Here are a few extracts from notes I made whilst on Shetland. The rest of my writing and some of the watercolours/studies will be gathered together into an exhibition and new book – Shetland Notebooks – to be launched in 2019. Details to follow!
Heathery air. Circle of green on a grey-mauve hill flank. Simple. Lovely. Clouds like so many bird kisses resting on the hill tops. Lime green clumps of clover along the way and pale green breath gathered at the yoke, the node of serpentine shoulders. Sheep mothers pretending to be deer with their shorn coats and brown skins. Climbing over the black rocks to Horse Island my balance improves. I share the air with fulmars and terns, they traverse an airy valley of thermals I cannot see, but sit alongside, in my seat of blasting sun-struck rock.
Clouds like wing of tirrick, white dots on rock tirrick bodies folded for a moment until they rise like tree flowers falling. As if borne by some celestial cord the birds open themselves to the air, and trust. Through a bird’s eye a glimpse of worlds beyond stars.
Wave of sea-goddess hair lifting across rocks with a gasp, a sigh. I walk along the empty beach, sand white and soft; I gather feathers which have grown out of your body, tern-tirrick or shag; a flight feather which pointed east as you stood out there on the black rocks, drying your wings. Sea body broken by tirrick lance, blood red spear on tiny face all focus. My body broken by the driving cut of red words and empty hands, my own unworthiness. My work a migrating bird.
Undressing after Shetland
The night I return from Shetland: when I undress, my clothes smell of birds, the chalky perfume of feathers. I am still there.
During the coming week I will be teaching a workshop to a group of poets – the Indian King Poets, a group of poets who meet regularly in Camelford, most of whom are published in the small presses, and some of whom have won national poetry awards (Mslexia, the Plough, Hippocrates). We will work with the breath, the body, wild places, sound and the poetry of indigenous poets to help us access deeper ways of working with words and drawing…
Later in the autumn this year I hope to teach a workshop in Yorkshire at Lund Studios…the date below will change slightly…
This October we’ll be hosting a course exploring techniques to aid and develop creative and visionary processes, from a leading name in this field…
Kate Walters: Body memory, body awareness and the awareness of the Land
19/20/21st October 2017
During this three day course Kate will guide students on a journey to discover participants’ own inner responses using techniques such as drawing with the breath, working with the drum and shamanic walking. Spending some time in silence students will be able to use words and images to explore the subtle matrix of life, which will include refining and developing feelings about the natural world.
Surfaces will be prepared with a range of mediums including gesso and size. Drawing onto a range of different surfaces to give marks a beautiful quality which will be exploited and developed through employing layers of ink, watercolour, gum Arabic, charcoal and pencil.
Working on the more forgiving surface of paper with traditional inks, watercolour and gesso will allow rubbing back, giving drawings much more scope for flexibility and invention in response to stimuli.
This course will include an illustrated talk by Kate on her work and methods and plenty of individual attention. (note – due to the nature of the course places will be limited – don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in joining us for what will be a memorable three days…)
Next year I hope to deliver a workshop in Exmoor, in April 20th – 24th, at Shorland Old Farm (www.shorlandoldfarm.co.uk ) . This course will involve walking and working outside as well as in the studio: Details on the website…
Walking, writing and drawing the Land: Body as Sensing Organ: 20th – 24th April
A course for those who enjoy responding with words and drawings to wild places.
‘hot violet in soul’ I’ve written in my notebook, alongside a drawing of greeny-gold wash and pink dots. We connect through fluids, through song, through the hands of men. I made a drawing of a babe hanging in a tree like a pendulous seed.
In my studio the babe turns away from us, the tree becomes an animal with a long tongue, which touches her back at the place the soul enters. I think of how the animal can breathe soul into us.
I visit the gardens again, on a very hot morning.
Cares and prayers and birds on my shoulders
their song falling like rain
Caves and Saints and cyclamen in forests walking the high paths where a sheep carried me in the dream. I rode the fleecy warmth; he carried me along the high pass. I looked down to see his feet carefully following the high narrow ridge, senses all a-quiver.
Then he slipped and fell and I was afraid, but he landed on his feet, on another narrow path just below, and he kept going. All was well.
Caves and cyclamen and Saints, you walk a high path to find them, the stony corners curl in, carve dreams from air and bee breath. A serpent sleeps beside the pool. The rainbow serpent slumbering in tree form. I walk over you, you drink slowly, no one can see.
As I sit in the Gardens I think of how being in gardens have awoken me throughout my life. Asleep, the garden touches and awakes you.
