The show is a mixture of new work made in response to ideas in the Balneum and existing work on relevant themes. The artists vary widely in their styles and approaches, from video documentation of a 2017 performance by Zoe Williams to Natalia González Martín’s delicate, hyperreal bathing nudes.
There is a series of bronze mirrors by Nina Royle and a collection of decorative plasterwork vessels by Melloney Harvey. 2016 Fleming-Wyfold Bursary winner George Ridgway presents a film on a smart phone about volcanic fumaroles. Paloma Proudfoot has made an impressive wall-mounted ceramic of a figure disrobing. Anousha Payne’s serpent beast, painted in watercolour pigment with a glazed ceramic head, is an incarnation of the Tamil sea beast Makara, which (cleverly) merges with the water, even as the water embodies it.
Meanwhile, painters dive into the waters of myth, superstition, spirituality. Kate Walters’ mystical evocation of baptism is one of the best works here. There are mysterious and well executed landscapes by Ithell Colquhoun and Danny Leyland. Jessie Whiteley’s egg tempera paintings combine elements of myth and surrealism with urban modernity.
Danny Leyland, Between Two Worlds, 2021, Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 cm.
Co-curator Ella Walker describes working with the Balneum as an act of multiple translation: from its original Latin to an existing French translation, into English with some help from Google and then into the artworks, by the artists themselves. The show illustrates the spectrum of ways by which artists translate ideas, through the cipher of their own interests, instincts and experience.
But there is another, final act of translation which sometimes gets scant attention at the cutting edges of contemporary art: that between the work and the viewer. Here, if one continues the water metaphor, we are cut adrift, with little information about any of the art we are seeing. We must make of it what we can, which is fair enough, I suppose, though, one suspects there are some fascinating insights which are lost in translation.
Bathing nervous limbs runs at Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, until 29th August, as part of Edinburgh Art Festival.
“I saw your song alive; there was great beauty. A cord stretching and growing like a branch, or a tree; a synapse, a ganglion; a cord of sinew, or mating rope between Arthropoda; an umbilical cord, twisting, fleshy, rooty, internal, from earth to heaven. With growing points/nodes/staging posts or platforms where happy dark-haired women were sitting, singing, with wide open mouths. They were descending from these platforms, one was a little anxious about the descent. Then they sat in a circle on the ground.”
I’m just home from teaching a course at the wonderful, beautiful School of Art & Wellbeing in Devon.
The School is a haven for Nature: several sweeping acres are set high on a hill overlooking Dartmoor, with a Mongolian yurt, wild gardens, shepherd’s huts, polytunnels for plants, flowers and painting; and a pavilion with a kitchen and tables; easels, paints and showers.
This is a place for deep connection with all that is good and abundant. It has been established and nurtured over many years by Mary-Ann and Geoffrey. I knew it was perfect for my workshops the first time I visited when I ran my dog around the open meadow beside the pavilion.
My first workshop there was about connecting creatively with one’s inner fire, and the life force felt so strongly in this place. We worked with shamanic ceremony; we made journeys riding on shamanic horses to find power animals, plant spirits, and places of beauty in our lives to ask for medicine names or a name a special place would give us.
In some cases these came as ‘vocables’. We worked ceremonially, and also with humour and lightness. I don’t teach in a strict way, and worries about ‘getting things wrong’ were dispelled. I also worked with the ‘hollow bone’ process, one to one, inviting trauma and grief to surface. Images came for drawing by participants, and words.
We talked about First Nations’ Peoples’ poetry, and song, and images. We looked at contemporary artists, and we spoke about the constriction and inheritance of patriarchal and religious systems.
One night we had a wonderful fire and a sunset dance using headphones and bluetooth technology. Our circle was warm and safe. I felt honoured to be working with such a wonderful, brave, inspiring group of women.
The next workshop here will be August 30th – September 2nd.
This will focus on the ancestors; we’ll respond creatively with images, words, dance, and possibly song. This course is fully booked.
The last course this year will be from October 25th – 27th. It will be strongly body-focused, and will also work with a range of responsive sensitive mediums and will be explored ceremonially and with beauty.
Please contact me for details of next year’s courses – they’re currently in the planning stage!
For around 3 years Mat Osmond and I have collaborated, at a distance, on a book about the Black Madonna. Mat wrote poems in response to the paintings of Meinrad Craighead; at the same time (up until September 2019) I was working on large watercolour paintings of aspects of the divine feminine.
“The Black Madonna’s Song is dedicated to Sr Meinrad Craighead (d. 8.4.19): an artist, writer and Benedictine nun whose life was steered from early childhood by an intimate sense of encounter with God the Mother. At the heart of the pamphlet is a series of ekphrastic poems by Mat Osmond that reply to paintings by Craighead: works that reflect her lifelong devotion to the Black Madonna.
The Black Madonna’s Song is illuminated by a series of arresting watercolour paintings by Kate Walters, chosen for their resonance with Mat’s poems and offering a third layer to the pamphlet’s oblique meditation on the instinctive process that Craighead herself spoke of as ‘praying with images’.
In honour of the women who’ve recently taken up breaking the windows of UK banks heavily implicated in funding ecological catastrophe, all proceeds from The Black Madonna’s Song are being donated to covering their and fellow Extinction Rebellion arrestee’s court costs. ” Mat Osmond
For a link to the publisher, where you can buy the book:
I’m so thrilled to be part of this show – details above! at Arusha Gallery, now open.
Here is a review, where my work receives a special mention, to my great joy…
Last night these words came, woke me up: Spirit coming through is the fruit of an energetic liaison and a promise too of an aperture of wholeness. Like a child, a holy fruit, a holy kernel inside the fruit of flesh. There is an elixir hidden inside the flesh.
The aperture, to do with seeing, using spirit as an Aperture: seeing through the spirit: drawing and writing in an altered state (with a poet?) …
*Dream on 14.7.21
Of a man I feel comfortable with cuddling up to me, making love to me. I was in a very large house with many rooms, and each one had someone in it, a version of me, female, younger, who needed looking after. It was my job to do this, and I did it well. It/I was sort of my super-id or higher self, taking care of all my different and many parts. The man kept an eye on me, he was around, comforting still, and I knew he accepted me fully, exactly as I am.
