Packing the wound; a garden I’ve been in love with; the colour yellow; and a love letter to painting

…you pack me away into the hollow of a tree, the hull of a rudderless boat, and cast me adrift; you thread me into a blade of grass with your needle; I sew.

My breasts became two little animals before I slept. They were longing to be touched, to be stroked, and also to suckle. They were brown and furry, quite small, rounded noses, gentle; they kept me company when I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to find you,have you stroke my animals. I was wondering before sleep which animal would consume me tonight, would take me inside for safety.

I’m awake again at 5 am thinking of you.
Then I sleep, and in a dream I’m a little dog, you’re painting the top of my head with a large, pointed-tipped soft brush. You’re painting my crown with generous sweeps of the brush; you’re gathering up all my dryness, catching all the dust with the brush; you make my crown glisten and shine. My head is a flower, you’re pollinating it, the fruit will swell, become a sun.
I lie here and I can feel you shape the contours with the brush, you’re enjoying the marriage of paint and oil, the way the paint comes to your rescue, the form you thought lost arrives. You’re shown something beyond thinking.

The tall dusky stems of the belladonna gather twilight. I’m in a garden, far away. I’m young again. The air is scented with datura, vast cups of moonlight hanging down pendulously, nipples sucked by pale stems. I brush past them, and their haloes of moths. The cups of scent are miraculous, and poisonous.
When you arrive at Clos du Peyronnet the first thing you notice is the smell – of generations of pine, cypress, ash, smoke, and tree resins.
I sit beneath the pergola and tree rats rustle the leaves above.
You bring bread, cheese and cool red wine. In the pool lotus flowers sway on their tall stems. Their seed heads showing green still, the heart of the flowers. Their curious shape, like some magician’s rattle, fascinate me. Their holes must surely be for the sprinkling of love dust….
Terrapins and kingfishers keep me company. I am fascinated beyond words by this paradise, this garden made by sad people to heal themselves.
Inside the house it is cool. Stone floors and heavy wooden doors. Old undulating dusty mirrors, shutters, huge fireplaces full of ash from olive trees. The tiny dark kitchen is scented with oil and garlic. The cool green tiles of the windowless bathroom. Outside the countless terracotta pots filled with bulbs. Lemon trees and avocados. Great boughs hanging with round orange kaki – so many summer suns! – we gather into baskets; I learn to eat the luscious fleshy fruit soft, with a spoon…the evening with the fireflies, years later…the walks into the mountains with the dogs and seeing eagles; drinking beer and water from streams. I heard the call of the eagle for the first time.
One evening you take me into the garden. We go to an arching cuypressus avenue. Nearby stands of pink flowers sway on stems of livid purple, which look wet and dusty at the same time. With the knife you carefully cut the stems of the belladonna, warning me not to touch the stems, or I will mark them. You take them to the terrace and place them into a glass jug on the table where we’ll sit.
I’m young. My legs are bare. There’s a photo of me sitting there, beside the huge stone pillars, with the sun behind me. I was in love with the garden, with the scented air, the pools tumbling into the sea, the lotus plants, the dusty paths, and above all the scent of the union of trees. I’m always arriving there, with the crunch of the dry stones, and the jumping onto me of little dogs.

The belladonna are flowering in my garden here. Like evening primrose, rosemary, arum lilies and Florentine tomatoes they accompany me through my life. Like sisters they arrive each year with their gifts. And the others whose names I can’t remember. Those little dry bundles of root I planted in the cold spring, into cool damp compost. Here they are, tall and triumphant, with their crowns of white or deep pink starry flowers. I’d stood alone by the compost bins with my pots, seeds and bulbs arrayed around me. I was planting summer.

I’m calling back my heart, she is pulling her head out of the lion’s gape, his mane is not the sun rays, she is not the centre of the sun hurtling towards you. In you I became something unwanted, like a stone thrown into soft flesh. A peach perhaps. You hold me in your hand. My skin is furry, pink, fragrant. You peel away my skin, we’re on a balcony in France, with shiny silver knives; my hair is cut short, we eat the hearts of trees. I swim in a pool of frogs, my hand is cut, there’s a storm; I make a friend of a young goat in the wood of yellow mushrooms.

