The poet Karl O’Hanlon has written a Litany inspired by my recent paintings.
Here is an extract:
Madonna della Salute
Yellow legs of choughs streaking across the Dolomites or lemon groves exhaling in early evening, a field candled with buttercups and soft-breathing cows, gold on book spines and the ichor of a final sunshaft as clouds thicken over the canal: all of these running into the rare quality of how you paint her tears.
Yesterday as I walked past Newlyn harbour – quiet after Brexit – I saw the beautiful swan who frequents the slip. She often picks through the discarded heaps of ice; she also crosses the road, goes to the fishmonger to beg for fish. I watched her standing there near the open door of the white van, watching the men working. I watched for a while, then I walked back, and I asked the men if they feed her…’yes’ they declared, ‘she’s friendly, she takes the bread from our hands.’ And he came to the van, found some bread, and fed her. She wound her neck this way and that trying to pick up the dropped pieces from the ground.
I walked on, and to my utter joy saw a kingfisher perched on the rigging of an old black barque moored near the slip. I wanted to share my joy, so I rushed towards an old woman moving slowly behind me and I said ‘a kingfisher, look! a kingfisher! ‘ I think she must have been deaf as she showed no reaction, and I didn’t want to approach too closely because of the virus.
I crossed the road, walked up the hill to my studio, and lit my stove.
At the weekend I went for a walk near St Just, and by accident, after following my nose, I discovered myself beside the holed stones of Tregeseal. It was a beautiful sunny day. I spent some minutes near them, and sat beside one, thought of those I miss.
Here’s a short passage I wrote a day or two later:
15th Jan Dream of eating gold. I’m given gold to eat. It’s gold Turkish delight, my favourite, my mother’s gift to me each Christmas, now I buy it for myself. I have to take it into my mouth, leave it sitting on my tongue, let it dissolve into my body slowly. Not chew it or eat too fast. It’s spirit food, golden food of the gods. I learn to eat it slowly, there’s more for me.
18th Jan. Walking to Tregeseal holed stones. Putting hands through them. A tryst, lovers were here once in sunshine, I sit and think of you. Or not think of you. Nothing comes towards me from you, I let you go, with sadness. You could pass rabbits through the holes, or hands, yes, or snakes, or a phallus. A hare might squeeze through, a hare whose ears come up; watching me. My arm, your arm, they might pass through, plait together.
I sit in my studio and read about Kundalini. Of the current we’re in touch with, which lies gleaming fat, silvery and smooth between us. It’s not asleep.
I sit and look at myself in a large white metal bath. There’s a mirror between the taps. I’d like to paint my body. It’s the first time I’ve thought that.
I lie in bed and think of the smell of your cheek, how I want to put my face close to yours, to sniff your air.
I think of how I come into your room on my toes: I’m alert, I sniff the air, all my senses bright, bones and muscles taut. I’m ready for flight. I watch the door, my place of escape. It’s hard to bring myself to curl at your feet. I want to touch your ankle, and hide my face, at the same time. I know your face. Wild, I look around. It isn’t enough for you to sit quietly and wait. I need enticing. I need you to slowly put out your hand for me, to speak to me in soft voices, to soothe me, take away my fear, put it out of sight.
I want to tell you about being dropped, over and over again, in slow motion, how that feels. I want you not to do that to me.