The inspirited birds/lovers.
I remember initiatory crystal head-dress dreams (I was giving them to women in a holy place, there were stairs), and an old dream of a soft pink revolving eye on the floor below. For healing and penetration.
Pollen for thanksgiving. Do my painting of ploughing with the heart.
Be alight. Or, be a light.
I have a kind of branded vision. I dream he came to me, he put his fingers into my eyes (like doubting Thomas putting his fingers into Christ’s wounds). He felt his way through all my flesh to my bones, and such bones they are, all silvery and metally and shining strong beneath and blood and sinew red. He branded me with his touch. His touch burned me, punctured me.
This dream came after reading Dom Bury’s wonderful poem Brother.
He wanted to touch my vision, and in a way, he has, by the shaping with his hands of the forms in my dreams – vessels, figure of eight, female, full of fluid; the elixir of life. I gave it to him. He took it. I didn’t know he’d taken it.
Recent Shamanic journey, for painting.
Saw a white spirit dragon full of spirit snakes, it was pregnant with them. And then, I’m told the therapy is over, best now to use my wings (or are they owl wings?) to sweep all the debris together , where it’ll form an owl/raptor pellet (they are vomited up, not excreted). We’ve absorbed all the goodness. Keep the bones contained. The rest: go high. The spirit swoops down like a bird to feed on the physical plane. Like a fishing sea bird or a tern.
The nature of the feelings of desire – their actual nature – is luscious fruit – strawberries – the food of the gods – not to be wasted and essentially so good and fine.
(New piece – creature with flippers- to swim in the spirit sea.)
I find notes about an important dream on 15.10.19 when staying in my brother’s house, of a dark haired man on my right, constructing things together, we were in love, making something lovely, I had an important part in it. My animus? And I had holy hands with holy fingers – pictures of mandorlas on each finger, with deep bright yellows, an eastern feel, like icons on the uppermost fleshy parts of each finger.
Dragon medicine (it was pregnant with – pouring with – spirit snakes)
We must learn to:
Control our intentions. A keeper of the creative force of life. A change to the climate of our lives. Higher perception and intuitive abilities. Guarding our creations. Need for wonder. Snake is opposite. So, the bringing together of opposites?
The need to take care with words and enunciation. Love/harshness, power of words to heal or hurt. Time to act. Great creative and spiritual power.
I was teaching a big group of women around a big table/outside/sense of danger from what was outside the perimeter, but we were contained, it was OK. I was asking them how they were, and they said, ‘dazed’. Huge animals were on the outside, composite, prehistoric animals, black, monstrous (early time?). Slow moving, slightly threatening (the virus?).
Notes from my notebook
From Braiding Sweetgrass:
“Go among the Standing People, the Flower People, the Bird People. The capacity of others as our teachers. There are intelligences other than our own, all around us. We can be less lonely if we learn to listen.”
P59 “they love to hear the old language” he said,…but, with his fingers on his lips, “you don’t have to speak it here.” “If you speak it here”, he said, with his fingers on his heart, “they will hear you.”
The current wants to return. I send it in a new direction.
In a new drawing: the man’s heart gives up Little Kate (where she took herself in desperation). She burrowed in there, looking for love and safety. Heart pocket. He empties it. Infant like a flame. The fire of her. Her being aflame; a flame. Alight; a light. Spirit tongue. Ignition. She appears to be birthing into air contained by a thin phallus skin. She is ejaculated into beauty. The testicles will be within his abdomen. His wings are folded back delicately.
“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” Iris Murdoch.
I wrote the bones of this piece during a workshop with the poet Dom Bury.
Finding the heart crack, a place to write from, the place of tension between extinction and joy…
Photo by Andrew McDouall, East Voe Beach, Shetland, 2017
Birds on the bank
the wing and the rock, wings done pulsing, nor lifting anymore
the screaming terns
white blood flights
the wet mother lays flat before me, the lip of her wave my arm, the side of her finger my brow
Curlew hiding in the moaning grass, he walks delicately through my scalp, down my face;
eye lashes wet, heavy, I’m gathering tears on the leaves of all the branches of your thoughts
and still it’s a blessing
(Or I think it is)
You far away in time
and tomorrow too
think of me in the space you make between your fingers as you spread them on the animal skin laid on the dirt floor beneath the sky
Black as night and tucked with the stitches of stars the coverlet hangs a crescent body
a curling fleshy belly
pale and round
the colour of honey
you lie my twin in the bubble I blow between my brows
it hangs there, and rides the current
and collapsing my lips fall with the others
The man is brought before me, twisted and dry.
Ancient you come hard against my palm, I fold my fingers around you, an earth, a sett, a burrow for this stone to rest for the next 2000 years.
Yellow butterflies squeeze out their perfume pale as dawn
Creamy white peals the bell at your crown
and I swim in the seas of your body, anemone pink.
Your dusky cloak, the edges of your hair stroke me man-god: Or ant. Mouse.
We embrace; for a moment I feel your hair against my face. I like it.
The bridges your breath makes sharing this love with all you ones who nest:
I sit beside the chapel, treasure wrapped in wool on the lonely isle. I’d already left him.
Asking for spells and trances and the vibration of cells, he brings me alive; he fears me.
The cut of the tongue of the spider, the carmine stab of the tern
the holes which might tear wider, though which we could drop, my son would fall
(I’d already have fallen)
As I drummed, a robe of white feathers was given to me. It gathered me up in itself, from head to foot. It was both weighty and light.
I’m becoming the apple which floats; hovers kestrel-like in the space between us. You sit. I float above your face with my desire.
The eye, the mandorla between my legs sees you as you fidget. I say, ‘swollen, shining, full’ and you are aroused. There’s sex magic here. I’m the fruit you hold between your teeth (they’re shining as you laugh). You bite me gently.
The open force field my chest your chest
The tops of my thighs
With your testicles clustered as winged seeds I’m sitting on them in the drawings: somewhat small, girlish, absorbed.