I go to sleep with a warm stone in my hand. I found it in Shetland. It is like a heart, it glitters and feels good, filling my palm. I sleep with it to help me dream. In my painting yesterday I held the leather in my mouth, the stirrup around my foot. The sun spins above my head, unwrapping my crown.

Yellow, inner gold

I realised that I’d been taking buckets of liquid gold, scooping it out of myself, and tipping it all over your head. I’ve poured it all over you.

I gather gold from all the yellow things I see around me : from countless eggs, the clear white dribbled off into bowls made of skulls; the yolk I store, wrapping it around pebbles I heap into cairns; or glueing it to animals’ scent I’ve gathered from trails. The sun yellow I take from my outstretched palm, roll it into my mouth, curling my tongue around it, feeling it between my lips hard and shiny, hot.
The yellow from the corner of the fledgling bird’s beak, who gave it to me in the garden, after I called to him, when he’d learned to fly alone; the yellow remembered from early spring, the narcissus, the jonquil, the reflexive petals peeling back in a yellow smile from their waists. The leaf who finished early, full of regret, but happy nevertheless; the yellow pony, the one from the high northern moor, the colour of winter sun, the dun, with the black stripe I rode as a girl….the yellow light of winter dusk: foggy, thick as cream;
There’s the Indian yellow paint I smooth down limbs in my paintings, transparent, shining; and the pale yellow butter I melt when I cook eggs and tomatoes. The yellow light of this lamp beside me, the Italian lamp from my grandmother, with its faded, torn shade. And the legs of alpine choughs which flew around me in the Dolomiti, yellow shanks and bright sunshine feet on white snow, black rock. The bright golden halo around the head of Madonna della Salute, on the print which I look at each morning, shining over my bed. The pale yellow pillowcase beneath my head or between my legs; looking at my books now, rarely are they yellow, except for the old french ones I remember, with their pale yellow paper covers – volumes of poetry?

In my late summer garden a few faded lilies recall yellow, their golden shining centres and deep yellow pollen, almost brown; the sunflowers drooping, their morning petals shining with promise, already curled in August; and of course the evening primrose, stately chaotic moth-bearing flowers, the genus I’ve carried from home to home, the gift from Dorset and a country woman who taught me about plants. Pregnant then, I’d gone into the darkening evening to stand near the budding flowers, and listen to the not-quite-silent unfurling of the petals, the crisp, sudden revelation of lemon against dusk, the hand opening, the smile pinned like a moth on a violet parchment; the petalled dance embraced by arms of night. The point would hold erect in the night, a lemon pen or tapered bud, and then in seconds, the form would be released, twirling into a wide open ecstasy, shivering with delight, dancing with herself. Each night a few flowers would greet the night, be initiated.
Very young I’d loved the story of the tiger who ran around a tree until he melted into butter…

There are yellow threads sewn into darns over worn-out skin: mine, and my horses’.

There was a dream of meeting my animus who is golden yellow in the alpine meadows with the holy cows, my mother, and the spirit cakes.

I lie awake curled in your large hands which I saw today for the first time. With blunt rounded ends, they’re like beaver paddles or belladonna stems emerging from their sleep: a ruddy brown, comforting. I see them wrap themselves around my fruiting parts; you hold them all so gently, you hold my fruits as they ripen, and softly open. You carry my fruits to your mouth and breathe deeply, enjoying their perfume. (I know you are a sensuous man, I can just glimpse him). You caress the silky skin of the fruits with your lips, then using your tongue and your teeth you gently nibble away the top layer of pink skin and scoop out the soft yielding flesh.
Your tongue is a petal
Your navel has a petal planted,
It’s the showing tip of the garden within you.

In another picture I sit on your broad palm: you have just hatched me. I ask: Are you the big father bird, the deep dark feathered one of story, of my bones, my spirit-blood family? Are you both father and lover? Did you sit over me in some starry nest, lined with deep sea-dark, iron-scented leaves gathered from the deepest sea? Did you wait for me to hatch, as you incubated me so patiently?

