Babes with Salty Tongues
An exhibition of works in watercolour (2008 – 2018) and a small selection of framed archive watercolours (some shown below), including two works which were shown in the Jerwood Drawing Exhibition in 2008.
At the Borlase Smart Room, Porthmeor Studios, Back Road West, St Ives, TR26 1NG
Opening celebration Saturday March 10th 17.00 – 20.00
Open Monday – Saturday 10 – 5 most days (Please call this number to check the room is open before you make a long trip: 01736 339 339.)
I will also be writing and working in residence on Saturday March 31st, 11 – 5 pm. I’ll give a reading from my notebooks at 3 pm; afterwards there will be a Q & A – all welcome!
The exhibition runs until April 8th.
Listening to myself, far away
Baby muzzle animal-brown and twitching
in amongst the spirit grass
thread of sound on the breeze
finds you, tiny babe floating adrift.
In 2017 I was able to spend two periods in residence on Shetland. I went to write and to make work. I’d travelled intending to work in oils, to explore my painting, but the residency room was spotless and I didn’t feel I could risk oily spills. So I walked and wrote and made drawings. The nights were short and pale; I made myself a nest in my bunk bed, draping the sides with blackout material to enable me to swim into sleep, away from the revolving eyes of the lighthouse and the late low Sun.
During the days I’d walk the spotless beaches, the sandy spits, the brilliant-weed-encased piers and brochs; fish heads swam on tides, Terns hovered overhead, kites to my mind; orca stormed the coves, and seals sung to me. I was lured onto rocks, black, shiny, high and low as birds’ flight tunnels, birth canals for dream.
One night I saw myself in a disembodied womb, floating in space. I pulled on the cord through the starry cervix, out I came, unfolding and erect in a moment, and then quick as a comet, I disappeared. Awoken and startled I wrote and then I began to draw, with watercolour. This was 7 months ago, and still the drawings come, all rooted to that dream. The series currently numbers around 300.
Essay on these works by Rev’d Dr. Richard Davey:
Painting is a physical and decisive act: a mark initiating a world, forcing a form into existence, drawing ephemeral fragments from the imagination into physical being. Paint builds – it structures and shapes, leaving a pigment deposit on paper and canvas; allowing formless things to become concrete, drawing the invisible into perceivable being. But this is not what we encounter in Kate Walters’ Shetland watercolours. These are not paintings that build form, but vehicles through which we are pulled into formlessness; encounters with the ephemeral rather than the physical, a breath of pigment deposited onto paper that suggests figures and forms without defining their solid presence. Figures float into being, still tethered into the void, their weightless form a hesitant proposition. The origin of these tentative creatures was a dream granted to Walters when she was recently staying on Shetland; a vision of her foetal form cast adrift in a disembodied uterus, its unbounded body free of physical constraints, floating in interconnected communion with the universe. It is perhaps unsurprising that such a dream should have come on Shetland, a thin space where physical boundaries are dissolved in the constant ebb and flow that blends sea and shore in a swirling, unresolved flux. As she watched seals blur the line between sea and air and terns draw soaring patterns in the air before plunging into crystalline waters, Walters herself became a shamanic hollow bone, a conduit between the physical and immaterial realms. In her sketches she is seal, fulmar, tern and foetus, a boundary crosser, diving into a cosmic space before birth and after death where everything is held in unresolved, undifferentiated potential.
Below examples of notes, first drafts….I’m working on these for my new book Shetland Notebooks, to be launched March 2019 at Arusha Gallery in Edinburgh.
Silent rivers connect us. Rivers underground. Rivers of sleep. Rivers growing in feathers, birthing from bird skin, pale-follicled, scented. Rivers speak to each other. Veins borrow form, belly-burrowing.
The infant is saddled. A saddled infant.
Cervix protrudes. The protruding cervix, rope of umbilicus attached. Pink rope, twisted with grasses and hair. The face I came to find is the lamb’s face up on the hill, abandoned. Her eyes stare and rock in sockets, white and blue as newborn orbs in grassy cribs.
Another rope connecting mouth and anus lies yellow and pink on the island finger. Bird brought down or died blind. Dagger head asleep. Overhead weary sky gods brush heavy sleeves, smearing blue to bruise. But the island is emerald pocketed, treasury. I sit and watch a seal balancing on a rock as the tide insistently grows. Necklace of red breaks around you seal, I see it. You are washed off the rock, you disappear into a cave. I wait to see you again.
Spell of night shows girl child with lashes long as horse tails tilting upwards; they make her climate mantle, hollow tubes to sky.
Beside her a cow, skin made of Heaven-flakes flying down from the sky to clothe her body in gold.
In another drawing my breasts have the sensing of animal muzzles, I hear myself from far away. I dream of Orkney, violet on grey, of a man in an old house, or climbing among ruins, of wanting to be there.
She carries the night on her shoulders, she has a cord to night, it emerges from her shoulders, grows into a tree. I wear reins to restrain me when I become too wild.
Tears to bone, water to bone. Baby who floats. Baby upside down. Babe in her nest, babe with wings like sails she gathers up. Dreaming of a rare brown flower, and of being told the world had lost all its magpies, feeling sad.
The breath of my feet grows lungs.
Breath vessel a sky tree makes. Baby connected to organs she borrows from birds. Birth canal as beak, umbilicus stiff, bird’s tongue.
The tongue, the nosebleed and the body.
Baby feet two little penises in a cocoon.
The world between: placenta, umbilical cord, foliage, forests, language, tongues and fragments of faces.
The wet limb, ghostly father
Babe in Spirit Eye, Spirit Sky seed.
womb with teeth, womb fenced in.
Male womb found by spirit babe.
Finding the male womb in space, in the quiet eye of the stillborn lamb nestled swollen on a Shetland hill; in that part of the face, a fragment, resting; in the torn end/tip of the umbilical cord trailing on the grass; in the tip/on the toe of the soft birth hoof white, waxy; forever virginal spirit-borne, colourless visitor seen only by keen eyes, those who sit on heathery hillsides, the watchers, the walkers at dawn, the far-away ones, the wakeful.