(I read old notes:The need to be born as a black sheep when it’s time to make a big leap with soul learning.)
I’m lost when I try to shut down Eros, to control it. I cant control it.
There’s pain when you’re surrounded by desire, and the sense of Eros is rooted in someone else. I ask how can it not be rooted in someone else? By not being their exclusive property you say. I think, so it’s an eros which floats, can inhabit anyone? What happens when I try to stop the face of Eros arriving in my paintings? It feels like chaos… but with time I see something else, something new:
The picture is a parent picture. Its a garden, overgrown and wild. There are new plants growing. There’s a sky opening. It’s a creature, it has open lips. It might be my two legs blue as night, the spirit line bisecting them. The rein from the horse’s lips is blue too, you caress it in your open palm.
The face of Eros is not you (you said). I need to let it be the face of Eros and not worry if it looks like you (I ask). Am I painting the fleshy embodiment of Psyche? Eros needs the spirituality of Psyche…what about the fleshy part, what happens to that? Is it burned away? Is it what I carry in my un-kissed face? I ask you questions, you don’t answer.
I paint a mare who’s waited long. She carries me in her arms. Her udder swells and sends a jet of milk, a stiff tail feather, it roots this Bird-Child in milkiness. It’s milk made erect; it’s flying milk, milk made stiff; a tail-feather tension. Sweet milk as semen-wand; I ask her.
And the stiff milk is masculine (it’s you); you’re filling the milk cells, giving them direction, taking the rounded softly curving forms of the udders and making them arrow-like, a tail-feather flight path into the body of the child.
In the new painting the magician touches my chin with his out-stretched pale fingers. As his hands come towards me they become pale as light. The way his hand just touches my chin, it looks as if he is about to gently turn my face away from the world, and towards him. I would like to do this, to turn away from the world, and towards him. I love him and I want to turn towards him.
His other hand gently guides my lower body, he keeps me from swinging too much. The gold enters my crown when he is beside me. I am inspired when he is beside me. He’s always been beside me. I had to wait to know him. I always knew I’d find him. I wasn’t impatient. The Angel Out Ahead let me know.
He is made of gold, a deeper red-gold like the colour of my horse when she was young, touched by the sun. I’m paler gold, and deepest blue, and white. My eyes are pale blue, the colour of spirit. I remember telling you about that blue.
There is a dream-vessel gathering sky fluid which came to me in a dream. A dream of you and me, and fish, and love. I know the sky can open, it’s a pattern full of spirit lines, like the body I am when I open for spirit, when I open for you.
I’m fluid, and that’s ok. I’ve been traumatised, my body has reflected this. I can let go to an extent, and expect nothing of myself. I feel dizzy, swimmy, writing this.
What I feel for you is desire distilled:layer upon layer of petal, of skin, of kiss, of breath; of the magical stone I found in my garden. There was a musical retort when my trowel struck it, and my inquisitive fingers find you, the part you left for me to find there. Rounded, perfect for my hand, smaller than you are when aroused, but nevertheless a talisman, a reminder of you. I brought it with me yesterday but I didn’t show you. Perhaps I needed to write about it first. Or perhaps its about the male member, the loving male member, about to come into my life. My trowel found it. My hand, my arm. Seeking to make a hole in the earth to plant something. Musical sound as I strike stone with metal. I draw out the stone phallus from the earth. I wipe off the damp soil, I study it, I take it indoors, I keep it with me, in my bag. I should make it a bag of its own, to keep it precious.
Every passing touch, every time I’ve thought of you, and you aren’t here: all goes into my distilled desire. My paintings are distilled desire, desire distilled. You are with me in my studio as I paint, as I dance, as I eat chocolate. When you tend your bees I move about the grasses on the path. I helped a man once, in southern France, we moved his hives from a mountain side to the valley. The air was clean. It was night. I was young, it was all mysterious.
From a Moleskine Fassbinder notebook, a few notes ++++++++++ 2019
From the Annunciation, Marla
A man born from a flower in space a man
Riding a colt foaled from a sterile mare…
Purcell Funeral Sentences Herreweghe
Eating flowers for healing
Wearing flowers of animal skin for healing.
Horse milk/flower milk for redemption. Drinking it.
Becoming pregnant with flowers/birds/fire
The buzzard-plaited wound
I pull birds from my mouth
A dream of writing about how a mountain is made (he is a man, he is masculine, strong) : of a morning’s birdsong and butterfly wings. A damsel fly hatching in the garden. Flying in circles. Standing with my son among the leaves and the sunshine, watching the creature fill her wings and fly heavenwards, a green and dusky joy (the quality of the black that absorbs all light yet is not dark).
I’m a tree with palpitations, with a swollen tongue, reaching out to save herself from falling; who loves her son; who was beaten;
She carries eggs, searches for meaning in her leaves and dead sticks. She’s sad, with a swollen tongue, growing a horn. She learns to stretch her love, to make it flow like a river.
A dream of a room with three fireplaces and three mothers. Soul bundles hanging from a tree.
The memories of creatures who dream of this place; who visit at night. The badger by the front door. I hang the bones you gave me from the tree, from my body they hang, hard as sun-dried sea plants. I’m a tree with a song.
You run to greet me. You take me, you gather me up.
I write about the child with her own milk, she came in the painting. She makes her own wings with the milk. Where does it come from? Could it be a shower of heavenly fluid spurting from the phallus, the man-creature standing near? It’s also, at the same time, mare’s milk. She absorbed it through the tips of her growing hair. The milk soaks into her scalp; bathing her brain it seeps through her cells into her breasts making wings of whiteness for her heart. Horse milk, man-milk for redemption. Drinking it. Holiness.
And there’s a horse with a golden hoof. Perpetually waiting to be born, the soft-tipped golden hoof doesn’t pierce the wall of the horse’s womb.
A friend across the seas gives me a golden spine. It grows out beneath my tail, and sinks into the earth, holding me fast.
Labia – wings from behind the sexual area. A Minotaur head/tops of the body minus head. Is it a wing or a rock behind her? Both? The conversation between a wing and a rock.