I’m pale, feathery, round, and I gaze into your face with silent joy. You look at me with a fierce love; my wings are yet to fill with sap, they fold awkwardly into the blue. Your wings are deep brown, they merge with the trees of the forest where you are home. The bones of your wings are tree limbs, roots both water-net and a skein of shadow dropping from some celestial weaver. I see you as eagle-man, with your dark brown feathers and your knowing of the high places.
I wanted to say how good it was to see you, but I didn’t.

In the night after seeing you I woke with my right eye wet with tears. This involuntary weeping of my eye, usually the right one, happens quite often. My cheek is wet, and my eyes are swollen with tiny sacs of unshed tears, carried like ballast in my face. Three days ago a caterpillar squirted green sap into this eye; I’m reminded of the time I bit into a tomato and sent a jet of pink fluid into another’s eye, some cold time ago in Denmark. There were dancers; I liked the Spanish dance, it was erotic and we’d lain back in space, tipped into eternity for an hour or two.
In the garden as I gathered berries, my eyes went green from the caterpillar’s ejaculation. A bird inhabited my hand and its beak closed around the grub as it curled on the leaf. As I move about the garden you do not completely fill my thoughts. In the studio though: you and the act of painting seem almost to be one. As I paint your face moving closer to kiss my mouth, my pulse races and my belly churns. My hands become urgent as they seek to call you to be present, your lips to animate, to send your tongue to meet mine.

The wet black confined creature hatching from my dream, I see now is desire sleeping, curled up. It’s the thought of the dark wet phallus confined in me, the creature of desire resting between thrusts. Alive, life force strong, indestructible even, but not fully conscious. Waiting to be brought to temperature, to be cooked, made edible, palatable. ‘Eat’ he’d said in the piazza, in San Giovanni di Val d’Arno, as he held out the pomodoro di Fiorentino, all of which I’d forgotten until I saw you plunge your face into the brown bag full of tomatoes I’d grown. I fertilised each flower by hand, with a soft paint brush, almost painting each fruit into round, red being. Your face I glimpse in its response; I can hardly allow myself time to fully inhale the picture of you receiving what I’ve brought you. I skate away, I fizz into tiny bubbles which burst at my edges: I can’t contain myself.

I’ve stopped tipping my gold all over your head, now it washes all over the floor around us; it seeps from my pores, it drips from my words, it rises as an incoming tide from the sheepfold of my lap and the meadow between my legs. The perfume of your sweet chant brings the gold to the surface of me, like fish to the surface of the lagoon in Venice when the drummer comes. I cannot contain it.

Le Jardin Clos du Peyronnet – William Waterfield’s garden

Venus on horseback

Venus on horseback
It’s two o’clock in the morning. Awake again with the currents swirling in my belly, a dream called me to waken, a self portrait as Venus: oranges and yellows shining, strips of colour like light through trees, sunshine through water as I swim, my arms golden – young again – pulling me through the sea. Then I’m lying in the shallows, the water warm, sun dancing around my shoulders as I rise.

It’s night, and I look at the moon; tonight she’s full (4.8.20). She’s a light dancing over a golden mare’s dappled bottom, a celestial roundness, the Milky Way her tail. Your kisses brighten the dark stable she stands in, waiting for the morning.

The white horse of sacrifice has returned. This time I ride her as Venus, my mouth weeping with words. They make a veil which falls around me, pale as morning. I must speak even as I’m led towards the white trees, those smoking, deathly towers.
I’d come to want to know you, in all the tiny gardens of your heart. All the hidden places; I’ve longed for all the ungovernable kisses. I’ve felt the unswept arm not rising over my shoulders or across my breasts; I’ve sensed unswallowed scents of stomach sweat, all the laughter lost in the hills; the happy footstep not trodden, the call of arrival not uttered. The sleeping sigh, the conscious kiss, the undisguised gaze, all lost. I’ve followed my dream’s bidding, and I have come to leave your house.

For the first time I’ve put on the night light, I’ve sat up in bed, my mouth full of sadness. This time I’m catching the tails of all the running beasts which encircle your hut and my heart. I’ve taken my pen and drawn out the creatures of longing from my belly and my heart, and I’m setting them down alive. They’re moving under my hands as I write, I can feel their warm skin between my legs, their breath against my neck. They’re not worried over for hours as the sun rises; I’ve sat with them this night, I’ve stroked their paws, gently set down their hooves, allowed them expression. I’m not waiting for them to die. I’ll watch over them as they return to sleep.

