title words. i thought about it all day on sunday. some thoughts completely take over your headspace, the more you try to refine them the less sense they seem to make. incorrigible.

a weekend lost in my own world of translation. wordblock. grasping at floating fragments of thoughts, ideas, words, sounds, meanings, coaxing them out of retreat, trying to make them perfect…

the ‘show & tell’ with Artworks was helpful, and always fascinating and exciting to see what the other artists have done. it was suggested i read some Pablo Neruda poetry, which subsequently got me thinking about the issues in reading poems in translation.

i found this archived article, The Poetry of Neruda [october 1974] on The New York Review of Books website an interesting read.

Para que tú me oigas
mis palabras
se adelgazan a veces
como las huellas de las gaviotas en las playas.

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.
*

that’s the beginning of the poem Para que tú me oigas [So that You Will Hear Me] by Pablo Neruda, translation by W S Merwin in ‘Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair’ [Penguin Classics 2004]

* interestingly, Google Translate translated it as this:

For you to hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

on a small painting, out of the woods

Sunday 11 September 2011

this is a small abstract painting on watercolour paper, completed a couple of months back. it’s for the forthcoming ‘mini artworks prize draw’ in the artworks exhibition. the sombre, muted colours and vertical, layered striations in this small painting appear to be slightly influenced by my time sketching trees and bark in local woodlands.

small abstract painting, trees, bark, dark green, woods, woodland
[wildwood iv, 2011. 6″ x  6″, or 15cm x 15cm]

there is also a small copse (perhaps it is now a real, grown-up, maturing ‘wood’) bordering the far end of the garden. although i see this small piece of woodland everyday, i do not go into it to paint or draw as it is privately-owned land – perhaps just to rescue an errant roosting hen who once had a free two-night stay on the wilder side of the fence. on the third (could-be) night of freedom, a short time after dusk she was eventually located by taking a slow, spiralling inward path around the copse, sleepily plumped between the lower fork of branches of a tree. this twilight woodland escapade inevitably disturbed the dozing wildlife of pheasants, wood pigeons and so on – and i was reminded of these words:

‘we do not have to be long in the woods to experience the always rather anxious impression of going deeper and deeper into a limitless world.’

[gaston bachelard, the poetics of space]

this ‘limitless world’ seems to be a psychological or phenomenological one, a self-realised world mostly obscured by the modern day-to-day concerns of stability, security & safety. it is not often that we are allowed go there. it is in our human makeup to have fear & doubt (and respond to it) and the experience of being in the woods (or forests, mountains, seas or oceans) enables both a sense of place and the natural order of things in the world – and it is most deeply felt when one is alone. the naturalist david attenborough has often said that we should always be reminded that we are just one of many species co-habiting the earth.

bachelard made an interesting distinction between the perception of woods (or forests) and fields. in the landscape of fields we are a witness and perhaps an accomplice to the passage of time; we experience, share and create memories in the seasonal or manmade rhythms of it. in the dark depths of the forest bachelard perceives time as ‘before-me, before-us’, that is, it is behind us, in the past. the forest is ancient and the trees are the ancestral markers of time. in the woods, i sometimes sense that time has paused, it has ‘disconnected’ me from the brightly illuminated present, time idles in the shadows.

when i have studied the more philosophical or poetic appeal of woodland i have found it overgrown with many metaphors, myths, rituals, stories and legends, often wildly conflicting with the socio-economic changes of the times (fuel, timber, hunting, livestock and so forth). by the 11th century it has been estimated there was no more than 15 percent of natural woodland covering england and the remaining woods and forests developed into sites of rural industries. it was ‘not an imaginary utopia; it was a vigorous working society’, as the historian simon schama describes it, later saying that the ‘greenwood idyll was disappearing into house beams, dye vats, ship timbers’ – and with more bureaucratic management of woodland, a little corruption and misdemeanour along the way.

it seems, quite naturally so, for there to be an urgent need to re-establish or conserve our woodlands, with something of a reversion to the pre-industrial green wildwoods of folklore, but if the woods are not really a ‘greenwood idyll’ or the way into a more mysterious, esoteric other-world, then what, exactly…

and that deep softness of delicious hues
that overhead blends – softens – and subdues
the eye to extacy and fills the mind
with views and visions of enchanting kind

[wood pictures in summer, john clare]

i have been reading carus again, and he sums up the experience of the woods in a manner that i relate to:

tranquil reflection takes hold of us; we feel our unruly ambitions and aspirations held in check; we enter into the cycle of nature and transcend ourselves.

[carl gustav carus, 1824, from nine letters on landscape painting]

whether there is any direct relation between this german sentiment and previously referred-to eastern aesthetics i cannot be sure – perhaps it is a universal sentiment which is merely muted by the concerns of modernity.

trees (or nature, as it is perceived) will continue to be seen as a symbols of hope over adversity. however, i am conversely reminded of the idiom, we are not ‘out of the woods’ yet. for the artist, ever aware of the past, present and future, hopes that every picture paints its own story – and i have been drawn into the woods in a desire to escape routine – and, like the errant roosting hen, it is one of those times when one momentarily forgets to take the usual path home…

so many words to accompany such a small painting! over a thousand words and i should thank you for reading them.

however, i must conclude dear reader, by saying that someone somewhere will (soon) acquire the small ‘wildwood iv’ painting on paper shown above. tickets for the artworks prize draw are on sale at £2 each (and you can buy more than one, too). all the mini artworks are 6″ x 6″ and they are window-mounted for easy framing. the thirty mini artworks are currently on display in the artworks exhibition (which opened yesterday). i will also purchase a prize draw ticket to be in with a chance of winning one of the thirty original artworks illustrated below, but if i won my own painting then i should have to give it away again.