Hermaphroditism of the child. Conjunction of female and male.
Initiation by Holy Bird. Drawing with oil pastels. April 2021. One of a sequence.
In a new drawing (in my sketchbook, not yet developed) the phallus has energetic fields which move beyond itself in a looping, orbiting way. Like a slingshot of energetic dust, a force field of attraction, with a pulling power, a gentle stroking towards its erect self. It is like a planet which is elongated, in a solar system which is not open on all sides.
And when kissing in the drawings, the faces become open, like a cove/beach/land/ receiving the sea.
I draw the Song of the Navel. It calls the hand of the Man into its sound bath/field/site; as the young bird opens its gape, she finds the parent-lover bird has thrust his beak inwards. The point of the bill tickles my throat.
In the drawing the wings are folded or pointed forwards, they protect the front of the body.
Electricity snakes from my nipples, charging the air with fire.
The tongue from the navel. The serpent emerging behind her, her arms hold it between her shoulders. She opens herself to the ground. She reflects the spring; the waters gather in her, she holds them in a bud inside.
The serpent’s head smooth and ancient, a rock painting remembered; it travelled here in dreams, in the breath of ghosts, in mineral dust and fingerprint traces. ‘How did it get here?’, A child might ask. Her little animal sculpture, bowing in grace, body decorated with flowers and love:how did that get here? How did she know it looked like that? The beauty bud emerging through the movements of her fingers, moisture, and clay. She made the creature, her teacher could not believe she hadn’t copied it from books. But no. It arose spontaneously, there is an uninterrupted line of energy/messages between her consciousness and that of the ancients.
The song of the navel, it calls his hands into her field. They open and cup the airs as they emerge. Dappled they drift like dusty motes, then caught on his palm he presses onto paper, the voices of the old ones call to us once more.
The child in the school room makes the sculpture, she’s visited by spirits through her little red hands. They shape the clay. Her love for animals pours itself into the creature, and her fear, and her alone-ness. She doesn’t understand what she has made. She doesn’t understand that it’s come through her navel and her pores. It’s genetic and spirit. Her teacher doesn’t believe she’s made it alone, without help. She didn’t make it alone; she had help. She didn’t know it then.
I think of making a painting of a couple holding a fire in their hands, it’s a shared fire, one they share, they hold it up, they breathe into it. The tiniest speck of dust blown into it becomes a furnace:they can’t help themselves. The fire is there, it’s the life-force that burns in the heart of the damp, rounded early life forms walking over the mud, on all their tiny legs.
I spoke of the silver dagger in my throat, before remembering today that it was a needle, for sewing.
I spoke of the dream of the primordial beings, the twins, the caterpillars together beside the spring, in the dark woods, in the mud, the beginnings of new life. You spoke of how the dream is uncovering what is already there (and hidden), and it’s what I do in my art too, and my work as a shamanic practitioner: it’s all the same. And you spoke of the thing between us, the life-force – it’s bigger than us, it just is. And we’re the same, the same soul in two bodies. And I’m so grateful to you for what you reflect back about my work. You give voice to the mythic third.
You speak of sacrifice, the making sacred, the silver nail driven through (me). And death, transformation, metamorphosis. Piercing, the mirror, being able to look at something, see something, through a mirror – used when gazing on the gods….something unbearable, unsee-able. It’s too much, too vast, unknowable, too godly. Also any image can be a reflection of something (we can’t yet see?).
In the painting I showed you, you wondered if she is melting….the red, the flame-riddled flesh below her navel. She’s melting with desire, sexual fluids, literally? Or with power, the power of desire, its force is transforming her into something else, another creature? Or emerging from another state of being, of desire, of being fluid, only just held in a membrane as she builds another body which even now is rising up and filling up her breasts, making them potent, swollen…new
Is she being cooked by her desire, made ripe?
She would draw him like this, as he laughs, as the skin is gathered on his face, sewn by the spirits who are happy, they’re gathering it up like nets or skirts and holding it for a moment or two; so she can glimpse the inside of his shining mouth.
Yesterday two drawings: Meditating Angel with forward-facing wings (in this one your phallus flowers; it’s budded, germinal); and Baptising with an Eye, which became the Unspeakable Girl supporting the bird as it grew from her heart; and weeping, his tears making a baptismal pool between their feet. The tip of the bird’s bill pierces the upper chest of her father-figure: he is initiated.
In the night, in the dark, the back of my hand passes over the hard cold glass. I’m feeling for – reaching for – water.
I suddenly remember my father saying to me countless times, “if you’re not careful you’re going to feel the back of my hand, my girl.” The feeling is a spinning, a numbing, a stiffness in my legs. A spaciousness in my head not unlike meditation, but not good or productive. It leads to loss. Loss of time, of self, of heart, of will, of life.
In the morning I practice the gesture (to understand the ‘back of the hand’ part): the sweeping of the arm out and forwards in an ugly arc: the batting away (of something unwanted, inconsequential, loathsome – his word) the rejection, the force, the dismissal. The poisoned patriarchy in action through the graze of an arm, the sweep of a cuffing fist, a vicious lunge into a permanent future of dismissal and disregard. I focus on the trajectory of the arm, I can feel the pain in my heart like a sore tooth. I stay with the pain, I don’t leave it.
I turn on the great beam, my dazzling searchlight. It’s wide and strong. It shines from a rocky outcrop black and sheer, in the middle of a churning ocean. It’s surrounded by seabirds and whales and clouds of spirit dwell above.
*Dream: Of a bridegroom with thick, padded, white sole/soul: soft, flexible, repaired….
I think of my painting , it’s a child giving birth to the world through her mouth/voice. It’s the act of speaking, of bearing witness (to herself). Her mouth is closed, her skin transparent, her eyes are closed, turned inwards.
In another on wood a figure with closed eyes holds an infant on her crown. Her hands are gold, delineated with the blue of night. The infant might have a bird’s bill piercing her crown. Or maybe the bird is extracting her bill. Maybe the bill has always been there, and will return there at death?
Maybe it comes out to allow the child to live here on earth, for her allotted time?