Thoughts of you, minute by minute, hour by hour, they’re with me every day and night. They’re alive with so many creatures of so many worlds.
I’ve always thought of us as two luminous souls. You’re the fire standing in front of me, that blazing such brightness, I become ignition itself.

In the dream I leave your house. You follow me, we talk, and laugh together as we used to. You place your hands around the back of my head, your fingers massage the dreaming place, above my neck, and my hair springs up between your fingers as we fall together onto a yellow ground.

There are so many things I would tell you, and so many things I want to hear from you. I’m always in that first moment, when you stood in front of me and my eyes opened wide, opened fully for the first time. My vision took you in, but you had seen me first. I was in you before this time.

Night writing

I’m awake again in the night, before dawn. Sea scent surrounds me. I’m sliding within, and riding upon, a snake or a serpent. My face grows into and is behind the face of the snake. Time happens twice, watches itself, echoes with child, gives suck. I am clothed in white, a shimmering powdery luminescence glows from my scales. My arms are by my sides, hands wrapped about me; I hold myself within the body of the snake. I swim in the snake, my whole body undulates, I’m a thick sea-muscle; fish-like, body encased, cool.
A green juice of snake serum moves like oil around me. I’m feeling the serpentine force, the slippery steminess of him between my legs; I’m pulling him in, I’m aware for the first time of how my organs work, I see them as they come now to a place of change: I feel them, I rejoice in them and their forces, their currents; their muscles, their smooth pink skin, their mouth, their lips, their saliva. The way they rise and fall, the way they connect me to the wild forces, the unstoppable forces of wild nature, untamed and untame-able.
I am become the pink lips of horses, nostrils round gulping air; I see bluish gums, hard and smooth, and their galloping legs, their huge lungs beneath me sucking air, expanding into the space of young trees; the landscape of rocks, the head of the seal dark and shiny emerging from the frothy swell; your fingers through my hair, the pads of your fingers pressing against my scalp, the thick weed of the gushing tide around our legs, the dreaming ones ahead of us when we become fish or swimming horses, tidal creatures. I feel your gaze across the days and months. It does not weaken.
The serpent stems are my plant lovers in my wakefulness: thick and pliant, stroking my back, tendrils waving all around me like my heavy hair. They are my desert companions. They grow from the same root as me. They share my store of water, my vat of food. We have a large rhizome at our feet, it is our home, our yolk, the source we tap. It is enough. All around us is desert, a vast flat empty landscape, no one else is here.
This is where I was born, and how I grew.

Notes on love and sacrifice

After swimming, my son rescued a bee from my bedroom. I find sugar crystals; he rolls his finger in them – the sugar sticks. The bee is pale, fading, and exhausted. Then she finds the sugar, and a long, strong, silvery tongue begins to feed. Her tongue goes backwards and forwards, sucking up the sugar for a few minutes before her little body begins to shine, regaining colour and lustre. Then she washes her legs, tries out her buzz, and flies away.


I’m reminded of circumcising the heart- the time in Assisi. Standing in the white room with the bright altar and the monk and the dry Old Testament pages. There was a jug of arum lilies, erect on thick stems, white and red, waxy, sensuous, they had stiff yellow stamens. Early morning, sun shining, bells ringing and outside the screaming swifts carved the hot scented air into heavenly segments. The pink of bougainvillea in the pots at the door. My heart becomes a penis engorged as I pray; I remember as I write that the heart has no skin to lift, no foreskin to pull back; the heart is an organ exposed, so tender to touch.
When I left he hugged me and said quietly “come back.”


I remember the burning bush kindling at my knees: men stood there, lit the taper. The flames breathe out of time with my heart. Yellow fire shapes my pregnant belly, stains the underside of my milky udders like a lick of pollen; I’m a horse of the plains led by you between smouldering silver birch branches; I’m white with blackened limbs; smoking handfuls of leaves and empty stalks fill my mouth: my tongue is crisp, wordless. Dried seed-cases and shrivelled flowers are pushed into my ears: the man’s arm thrusts endlessly into my heart, autumn comes in June.