In Menton at the lovely Clos du Peyronnet I fell in love – with a garden. At dusk I would stand beside the Datura, enormous white trumpets hanging silkily in the violet shadows, perfuming air with seduction. Lunch beneath the groves on ancient stone tables; tree rats running overhead. The pools with kingfishers and terrapins, the lotus flowers in their immaculate glory, opening day after day, stirring me to another life. I would gather lemons and avocadoes, breathe in the hot delicious air, wish that each day would never end. I would sit for long hours in the garden and draw. William would bring me flowers, enormous lily-shaped bosomy wonders, with chunky purple stems. His rooms smelled of smoke, and olives and garlic. It was cool inside. Each morning he would rise at 6 am and spend time caring for his bulbs. I was entranced!
I find a place to hide at Tremenheere, away from the sun. It is behind a screen of giant fronds. I remember finding this spot for lunch many years ago when my boy was small and it was a hot day. I lie on the grass beneath the trees.
Does Heaven have whiskers and a soft belly, pink and nippled I ask my doggy companion…
Will I be able to lie on my back on the earth and see the spinnakers of trees, smell the brown earth, the green of new leaf? Is there sunshine there and how will my body feel? Being birthed to eternity…
Earth as this womb, wind womb, air soughing, boughs rubbing
The clouds go by. I do not speak. I give my wounds to trees. They take them. They become the body of the animal I pray to, with every hand of my body.
I gaze out the window to see white swelling sheets and pale lilies. Schubert’s song Winterreisse wraps my head, like the beauty of the natural world which wraps my head in dream.
Rain has washed the moss from the roof, little soft islands of green lie forlornly on the concrete path.
I sat on the dry white shore on North Lewis:
Hand receiving rain, rock brown pink
green gold grey
Hand receiving rain and the tininess of broken things
wind making sand ripples, a vertical tide.
Scooping up salt marsh grass the rising sea feels soft against my ankles, I bend and gather handfuls of water, spread them on my pages, melding water and pen, drawing and being here, standing in the surge of sea, and eagles are above, how grateful am I!
I draw a fish woman, hands growing from arms like feathers.
Sky earth soft flying some spirit birds raspy Raven put them there, blew away their dust, made it air
Notes like clouds
My hands believe
The roar of a distant wave breaking, a woman singing quietly
A bay ringed with song.
Connecting at the Root.
Warm morning, damp morning, I walk through the dark valley at Tremenheere, feeling safe, safe, in amongst the trees’ whispering and the earth’s paws. To come to a wood and feel safe is a good feeling. I am reminded of woods from far away in my youth when at dusk I would feel them asking me to leave with insistence, with force. A young woman then, I had been afraid.
Today I find a tree fallen, captured by the arms of friends, and providing a horse memory; the long round trunk like the neck of some fabulous soil bound steed as I sit and gaze to a horizontal heaven. I ride side-saddle, the skirts are roots, beneath them the source of my story
“Kate Walters is an artist rooted in a more shamanic, mystical tradition. She engages with place through dreams and visions, the flow and dribble and pour of paint and ink, the scratch of hesitant pen and pencil. Iona Notebooks (Guillemot, 2017) presents some of the work from her residency on Iona, living and working in the wild.
The beautifully presented full-colour book is accompanied by a set of postcards of land- and sea- scapes, bright and joyous, clear and forthright, whilst the work in the book is darker and stranger, accompanied by simple fragments of text, sometimes scratched into the work reproduced here. Deer and moose and horses and dogs and birds all cluster around the artist, sometimes literally depicted nesting on a figure’s head, elsewhere looming vaguely into dreamscapes, crimson and maroon emerging from layers of white. Both writing and painting are sensual and evocative, hermetic even, full of feeling and emotion, desires and a longing to commune with the earth and its inhabitants, both seen and unseen. It is engaging, disturbing and entrancing work.” Rupert Loydell poet and director of Stride.
Full review including other books about place here:
Extract from the review by Nicholas Usherwood in Galleries magazine, May 2017:
“on the edge of Bodmin moor, new (2016) independent publisher (poetry,art books, pamphlets) Guillemot Press and visionary artist-writer Kate Walters, comes to fruition this month with an exhibition – and publication – of the latter’s extraordinary ‘Iona Notebooks’. These come from some three periods of time working in her residency on this intensely sacred island; notebooks full of words set down with her eyes closed, drawings made in chapels at dusk, paintings and monotypes all creating a powerful sense of an artist ‘dreaming ‘her way through the landscape, both backwards and forwards in time, ancient and modern in the same breath’.”
On a violet slope in strong sun I move into damp shade beside my dog, she chews nut husks lying on the ground.