Maybe the bill pierces her, follows the line of her spine, activates her when she isn’t in skin-form. We don’t know if the bird is inserting his bill or removing it.
We don’t know what messages are carried in the bill, or in the act of piercing or withdrawal. Might there be a bird coming into her from the other end, into her sexual channel?
What coolness I’d feel, being pierced by a bird’s bill. The fat dagger of a Solan, a Shetland gannet carrying all the wild beauty of that place (and he’d close his eyes as he dived into me: a deep and black ocean); or perhaps the tiny carmine needle of a tern, a bird of light, a clitoris-tickler, a sun-bird; or a gaggle of sparrows descending with a shout of their tawny wings, little brown bills no threat, no penetration; or an eagle, who’d hook his great beak into my navel, spread his wings wide along the length of my open legs.
I think again of the messages tattoo-ed on the long yellow dagger of the Solan. They’re written by the airs of the rocky ledges where he was born. They’re incised by the guardians of that place; the eyes inside of my body can decipher them.
Fledgling mother with wing stumps, wing stems like unfurling leaves, foetal roundness, softness, so as not to pierce the amniotic sac, my tender growing-ness pushing against the pregnant air. The rounding air, the skin of the paper smoothed around me, I stretch out my growing limbs beneath your hand, your fat oily crayon, your sea-green, your petal-pink, chalky-white marks. Your eyes closed in bliss or weariness, your sense of finding your way with your hands. Of trusting the music today, the fire, the small fire growing from my nipple, the flame you inhale, you welcome me with your lips.
Then I’m walking across ancient commons of moor and marsh, lighting a candle beside a well; you gaze into the darkening pool, the noonday shade made by slabs of granite; I danced nearby once, full of hope; I learn at last to yield, to give up desire.
The School of Art and Wellbeing is found on a hill overlooking Honiton and Dartmoor to the west. It is a profoundly beautiful place, with polytunnels for painting, a Mongolian yurt for shamanic journeying, shepherd’s huts for sleeping in, and extensive beautiful and productive gardens. This is a place of great natural harmony, light and power; it is perfect for my creative shamanic courses!
August 1 @ 11:00 am – August 3 @ 5:00 pm
Working with the inner Fire of Nature as our inspiration
Painting and drawing – with writing/notes where prescient/if wished – inspired by time spent outside with the natural world. We’ll consider the cycles of life in nature, and pay attention to the symbolism of plants, flowers, animals, birds and elements of the natural world. This course will involve a step-by-step introduction to shamanic processes, including gazing deeply into the patterns/matrix of nature.
This three-day course will take you back to basics and guide you through various techniques developed to improve your sensitivity and expressive range with your drawing and/or writing. We’ll work with music, the breath, the body, poetry; – responding to rhythm, timbre, emotional colour; you’ll have access to a range of mediums and exciting starting points to open up ways of responding. We’ll consider how other artists employ a love for nature in their practice. This will be a reflective, immersive course where you will learn about many techniques for respectfully approaching and learning from nature. The price of the course is £350.
August 30 @ 11:00 am – September 2 @ 5:00 pm
Connecting with the Ancestors
Ancestors can be our blood relatives, or they may be soul-kin. We might also feel we have connections with/are held by animal, plant or place spirits.
In this workshop we will work with reverence, love and care to approach those who came before us. We will think about the nature of time, of cycles, of a returning from exile for the soul. We’ll think about the nature of connection, and how it comes to show itself to us.
We’ll work with dreams, shamanic journeying, drawing, writing, responding to music. Many ways into the numinous will be explored in this 4-day course, gently, step by step.
This path can lead to profound inner change, acceptance, joy, and peace.
The price for 4 days is £475
No previous experience is necessary. This course is now fully booked. I can take bookings for next year…
October 25 @ 11:00 am – October 27 @ 5:00 pm
Making your Mark: drawing on, and being inspired by, inner impulses of your body.
Painting, writing and drawing on bodily impulses, including memory, fantasy and longing.
This course will involve working with breath, music, sound, colour, mark-making, and poetry as some of our starting points.
Most humans draw as their first, primary means to record their experiences, ideas and feelings about being in the world. Artists use many forms of drawing/note-making to explore, set down and refine sensations, observations, and ideas about their work and their surroundings. Having confidence in one’s ability to draw/work with words is invaluable.
This three-day course will take you back to basics and guide you through various techniques developed to improve your sensitivity and expressive range with your drawing and/or writing.
We’ll work with music, the breath, the body, poetry; – responding to rhythm, timbre, emotional colour; you’ll have access to a range of mediums, surfaces, and exciting starting points to show you what can be possible with drawing/writing. This will be a reflective, immersive course where you will learn about many techniques as well as a wide range of thinking about practice – from Eastern traditions to Sufi, Aboriginal, first Nations’ people’s thoughts and European perspectives.
The price of the course is £350.
Here is some recent feedback:
Having Kate as a mentor has allowed a fundamental shift in my wellbeing as an artist and how I view both myself and my creative path. Whether on a workshop in Iona or on a one to one in person or by Zoom, I always feel held, always feel listened to and have always been guided gently to the point I am meant to be at. Its always about the art… but yet its not. Thats what I love and appreciate.
Kate’s Solstice workshops have become an integral part of my year. They reach straight to the deepest levels where art can emerge. She is a brilliant artist and teacher, warm and intuitive.
Professor Penny Florence.
Professor Emerita, The Slade.
For more of Penny’s writing and reflections please see this page:
Today I pay tribute to the mesmerising work and soul of artist Kate Walters. I met Kate a few years ago when she led a painting workshop I attended at the Newlyn School of Art and I fell in love with her work and her fascinating approach to her art. For me, Kate epitomises the fearlessness of a warrior goddess, she is bold and brave, warm and generous hearted. This, and much more, is represented in her work, which calls you to step you into a deeper relationship with yourself and the world around you. In some ways she may well be ahead of her time, but I think she is one of the most exciting artist to be creating out of Cornwall right now. Kate is a true inspiration and it is an honour to be featuring her work on my new website. Thank you dear Kate.