Some more writing from Italy and home, 2006/2020

Here’s a little more writing, a first draft from 2006, reflecting time spent near Montevarchi, in Tuscany, and some recent exploratory notes from home.

Walk to Croce de Pratomagno 1,591m
All day. Starting at Gorgito then through the silent forest where every sound seemed to be muffled. I heard wolves howling in the distance, filling the silence, eerie, thrilling. Cool air, we enter pockets of earthy scent. It wraps us; we walk softly on thick carpets of leaves beneath thousands of chestnut trees. Climbing a steep route, C.A.(Club Alpino) No. 1. Paths, shrines, look-out spots over tiny Renaissance villages, yellow ochre and geranium red only; tiny gardens in corners, hilltop cemetery, water man with spring, mushrooms, springy turf, white long-legged cattle, violas, spiky sun disc thistle flowers, dianthus, refuge huts, eagle.

Red tree creature, tiny houses at Rocca, the Germans at the summit, they took our photo; the enormous hare, like a jack-rabbit, hopping slowly into the shadows, on the edge of that sweeping alpine meadow; horses, waterhole, potato fields, chestnut terraces, more horses, late return, becoming lost (way-markers, little red and white painted marks on trees – cut down!); missed the bus.

Blue trees with red necklaces and pink crowns. An old woman skinning a rabbit against the wall of a stone barn.

Pregnant Darkness (by Monika Wikman), p. 87
“any masculine spirit in us that thinks it ‘knows how it is’ can become the dominating thought form that kills experiential connection with the numinosum. The dominant culture can kill the most precious gift Jung pointed to – a felt, instinctual living relationship with the spirit of imagination…”

Creativity as when spirits enter. “As a mythopoetic symbol, then, the navel signifies that the centred ness of human existence is constructed over a gap, a fissure, a void.” The Knotted Subject by Elisabeth Bronfen.

Extracts from some new writing.
Your voice is an animal: brown as pelt. You step gently into my ear. I don’t answer; you speak again.
Charge me with your voice I say, with that very particular timbre, those notes. I tell you I want to suck the animal pelt into all my cells with my hearing. I want to survive.

I’m in bed again, with my books. It is night.

I’m a deep valley, with steep wooded sides in shadow; animals gather here, there’s a rounded pit where the boar lies, and a form for the hare; deer lie, forelegs folded, amongst the scrub; I hear hoglets squeak, and their mothers grunt. Ants have made a dusty tower; it gleams orange with moving eggs when the sun reaches this part of the wood. The river bed is wide; towering teeth broken from a great mouth have come to rest here. There’s a pale stream trickling down this channel, and a sense of yielding. I feel you rest there, dark, hairy, painting on my belly with your brush.

You are human and male. I, a shamaness.

I’m making a pale new land. A yellow snake stands up, joining earth and sky. It travels from between her legs, through her back, up the man’s belly before entering his heart.
The man is close behind the woman (I’d thought he was hiding, but now, I’m not so sure); she is bent over the dark horse, who is painted vigorously. Her hand rests on the horse’s back.

The new place she is breathing out: she’s forming it with her breath. It is cool, grey, featureless. In days ahead she’ll sit with him. Her chest will rise and fall. The birds will sing. She’ll wear a red cloth over her head.

Emergency Arts Council funding; Notes from my studio book; Beep painting prize, and Covid-related news…

I’m very happy, relieved and grateful to the Arts Council for awarding me funding from their Emergency fund, to help in these times of lockdown and the loss of income from many sources. I have been spending this time immersed in my work, enjoying my return to oil painting and working on a larger scale. I’ve also begun writing another book, which will explore my inner process and how it relates to, and is informed and energised by my painting and drawing.