A raven walks among the low-growing violets. My mother loved violets, I would sometimes buy her tiny bunches of violets and post them to her, far away. She would unwrap them from their little damp nests. I’m reminded of a dream as I write: An envelope was coming towards me from Japan, it was carrying an egg; I was worried it would be broken, but it arrived intact.
I sit in the sweeping green and think of my home, shut-up, closed; my seedlings unwatched…
My flank is cool pressed against flattened stems, bee holes,my fingers make shadows like leaves on this page. I am grateful that I have arrived.
The black birds walk across the grass, then take off together wordlessly, soundlessly.
A young tree filters sun and air. I connect with you, feathery pine, through my left side. You open your arms to the south, brace your back to the invisible cold north. I send my awareness to you.
Connecting through fluids, through song, through the hands of men. Awaiting protection I call, listen, shadow tethering, arc-ing web, moss and fern curling as animal gait stilled.
The trees carry creatures, water streams, planet gives seeds, men bring them to this place, plant them, leave.
Shine, song, shimmer, shadow, stilled. The lost one, the one programmed to die, the laughing bird, Sun opening head, making a pan, a valley, a garden.
You are around me in the air, I pray for you.
I hear people speaking, happily. Children laugh and bound, bright as birds.
The name ‘Tremenheere’ means place of the long stones. From the tall stones of Orkney to Carn Euny I’ve long been entranced by the spirit which emanates from these stones and the lands from which they grow.
Last year I spent some time in the gardens at Tremenheere, making notes and drawings about the alchemical process which plants seem to pass through as they leave the earth which holds them, into the air which caresses them. I sat for hours as if in a spell, watching that place in the earth from where plants – bamboo, tree, succulent, emerged…
“Everything in the natural world is a symbolic footprint of the metaphysical beings whose actions created our world. As with a seed, the potency of an earthly location is wedded to the memory of its origin. The Aborigines called this potency the ‘Dreaming’ of a place, and this Dreaming constitutes the sacrednessof the earth. Only in extraordinary states of consciousness can one be aware of, or attuned to, the inner dreaming of the earth.”
From Voices of the First Day by Robert Lawlor.
Workbook notes made whilst in the garden: A raven calls deeply. Flying northwest, the second follows. A large white butterfly which resembles a small bird lands on a tree. A diminutive magnolia stands prettily alone, I am reminded of my dream of a little girl, a daughter, so bright and lovely. What if the young trees were our children, the elders our fathers, our mothers? How do things – stems, stalks, petals – emerge from the Earth? The change of element, the rich deepness become softer, translucent. In the earth our roots are held firm, in the air we become as dancers, balancing, our fingertips just touching. The ravens next to me … they throw croaks like balls over my head. They keep time with my thoughts. A dog replies to them. White agapanthus bow down. The wind has stroked them.
Yesterday was my first day in the gardens this year. I chose a spot near the top, not far from Michael Chaikin’s sculptures. I found a long stone taking a rest, and I sat there too.
It was March 13th, my parents’ wedding anniversary; they’re not here to remember it anymore….
Workbook notes: A three buzzard sky ; their wings quarter space. Water washes song. Body settles, rock breathes beast strong black colourless transparent
Feeling the beauty of this place rising in me
Come here at dawn, be a bird she said
Absorbing sound, settling more, I change sound to mark
I think, after my first day back here, that many of the drawings may be about sound into smudge, trace, arc; felt sense into hands on paper, open, receiving, moving, birthing black, or orange, green or blue.
The birds here will be my guides. They welcome me.
A good friend said “That’s great that the land spoke to you”.
I’m aiming to spend around half a day each week in the gardens – if you see me drawing, please do come and speak to me!
Second visit on March 22nd 2017.
I’d had a dream of a paint woman, a saint woman, a woman discarded, half dead, dressed in rags; a mummified woman sitting in a hedgerow. I sit beside a pool, I am filled up. I see her clothes wrapping air, her bones not spirit shining, not bone white, not anything but air. Transparent this, this sitting beside a pool where sky rests as a babe in arms, gently rocking. I think of lovers from other lives, of meeting anew in this life, of recognition, of loving again with relief, with emotion.
The slate is soft and warm. The Saint in the hedge is still, and watching me. I turn to the pond, I travel down through layers of sky and pink leaves to Edenic tissues.
Yesterday I worked with my friend Karen Lorenz to record readings from my fragmentary notes made whilst sitting on the white sands of Iona, or in the bosky light of St Oran’s Chapel. The readings are for a film Karen is making about my Iona works, due to be released around the same time as the launch of the book Iona Notebooks.
Here is a short passage I wrote whilst sitting on a rock beside the forlorn body of a dead seal pup in November 2016.