Dr Alice Laskey
If you are looking for authentic ways to consider and develop your art practice, I highly recommend anyone who is thinking about taking up the opportunity to work alongside Kate. Her workshops will enable you to tap in unknown energies , if you allow yourself , and your work will take on a different life and a new journey will begin. Kate is kind, respectful and her workshops are well planned and considered. Kate provides you with access to a wide range of relevant reading and resources that can support you in th development of your thoughts and ideas. Kate is generous of self and always willing to offer you extra space and time to consider you work … I would recommend any workshop she facilities , she welcomes all levels of practice and mediums, the experience will be life changing.
I cannot wait to attend her new workshops in Devon and meeting likeminded artists , as Kate is excited to begin her new journey, I am also excited to be part of her new experience and will be attending with and an open heart and high energy curiosity.
‘Kate is the most grounded and challenging mentor I’ve had in my life, her powerful reflections always bear some heavy fruit.’
Artist and Director of Studio Kind
‘Kate has been the most influential tutor on my work and development as an artist; and though I can count the time we spent together in hours, her guidance, ideas and sensibility continue to guide me today. That this is happening two years on from when we reviewed my work I think is remarkable, and a testament to the quality of her teaching.
She does not instruct you, although she can (her knowledge of art history and thought, materials, processes and techniques is hugely impressive and she is more than happy to share it to resolve technical problems). Rather I found her to be the best kind of tutor : I think the Japanese word is sensei – a master practitioner who encourages through insight and example, and who, from an authentic connection with what she does and the limitless natural and spiritual world around her, helps you understand and find your own voice.’
Abstract Intuitive Artist
If you want to access those spiritual places, thought processes and energies that are so vital to setting free the creative process then sign up for a course with Kate Walters .
Over the last two years I have been privileged to have her as mentor and experience with her shamanic guidance the unique island of Iona , which was thrilling .
She is gifted with steely resilience to plough her own artistic furrow and inspires you to free yourself of the inhibitions that hold you back . I am very lucky to have found her.
Kate creates the most inspiring and magical space in her workshops. Her approach is holistic and goes far beyond simply teaching a well-rehearsed technique. She is attentive to everyone’s particular circumstances and is incredibly perceptive and gentle. I’ve attended many of her workshops and each time I leave with a renewed sense of wonder and creative enrichment.
Professor, Digital Games
Editor, Games and Culture http://gac.sagepub.com
June 2021 Summer Solstice workshops, outdoors…
I’ll be running two Summer Solstice workshops in June. One on Sunday 20th from 3 – 8 pm (the exact time of the solstice is 04:31 on the 21st), and the other on the Monday 21st from 10 – 3 pm. They will be held outside on a beautiful wild and open Common not far from St. Just. There’s a strong and rocky Carn, a stone circle, a meadow, old tracks, and a group of 5000 year old holed stones. It will involve walking quietly and steadily for around 2-3 km, with frequent stops for rest, prayer and tuning-in. We will draw, make notes, and take time to tune in to wild and impeccable place…the coming of summer, and of course the Sun! You will need walking boots, a sketchbook/s, water bottle, a snack and something to sit on (a sitting mat or plastic bag). We will walk meditatively for some of the time and think about the energies which animate and bless this place. There will also be time to release some of what the past 15 months have brought us.
Both sessions will be run according to Covid safe guidelines.
The price is £50 per person per session. You may attend both if you wish for the discounted price of £85.
Please email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to book.
I’ll also be teaching at Newlyn School of Art, Monotype and Landscape Course, September 3rd -6th, details here: https://www.newlynartschool.co.uk/courses/monoprinting-with-landscape/date:1891/
In a dream we’re going through a field of tall crops, hovering, we go through the middle, hovering, we’re propelled with some force, we go to a house, we’re looking for a key, we’re searching, we go into a place beneath the stairs, we find it, I tell you where it is, I give you one of my painted books.
There is a room of water, I bathe in it. I’m helping a woman with fire.
This work, in progress, explores my current theme ‘Lovers Not Lovers’ and Baptism; also different kinds of love.
I’m feeling anxious today, worried. I have pain in my right shoulder blade, close to the spine, the place where a wing would grow from. I’m full of longing.
In the painting the lovers seem to be changing into small birds, songbirds, finches or tits. I raise my spirits by thinking about the spirit of things in their beautiful abundance.
I see the man pouring salt into all my holes:making towers of them, tall, swaying, balancing columns of salt. I want to do this work but I don’t want it to hurt so much.
In the painting the two Angels are about to pass through one another/each other. Or an Angel about to pass through (me). The Man she meets on the path.
There is another man (or is he an Angel?) in the painting; he appeared last, beside the woman, on her right. He is pointing upwards, reminding her of her path perhaps. He is roughly indicated, as though not quite materialised, only just beginning to take on physical form; or perhaps about to leave again, just wearing enough flesh for me to grasp a slight sense of him, this Thursday afternoon, when I am also perhaps only just here.
Later I watch Ch 4 news about the women who are raped and have their children shot in front of them. It cannot be borne. I lose my appetite. I count my blessings.
It comes down through a halo. The funnel mouth is a halo – I’ve only just seen it. The halo also resembles a spent seed case.
Notes about meeting and passing through the Angel, (and the Angel passing through me): both beings altered (nothing lost or taken)
Notes from all the World an Icon P 120
“The feminine images are not the Eros itself, but objects of its longing….we fall in and out of love or are carried and redeemed, or cursed, through its working, but that which love works upon is not love but soul.”
P126 “the most familiar creature a thing unknown.”
I make a tiny drawing in my notebook about Spirit descending through the crown of the holy horse, to emerge from its mouth (or penis/udders/pores/birth canal?) as breath or semen or sweat or milk or creamy white saliva.
I have a dream about my body being inhabited by a man, we can swap places with each other, we blend energetically. There are doors opening and closing. He is there. I ask: Is this how the phallus comes to inhabit me? I’m painting inwardly as I sit across the room, I move across the room, or around the room. You are still, you my pole in the south for these minutes. I’m a star revolving, breathing, expanding and shrinking. I feed myself by absorbing the atoms I sense around you. They come to me easily. They are agitated, fiery, they show me how not still you are, how you are as intense as me in your stillness.
