23rd June 2011
A visitor from the 2013 Art's Trail asked me to paint these windows for her new home. It was a joy.
NEW BEGINNINGS. Private Collection Warminster.
How the painting began ....
I had been pretty much out of the creative vortex for nearly ten years by the time I moved to Dyers, Christmas, 2012. During these wilderness years, I became a scuba diving instructor in Egypt and ended up in Turkey where I lived for nearly 3 years. Rather than the statutory carpet, I left Turkey with a six month old Rottweiler and two street cats. The journey back to Frome, the town my family grew up in, took the three of us via France for six months (to avoid the animals going into quarantine) and then up to the very tip of the Rhondda Valley. You couldn't actually see the end of the world from where I lived but you could definitely feel it. I lived there for 4 years whilst I endured numerous operations on my spine. The failure of these operations were ultimately to compromise my whole skeleton and substantially impact my future physical life. I sculpted a bit during those years but my previous style was inaccessible and the long, lean, shadow-like figures that came out of that time explain perfectly how narrow life had become.
My Mother, the indomitable Sonia Follows who is responsible for nearly all the wonderful textiles at Dyers was probably the only person who could have energised me to consider another 'one more time' of picking myself up and dusting myself off. We were both reeling from a relentless barrage of debilitating emotional and physical challenges that created a sense to us moving in together that neither of us could have ever predicted. In January 2013 we started the conversion of Dyers into two flats - a build that was to last nearly 8 months. It was a massive adventure for both of us and enormous gratitude goes to Dixon Home Maintenance who calmly carried on building the house around us whilst we endured the cold and discomfort, often with little grace!
That I would paint was not even on the horizon of my thoughts as I had never attempted painting anything more demanding than a wall in the past, but the three window panels in my studio were an existing feature. I wanted to add some interest to them and was inspired by the glass painting on the door at Seeds Cafe.
Using self adhesive lead strip I found a space in amongst the chaos and decided to give it my best shot. Delicate glass paint mixed together with the dust and dirt of a building site is, for most people, probably not ideal but for me it was alchemy. To the soundtrack of drilling, banging and shouting I lost myself in pouring and scratching, mixing and being continually surprised at the outcome.
The doors to my studio ....
and the one into the spare room.
The style of hard, unyielding geometric shapes pinioned me to a design and got around the fact that I can't draw. I made it up as I went along, learning by numerous mistakes that the paint reacts to different drying times and can be agitated into another form altogether, shape shifting and repelling when other mediums are introduced. At first I was fastidious, cleaning off the cat's hairs, the paw prints, the dust, ash and the bits of builder's rubble but all that I didn't know seemed to be working together to enable, I hope, something fresh and new to be said through this medium. Each painting has its very own kind of Dyers DNA. As after any move into a new home, bubble wrap was copious and I started to use this to move the paint around at speed in a technique I call 'Splatting' - building up layer upon layer and then working each outlined section with an obsessive interference yet huge respect for its natural flow. By the time I painted Logos, one of the last canvases to date, I had definitely started to blur the lines between whether these were paintings, or sculptures.
I found myself painting with a meditative concentration in a traditional iconography of sacred symbols but from many different and diverse religious and spiritual sources, all splatted over with bubble wrap. At my heart was a desire to fill my home with positive, loving and health promoting energy and when I saw the round window that had been taken out of a downstairs bathroom, it led me naturally to the Circle of Protection that hangs in the corridor. I was a bit concerned that I could be messing with symbols I didn't understand and so I fiddled it a bit to make sure I didn't call up anything creepy!
Some beaten up furniture next caught my eye. The glass paint creating the most wonderful silky finish.
There was a glass cabinet in the sitting room.
The chest of drawers in the little hallway,
the cabinet in the spare room bathroom. Then, as a gift to my mother, a table decorated around the Everlasting Knot.
At this point I think everybody was getting concerned that I was ever going to stop and various comments were made about the whiteness of the washing machine which I did, momentarily, consider! The painting was like an endless Morphine drip and whilst I was working I could move the pain into another dimension and leave it hanging there. That was incredibly addictive.
The spare bedroom gave a space for my collection gleaned during my life in The Middle East but caused me many sleepless nights as the project was a bit large for a woman with a broken neck. The stencil is an Ottoman design and wanting to make the doors look like they were inlaid, I used a tiny 6 diamond stencil, each diamond was then outlined in gold paste and once dry, filled with more glass paint. By the time I got to the Om in the little bathroom, I had seriously done diamonds.
The Prayer Warrior was inspired by The Armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and an old friendship. This piece is for Survivors everywhere. Of anything.
'Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God'
She embodies all this and more but remains and will remain unfinished, The helmet and the child on her shoulder are empty spaces which symbolise a future unencumbered by the addictive patterns of the past, the strength to let go and the promise of what may come.
By the time I started on the fireplace I was wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew and physically it was the most extreme challenge. However, if you slap paint all over the centre piece of your sitting room, changing your mind half way through isn't really an option.
I kept walking past the white bathroom doors and thinking I would leave them alone but they hung there like a dare. These doors ended my symbol obsession and became the start of an existential, metaphysical journey that saw the other paintings and a whole other woman emerge
That life has become physically challenging is a fact. That there is nothing I can do about it is a fact utterly refuted by deep and ancient wisdoms which were to evolve into a completely new personal reality. I came off all the ineffectual, addictive and soul destroying prescriptions and rejected the dire prognosis, the 'nocebo effect' of the medical profession that was more deadly than the disability. Whilst the pain waited in that other dimension for me to stop painting things, I got to know it from a very different perspective and ultimately understood that pain just is. The suffering of it, that is optional and completely my choice.
I have also learnt that feeling is a doorway and that I hold the key to what is on the other side by my attitudes and beliefs. I realised that as I learnt to properly take control of my thoughts, I could take control of my experience. I learnt that when we dare to move beyond the boundaries of our accepted paradigm, we are rewarded with an extraordinary power and new possibilities can bloom in what had appeared to be a dead and devastated landscape.
Painting Dyers was an incredible journey. What happens next is evolving and the end result is, as yet, deliciously unknown. What needs to come next will. Of that I am now absolutely sure. Turning the gift I was given during this process into an exhibition required me to share my vulnerability very publicly. Over 300 visitors came during the Arts Trail and the energy that came from the conversations and reactions to the message I had painted, was the impulse that conceived Ocean in the Drop.
Ocean in the Drop is a completely new creative adventure and one which enables me to follow the ancient rule which is to now give the gift away. That way it can extend, like ripples in water.
You being here makes that possible. Thank you.
The 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi wrote
'I have one small drop
of knowing in my soul.
Let it dissolve in your ocean.'
More information and detail of the paintings is on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/katedixonart