In the Time of Coronavirus a Great Tit cheeps
The sparrows bathe, and rub their bellies in dust

I find a card in my notebook – it recalls the uncorrupted Tongue of St. Anthony; I remember visits to Padua, of the horse skeleton cradling the warrior; and Otranto Cathedral with the miraculous tenth century mosaic floor…I feel confined in my thoughts about travel being forbidden; I escape within.
We create in our bodies, in their bodies; the snake carries matter, undefined mass. Drawings from Otranto Cathedral, there’s a woman with a horse coming from one breast, and a snake from another. She is astride another creature.
My drawings of horses swallowing a vortex; a pregnant woman with many breasts rides a low-slung horse; she has a furry penis, and a long tail.
The horse I bred who died, I remember him, with pain, in my therapy time, just before lockdown. Loss is pain. My therapist speaks of sacrifice. I research horse sacrifice. The man uses a knife to cut just behind the breastbone, then plunges his arm in, severs the horse’s heart from all its connections, and pulls it out…(Jeremiah Curtin, A Journey into southern Siberia)… “The Altaic shamans of NE Asia, on the other hand, killed horses for ceremonial use by breaking their necks.” Or “No blood was spilled. The horse was skinned bloodlessly and its hide removed as completely as possible so that the form of the horse could be reconstructed by draping the hide over a bench or trestle…signified the presence of the animal as if it were alive, and at one stage of the ceremony the shaman mounted this effigy and pretended to ride it skyward.” The horses which were sacrificed were always pale grey, or white.
At home, I receive a look of anger, I turn away.
*I have a dream of looking up and seeing a glorious snake-dance above me. Two snakes are kissing, dancing, very erotically; I knew each snake’s body held a human (male and female, one in each). They were coloured like a clouded Leopard.
Standing on the tips of flowers in my drawings.

The deathly male needs to come alive in order for the fertility to be activated. Part of me is not alive (yet). The penis still hooded. I remember Assisi and the reading about circumcising the heart, my shock at this notion, these words. I’d stood in a pure white room, simple, with an altar made of pale wood; it was early in the morning, and light streamed in. The monk stood beside me and spoke the words.
Part of me that has survived without the male needs to die in order for that other masculine to live (sacrifice? a ritual?).

This picture and another, below, have been accepted into this year’s Beep Painting Prize, in Wales; we are hoping this will go ahead in the Autumn of this year.

Memories of Italy

Unable to travel anywhere, in this time of Covid, I’ve been reading again old notebooks, which accompanied me on journeys to Italy, and time spent in precious places.
Here are some notes from 2017 when I was in Puglia:
Lunch of open textured bread,castagno honey, cheese – soft and creamy from Norcia – pistachio nuts and red pepper.
I’m almost beneath the ground, in a cave, beside a circular space where the horses would have been gathered. The ground is soft to touch, there’s a tiny river bed, and orange and lemon trees are hanging with fruit; an old broken mill wheel is propped up nearby.
The cave with its soft brown animal floor, stone licked by horse’s tongues, the mill-stone’s memory traced in the stone ceiling, sun-white revolving; all your feet together you ponies, your hot breath, quivering mouse-brown noses, your shoulders straining against leather and weight of rock (sasso).
The ramp you walked down is behind me. You were led by men, short of stature, their elbows pressing into your hairy hot damp necks, your hindquarters slipping, hocks bent, little pointed toes digging in.
How long did you walk in this cave, circling beneath the rock sun, pressing olives for oil?
The ground in here is wet and cold, a rich chestnut brown, holding. Your hooves would have sucked into it before slipping on the white rock.

In Ostuni, in the empty white streets, I remember the old man with the Capriolo skull I should have bought.It was impossibly elegant and beautiful. I wasn’t fully present. We returned several times to find him, but he’d gone.

Castagno honey scents recall walks in ancient forests, where the air was thick with tree pollen and quiet; all bird song muffled. They were resting. The path was quiet, long, pine-scented, leafy, endless.
Monks tended bees in multi-coloured hives.
In the valley their immense jars were filled with oils.

Art in the time of Coronavirus

I’m finding this time a mixture of things.
I love the extra freedom to spend time in my garden (I grow many veg and flowers), and I walk to my studio most days to spend the afternoons there on my work. I know how lucky I am to be able to do these things, and to live by the sea, and in a relatively underpopulated area. In this time of shutdown there is no teaching so I’m able to put all my creative energy into painting and thinking about work – and doing related reading and writing.