And I think about how to express the feeling which comes upon me when I sense you are thinking of me (little painting). It’s like my flesh is a grating mesh, full of holes, and you slot into all those holes. You arrive, suddenly. Even if I’m absorbed in another’s conversation, or perhaps a film, my awareness becomes filled by you. There is a sense of catching, or of being caught; of the tiny teeth or barbs nature uses to spread herself about; of being a seeded head in a meadow, and of being carried away dry and free in an animal’s coat, taken off somewhere by your hairy scented pelt to a den, a nest, a lair. I ride your extremities. Your rough tongue rolls around me. Sometimes you know, and sometimes you don’t know if I’m there.
I see you. I watch the orange glow in the stove, listen to the trees outside. It’s peaceful, and taut as well. The air between us is tight, it hums. I want to look at you. You look dark. I don’t look at you. I speak of when we won’t see each other anymore. I speak of the dragon, the winged serpent. I’m carried by him/her, I didn’t tell you about the pores down his sides and all the eggs which stream out, they float in the air like pollen.
Pollen that day on a balcony at the foot of a hill beneath a steep green wood, thick pollen, a yellow fur on the balcony, I stepped into it, leaving my footprint in flower. A deer at the top of the hill, above the wood. An empty dining room, animal heads, a mountain in the morning, a sewing by frost of leaves into a coverlet, and crocus candles in purple; Daphne scent gathered in goblets where the trees cleared. Pits of mud for boar beneath the silence of tall chestnut trees, early morning wolf cries across the valley. I walk there with you.
Your hands become great paws of bear when I draw them, thick black claws and a white fire streaming from their centre. It joins the fire behind your back, becomes one with orange flames. I touch the coolness of your heart with my fingertips. Gently. We kiss. My legs are rooted in that place behind the roebuck’s eyes. A great white bird flies out from my breast and dives into the blue sea of your throat. You are singing me awake, it’s early in the morning. The sun flames behind you. You don’t turn around.
I place it inside my body. It’s a phallus full of stars. It’s charged by my violet light.
Horse with a big body for me to climb into. Horse with a big body, an unmistakable love I can’t miss. Horse with a big body holding and carrying love. Horse who bends over me, who brings his immense broad neck close to mine, who bends over me with all his flesh, all his fibres strong and heavy; quick and vital, coming towards me. Such a love have I known.
And then he was a broken horse, wounded horse, close to dying, brain injury, body walking without power, gently now feeling his way with his pointed dancer’s toes across the straw. Following me with his blind eyes, his ears falling from his head. He knows me and pushes his nose against me, into the bucket. He teaches himself to drink again, bubbles surface from his nose.
The last time I saw him.
The current between us a mute umbilicus. A swan’s neck between water and sky, surface and soil, water and flesh. The tapered bill my lips. Where the neck slides into breadth, your groin. Rocks and tide. An invisible cord, pale and wound about with a kind of spirit saliva. I’m reminded of my dream of the double ended vessel with the connecting tube or membrane, or energetic throat. It is between us: rigid, coiled, silent, tiny, slack, stiff : Penetrated, both.
My antler legs growing up behind the deer’s eyes. Where the antlers end, at the tops of my thighs, eternity begins. There’s a Spirit river there, lapping at the edges.
In the new painting my right arm outstretched, it comes to rest, the palm opens on your rounded chest. Beneath the slant of your immense rib cage three penises lie coiled. Your face in golds and greens. A horse breathes you out from the immense vermilion of his heart, wrapped by leaf-shaped lungs. His lungs which carried me and propelled me, whose movement once caused my legs to open and close rhythmically as he breathed.
My survival house all aflame, the red rim open, gaping, burning.
Awareness simultaneously here and far away.
Between your brows, against your cheek, on your shoulder, in the soft air.
My vision like an exhalation, another form of breath, of breathing from the eyes, as the flocks fly this way and that, before my windows, in this dusky light. I put a match to the fire. I lie down, I stretch my body. I think of Freya riding to the Heavens on her great horses.
I dream of travelling south along the coast(on the train from Venice to Puglia) and I see many, many Orca diving and playing in the sea. There are derelict buildings, and a sense of my father.
Yesterday I sat waiting to see you. I was full of hope. A buzzard, cousin to my eagle – of great body and broad wings – sat with me as I waited. As I stirred, and began walking up your lane, so he stirred and rose on his great wings, circled me, and flew towards the east.
When I lay down the fire greeted me and became strong. I am your partner on this journey towards what can never be fulfilled. The erotic component of spirit wrapped around us like my cashmere cloth, the goat hair from the high eastern mountains.
I’m quiet as I lie curled upon the floor; my voice changes. I’m blue, you tell me about drowning and fighting for air, immobile, stiff, frozen. The air was knocked out of me.
I think of painting a silver horse amidst the blackened branches of my childhood. The one near the river, where ponies roamed and swans nested. The damp sticks beneath my feet and the falling limbs caught by their rough-skinned kin.
I wanted to touch your ankle, to imagine it and feel it a bony fetlock, my red horse’s leg standing near me. His breath heavy, perfumed with hay, drifting down over me, a loving mist. His neck strong, protecting.
I think of a painting of a tree suckling me, and a horse, and a man. How would a man suckle me? Would his answer come?
I’m going to begin a painting about baptism tomorrow. The water will stand up, the water will be changed in her nature. I’m thinking about jouissance, the flowing I feel, the ebb, the flow, being with the movement completely, and nowhere else.
In the new painting yesterday, on the fine smooth linen, the little baby might be feeling lost. She’s crawling from your phallus, or she might be on your leg. I am sad, and smaller, I look away, out of the picture. My legs are open, my stomach flat.
Did I tell you that my stomach became flat immediately after giving birth? They induced me because I was losing so much weight before my baby was born. I was thin, and pregnant. I’d been receiving blows and I was afraid. They put a wire with a hook on the end in me and tore open the amniotic sac. It hurt a lot. My body wasn’t ready to expel my baby. They put chemicals and drugs in my blood. I felt as if I was being thrown against a wall over and over again. My unborn baby wore a heart monitor. I was afraid.
