The July issue of Earthlines has a great feature on my work and my approach to making it. Here is part of it…
Animals make Wings for Mary/Riding into Darkness on my Horse-of-Music-Body
The rich darkness I create with layers of colour and which I slowly dive into with my brush represents the unknown, the fecund, the chaotic, the latent, the productive. It represents a field of beauty, a meadow about to come awake to yield fruit. It is the dark womb, bodily knowing, the place of origin, of beginnings, of the ten thousand things. The darkness is also a garden, dark soil, deep space. It is nothingness and the place where all things are born. I work without fear of this place. My shamanic training showed me that all things are connected, that bones, fingers and faces are shared and mirroring.
You go into the dark in order to find answers, little holes to swim through, big skies to fly in. In the dream-dark the animals come to show you their four sides and the gifts of their mouths; they lend you their exquisite hearing, their gift of knowing the secrets of the skin, and the vision which knows without ego or persuasion.
How animals are regarded is key: the skins we inhabit, our shared bodies of so many sisterly organs. My work is about negotiating a mending of the caesura between human and animal, and inspiring greater appreciation of the natural world.
A favourite book is Hunger Mountain by David Hinton where he talks about an opening of consciousness.. “No “I” perceiving but simply (the moment of) perception, the opening of consciousness become for example a new understanding of our relationship with animals, nature, the cosmos…..”
And about the significance of the bow, the spiritual gesture offering the centre of identity to something beyond. “Meditation as perhaps the most fundamental form of bowing, for in meditation the centre is replaced by the opening of consciousness and all of that elsewhere that fills it.”
To walk in mountains is another form of bowing according to Hinton; when I read these words I realised it is what I do when I walk in mountains. I am constantly bowing.
The first time I visited Norcia (or Nursia, in English), en route to Castelluccio in the Sibillini National Park, I visited the church built over the birthplace of St Benedict. It is also a centre of Benedictine monks. We were welcomed to their services. Sitting listening to the plainchant, watching their prayers and songs as they bowed from the waist, dressed all in white, dazzling with inner brilliance I was extremely moved. In my work ‘ my dog keeps watch as I pray’ I bend from the waist and my body blends with that of my dog as she stands watching over me – as my horse used to when I would lie on the floor of her stable. Hinton calls it the bow of beauty, in which for example mountain hawk and person are woven together in the opening of consciousness.
In the house where I grew from a child, there was a large print of one of the famous French cave paintings. I only recently realised how important this was to the sowing of visual seeds within me. Hinton calls the caves the earth’s birthing chambers. He wrote that this is where objectifying began, when objects began to push themselves outside themselves, and consciousness saw a gap between self and landscape, self and world. It was the originary moment according to Hinton when human self-awareness began.
Dreams are vital to my life and practice, becoming subtle signposts on my path: Here are a few examples…Of putting something white – gesso? – in a bowl in the freezer to cool, but some hours later when I opened the freezer door I could see that the bowl which held it was boiling hot. This happened twice. I felt that it was something to do with the fiery spirit which won’t be cooled or dulled. Of dancing in a circle, and my body becoming a white semi-transparent musical instrument. Of my horse coming, resting her face against my chest for me to stroke her eyes. Of my recently-deceased beloved dog coming to give me her skin as a magical, protective gift.
In another dream there was a bear with a nose burning with flames. Many people tried to extinguish it but it would not be put out. When my mother died I saw her in a dream. She was telling me that her body was going to a new church which burned with a flame which did not consume and which would never be put out.
From time in the garden: the weight of seeds draw the stem back towards the ground, the earth, their birthplace and their resting place, their new beginning.
My intention with my work: if composed of fine enough, refined-enough elements, to vibrate on a level sufficient to become, or act as, doorways to the numinous.
On being a Creature with sky ears. Having blue ears of sky.
Music is the Horse which carries me into the unknown. I need to vibrate at the same frequency in order to reach clarity. Horse above me, keeping watch, music also keeping watch over, as an animal singing outside the scope of my ears in ordinary reality…
In Edinburgh last year, a little lost, finding a wonderful bookshop and becoming as a bird finding her nest when I discovered these lines in the book Letters on Cezanne by Rilke:
“Flower muscle, slowly pulling open/the anemone’s vast meadow morning,/until the lord sky’s polyphonic light/comes pouring down into it’s womb;…”
Sonnet 11.5 from Sonnets to Orpheus
Milk running, bruise cheek, monotype 45 x 61 cm 2015