I’m currently exploring the image of the snake/penis as an organ to receive…and the womb as an external organ of the spirit which is carried by significant creatures (horse, bird, leopard) – I could never have reached this imagery without letting go of ego/mental appraches/attachements (to a certain extent, at least!).
As an empath I’m finding the news about how health workers are being pushed to their limits extremely distressing, and families terrible premature grief is awful to behold. Not being able to say goodbye grieves me sorely. The government’s failure to do anything clear, transparent, honourable or competent is also causing me distress, and anger. I campaign against this government on Twitter (@katehorse).
I miss seeing friends, but being in touch on social media is a great thing. As something of an introvert this time is not so hard on me. I also make more phone calls to friends and relatives. Writing letters and sending pictures to people with notes by post is good. The initiative by Matthew Burrows on Instagram is very good, and I have sold a number of small watercolours.

Here are a few recent notes from my notebooks:
Pregnant Darkness (by Monika Wikman), p. 87
“any masculine spirit in us that thinks it ‘knows how it is’ can become the dominating thought form that kills experiential connection with the numinosum. The dominant culture can kill the most precious gift Jung pointed to – a felt, instinctual living relationship with the spirit of imagination…”
The Saturn archetype is Mercury’s polarity…

Hair-branches-sap-breath-mystery-snake-baby-golden child.
Hands-branches-roots-bird’s feet-claws-matrix-capillary mat-vein-arterial pathway.
Hands holding ectoplasm or the numinosum, the abundant, charged air.

A dream of pruning stuff to do with fathers, and where to dispose of the cut wood – thorny, brambles…

Black Madonna with skirt of earth and seeds.

Seeing with the navel. Resonance between the third eye and the navel.

I’ve been looking for something which was always lost, always will be lost. I hunted for it in all the wrong places. It was never for me. I’m more than ready to stop the search. I don’t even feel sad anymore. When you are ready change isn’t difficult; like changing gear without the clutch:when everything is aligned it will be smooth.

Iron John by Robert Bly p.55
“to receive initiation truly means to expand sideways into the glory of oaks, mountains, glaciers, horses, lions, grasses, waterfalls, deer. We need wildness and extravagance.”

I miss Italy. I miss being able to plan to visit Shetland or Orkney.

A lovely essay on my new work, by Professor Penny Florence

An essay to accompany an exhibition of recent work at Newlyn Art Gallery, February 14th – April 18th.

Island Bodies

Kate Walters

These recent works by Kate Walters stand on the cusp of change in her increasingly impressive oeuvre. Fascinatingly, they also position us on many thresholds, each of which works towards complex meanings: they are between worlds; between earthly beings; between beings and plants; between abstraction and figuration; between profound and ancient traditions and an innovative symbolism that extends them.

What I mean by this is that while she draws on traditions – the Shamanic, the Graeco-Roman – she never merely repeats them. So although she references Artemis/Diana (the huntress) we do not find a goddess figure accompanied by the usual trappings of hound, bow and arrow, and stag. Rather, Walters explores Diana’s rôle as guardian of the wild forest, protecting all newborns, without distinguishing between animal and human. In this, her wildness is associated with water, both as the free-flowing imagination and the untamed rivers and springs. This is not to preclude Diana’s lethal capacity as huntress; but rather to foreground that none of this is sentimental or easy. It is a matter of life and death.

The way Walters draws on the Shamanic helps to bring these thoughts of transition and the wild closer to the formal qualities of the painting. There are two elements in this tradition that she cites: the tree and hair. Several of the works in this exhibition articulate a co-emergence between branches and hair, and between both of these and veins or living sap, or the ducts through which nurturing milk flows. We see it in the forms and the way the paint flows and spreads. It is more than transitional: they are consanguineous.

So why ‘Island Bodies’? Because the works were inspired by islands, of course: Iona, Orkney, the Uists and Shetland. But it goes further than that. An island is not the opposite of the mainland; it’s as connected as all parts of the earth are. It’s just that we can’t see it under the waters, nor can we see that the waters are what define all life.

We have to think and see differently to understand these things, these works of art. We have to be “Deep in the Psyche of Nature”.

As Walters points out, quoting her favourite Rilke:

The moon won’t use the door,

Only the window.



In the garden                                                       

Deep in the psyche of Nature

Of Earth as River or Snake

I hatch babies in my hair,

The creatures I feed

Vision, Milk, Hair, Nest.

Suspension. Belief.

Penny Florence. With thanks to Kate for access to her research.