A man came and pushed a fat needle into my back. He told me I had to stay very still, even though the contractions kept coming. Another man came and cut open the birth canal, I saw his big gloved hands waving in the air, and his declaration that my baby was about to be born. I remember breathing loudly, and turning my face to one side to a nurse, who held my hand. I squeezed it very hard.
Afterwards my then-husband spent the afternoon in another ward seeing a friend of his. I wanted my baby with me but he was put in somewhere else.
There’s something to understand, but I can’t see it yet. You are my birth partner. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first.
I’m thinking of fonts that fill with river water. I’m a font filling with river water. The birds fly down in ribbony loops from the sky, they gather where the water pools, they come to drink from me.
I smooth the oil of frankincense over my eyes, over and over again. I try to wipe you away from my sight.
“When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying around in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”
(How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way” the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin vol1 p 881).
Flower petals pressed into my book, seeds on threads – ribbons from a dancer’s shoes.
P37. Alchemical Psychology
Act in. “Hold the heat inside the head by warming the mind’s reveries. Imagine, project, fantasise, think.” Cook in the vessel.
P 43 “the pelican is thus a wounding, a repetitive ritual, a sacrifice, and a humiliation all at once. And, a necessary instrument for feeling the opus from within itself. What arises during the work belongs to the work, not to the world. Before the vessel may be opened, its contents must be thoroughly psychologised, refined, sophisticated, its concretisation vapourized. Maintain the heat, stopper the vessel; find pleasure in repetition. The soul is being nourished by its wound.”
P 44 “The inside shapes around itself the outer invisible form.”
Painting with the red veil. I’m crowned by jouissance. No filter/mesh/screen. No protection.
If I didn’t belong to myself, who did I belong to?
And now I’m remembering that I was often told to GO AWAY by both my parents, but particularly my father. I was told this at all ages, but often when I was small. Maybe from as soon as I could walk, get about by myself, I was told to go away. I think my mother must have been told to go away too – but she had her cousins to go to – I had no one. So where did I go to? Who was I with?
Thinking of painting as orgasm – he draws the orgasm out of me like a baby; he takes it into his open palms. It’s almost formless, or has the potential of all forms. I’m a woman giving birth to orgasming birds, eggs, spirit, babies, form.
Babe rests on your leg, turning, with one wing outstretched.
The ecological aspect of jouissance – the feeling of oneness with the fluids of nature.
I’m woken by a dream of an electric cord tying up a gate.
It’s a cord (accord?) borrowed from the sky, it’s lightning, it’s electricity, it’s pink and silver and alive. It’s about safety, about keeping the wrought metal gate tied shut. Even though there are holes in it. And the cord has a life of its own. It could electrocute me. I’m not afraid of it. It’s part of my nature.
And then I can’t sleep, and I think of the electric cord lacing me up. And it’s a silvery snake then, a spirit snake shining.
Yesterday the paintings of the little girl as a root, a fulcrum, a stem, a trunk. She was hard to reach, I was stuck. She came beautifully at first, curled, pink and blue, rounded; with a swan stem piercing her and forming a telescope – a means of seeing – as she lay curled and wakeful, not asleep. But it wasn’t right and nothing else could work around it. The man and woman were incidental, without use or agency. Paint came, it covered the swan and turned the girl over, and eventually all her body went except for the soft part where her organs would grow; and her left arm, which acted as a balancing limb. All the picture depended on this. Her little fingers curled. Her mother balances in the air above her, and her father to the left, sitting. Both regard her with some love, but they do not help her. Their lives depend on her.
Then in the second picture with the golden flowers or stars she is also the pale root, the tooth, the stem, the finger protruding. She’s the beak, the pole, the tongue; the phallus, the proboscis, the abdomen of bee; the animal nose pushing into your hand; a rounded ear, an elderly breast; a toe, a thumb, a piece of fruit; she bends at her narrow shoulders.
Above her the mother dances in space, her navel connected to stars. Father to the left twisted in a pose, regarding them lightly.
In the third picture – on deep pink and a man with golden hands and an infant standing on his erect penis all gone, painted away, left as a ground (?) – the mother holds herself in air, her neck a creature’s umbilicus, who himself balances in the air around her fingertips. Her consciousness inhabited by animal body. The man, with creaturely knowing, sits quietly to the left, he’s wrapped around himself, yet present. Holding himself in a bundle. The infant’s golden face pressed against the ground by the weight she’s supporting.
Thinking about finding a meeting place where I greet myself: between Corbin and Kristeva, the archaic and the post-modern, new materialist world of artists and thinkers; between prophecy and science, data and dream. A site of cross-cultural interpretation and fertilisation, for the finding of lost speech, the retrieval of images, the surfacing of ancient and future.
Paintings as spiritual children.
The parents of this girl.
The testimony of a body thrown down. Dropped into a deep dark cylinder, a well without water or source or function. Dark and endless. I don’t stop falling, dropping.
I lie on your floor. Little Kate begins to come back. She’s quiet, peaceful, sleepy. She’s curled, she’s a returning child asleep in your arms.
*Dream of meeting two young people I love on a high road in the wild lands. I was fiddling with my bra as I did with you yesterday, and I looked into my bra to see there are many tiny little perfectly formed breasts there too, like doll’s breasts, all rounded and perfect, attached by tiny threads to my right breast. Like baby breasts. And of being with a large group of people in a house, which had spacious rooms and large heavy wooden furniture such as you’d find in a refuge in mountains in northern Italy. I didn’t know the Pope Leo (people). I went to the back door and I found a small narrow pen there containing the most beautiful, tall, golden horse with incredible presence and poise. I let him out, but told the people not to let him out of the house (my consciousness).
Then I was outside and all the trees and bushes were growing in the forms of deer and creatures all embracing, holding, other similar creatures – very beautifully. They were huge, full size trees. All their branches grew in this way, it wasn’t something external like topiary (made by humans).