the ‘janette place’ artworks prize draw is named in recognition of one artworks artist, janette place, who initiated the first artworks prize draw (she died in 2005). the prize draw supports artworks ‘artists in schools’ programme, with a proportion of the money raised given to a local nominated charity. this year artworks have elected to support Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Bradfield Green Oak project, an education centre built from green oak harvested from SWT’s own nature reserves as part of their conservation management programme.

the artworks prize draw takes place at 4pm on saturday 1st october 2011. you can read more about the mini artworks prize draw on the artworks blog.

i have ten works currently on show in the artworks exhibition at blackthorpe barn, rougham, suffolk, which runs from 10 september to 2 october 2011 (10am – 5pm, open daily). there is also the ‘ artworks shop’ with a changing display of small artworks for sale: paintings, original prints (no reproduction giclees!) and drawings, 3D works and an extensive range of artist cards. i have some of my papier mache bowls in the shop.

Artworks is a professional art group of thirty contemporary East Anglian artists. Each September we have an annual exhibition at Blackthorpe Barn in the heart of rural Suffolk.

some new works also on show at Reunion Gallery’s ‘Refresh’ tenth anniversary exhibition on now and until 22 Oct 2011

more grey sky thinking, out of the blue

Friday 30 July 2010

more cloud gazing this week, torrential rain all day on tuesday (a typically british summer’s day) – this was the view from the window at about 6pm…

electricity power lines outside a window, with cloudy sky
a room with a view

i hadn’t really noticed how prominent these power lines were before; my days must be slowly draining of any meaningful structure if i get distracted by this visual discordance with nature’s billowy curtain… today when i awoke, i did, for a brief moment, wonder what day it was, whether it was saturday already, and that a day of more domestic to-do-tasks await me, tasks which fuel so little enthusiasm as to be remotely filed and archived for just such rainy days

in the manner of these featureless, grey days i have been feeling somewhat melancholic in heart and the vast canvas of the sky seemed to be a reflection of the reality of recent events…

thus, i have not been motivated to paint much, well perhaps for an hour or so, here and there, when the mood takes. it seems too self-indulgent to ‘just paint’ when real-life concerns pile up like the laundry, and then there has been the issue of the quality of daylight

here are a couple of close-up images of one of my current paintings, lichenscape II (a work in progress), taken earlier on today…

lichenscape ii - abstract painting - lichen textures detail
detail of the surface of the painting, lichen on stone textures

i had a rash moment of destructive thinking when evaluating this canvas (perhaps inspired by these photographic reframings, seeing paintings within paintings), deciding that i might cut up the canvas into nine smaller ones – the lack of a decent-sized studio space to work in is almost unbearable at times…

i have found that in attending to these two large canvases (aka the lichenscapes) it has clouded my creative process – i realise that i am trying to condense into these two paintings a subjective concern which would be better pursued over eight or ten (or even more) paintings. myriad other thoughts (too nebulous to be proper working concepts or ideas) also run daily through my mind, and then i have to remind myself to just focus

lichenscape 2 painting - detail of surface textures
another detail of the textured surface of a lichen-esque painting

exhibition news

yesterday evening i attended the private view of the exhibition rebirth. lorraine cooke, the curator of the exhibition, has done an amazing job in bringing this show together. i feel most privileged to have some of my paintings included in this art exhibition.

i realise that i am still reticent in ‘working‘ the private view scenario, as i slowly perused the exhibition on the opening night – this is probably due to: a) being very slight and thus am always less ‘visible’ in a busy gallery crowd, and also b) a (now) love/hate relationship with my new dr marten boots. i walked to the gallery from the train station and worked up some fine blisters – such small injuries can really be the breaking of the spirit.

i also met and chatted with the artist veronica grassi – she has some quite beautiful textural, sculptural pieces in this exhibition. barbara leaney’s dogwood sculptures are also quite spectacular, as are the smaller, detailed works of the contemporary japanese artists included in the show. i urge anyone passing through the fine city of norwich to go and see the exhibition at gallery art1821 – it is open until 8th september 2010 – you can also read more about the rebirth exhibition on art 1821’s website

to further the idleness of my daily musings and observations, dear reader, may i introduce to you my humble sketching kit? (i always like to travel light, a habit instilled in me since my inter-railing journeys across europe)

winsor newton cotman sketchers watercolour box
my winsor & newton sketchers’ box of watercolours

very small jam jar for sketching watercolours
a tiny tiptree jam jar (for water)

assorted sketching pencils derwent and caran d'ache
an assortment of stubby sketching pencils, mostly derwent & caran d’ache

and here is a composite image of my sketchbookiness of the last few days, 21-29 july, 2010…

sketchbook pages - studies of clouds and skies, late july 2010
skies and clouds sketches

sketchbook drawing - study of a grey cloud
monday, mid afternoon, looking east across fields towards marshes, high up in the sky, grey centre… in graphite, pencil and watercolour…

sketchbook drawing - more skies and clouds
wednesday, early afternoon… looking east, cooler, bright, clouds moving fast… in graphite and pencil…

sketchbook drawing - study of an afternoon sky
thursday, late afternoon, slim, dark clouds moving laterally, about 5pm…

this is becoming slightly obsessive; i have a mild desire to master the morphing art of the east anglian skies…

and i penned another haiku style poem, or my own ode to a cloud

a cloud
tarnished silver
darkening the weeping willows

i am now thinking of joining the cloud appreciation society, whose pledge is to fight the banality of blue-sky thinking

see my cloud drawings animation from last year: the art of idleness

last chance to seetextures, traces & elements at beyond the image gallery – the exhibition closes at 4pm on sunday 1st august 2010.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust (remembrance of things past)