Thursday, 5 January 2012

For Weaver

I've lived in rural Scotland for fifteen years, though I hail from grimy semi-urban south-east England. When I first arrived here I thought: "Oh, how lovely, how beautiful, how fresh and green and natural!" And then didn't know what to do. It was a bit like looking at a Constable painting through a steamed-up lens, it didn't do anything, it just sat there looking green and pleasant. So for years I would drive up to Glasgow or Edinburgh on an almost daily basis for all sorts of odd, manufactured reasons. The real reason, that I just needed to stew in some dereliction, felt ungrateful.

Reverse parking into a space two fingers bigger than my car while other drivers sounded their horns impatiently made me feel at home. The acrid smell of the previous night's drinkers' bladder contents drying under a graffitied bridge, ditto. Truth is, beyond admiring its general prettiness, and air untainted by fuming taxis, I couldn't see the point of the countryside. And, anyway, I love the smell of diesel. But then I was paid a visit here in my virtual kitchen by the Weaver of Grass. And, as I was politely brought up, I paid her a visit back, and found myself in deepest Yorkshire.

Weaver is a woman who knows the country intimately, and understands all its layers. She loves it for what it is, and she has shown me, if not quite how to love it, how to appreciate it. How to look at it, listen to it, smell it: see it and feel it in other words. If you haven't done so read this post, in a few short paragraphs it evokes the drama of rural life. Wild, vivid, visceral, it's every bit as grimy and harsh as my beloved run-down city peripheries.

So, anyway, the point of all this is to explain why I'm posting the two following shots. Weaver asked to see more of the paintings (comments, 2 posts back) and this is my way of saying thank you to her.

This first is a painting by my sister-in-law, Sue Shields. It's of Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran (about 25 miles off the Ayrshire coast), and I inherited it.

When my mother-in-law died I was asked to choose anything I'd like from her house, and one of the things I chose was this painting. It had been at the top of the stairs in that house for years and it was always the first thing I noticed when the front door was opened on visits. So I began to associate it with my in-laws' cheery welcomes: the end of long, droning car trips and the start of idle summer breaks. Stuck in traffic on the M6, sweating in my un-airconditioned banger, or inching along the M1 it would seep into my mind like sea air. In fact, we only had to arrange a visit and I would see the painting grinning down at me from its spot on the landing wall. So when it had to vacate that spot I knew I had to take it in. Now it's in my work-room and whenever I glance up at it I am reminded of rolling up tired and hungry, knocking on a glossy green door, and seeing my in-laws beaming with joy at the sight of their grandson (and his parents!) on their doorstep.

This painting is by Bea Last (I think that's her name). I bought it at an open studio event and I think it's called Fire Walk II – though it may be III, and it may be bath. I don't really care what it's called, its title is not what I bought. What I bought is a bit of Bea Last and her dynamic studio. I may not remember her name correctly but I do remember her. Or, at least, her energy and vitality. There was something about her and her workspace that made me feel extra alive. And there was something about the story of the series of paintings this one comes from that made me have to bring one home. Don't ask me what that story is, I can't remember. But whenever I look at the painting I see her with her amazing mane of dark gypsy hair and strong hands walking through fire as if it is no more than a stiff breeze, and I feel a little stronger myself, and able to get on with the damn task. Which is what I have to do now.

I have a pile of exam papers to mark, so I'll be on the quiet side for a few days, but I will be back. This isn't going to be one of those extended breaks I'm prone to.

PS please excuse the fuzziness of both these photographs, it's been so dark today that I just couldn't fully focus.

Update: it's brighter today, so I retook the shots and have had slightly better results, the colours are truer, so I've now replaced the fuzzy ones with brighter ones.


India Banks said...

oh Eryl-

any fuzziness of the photographs is well made up for by the brilliance of your prose. i cannot wait to read your book. and enjoy your students' papers, but don't leave us lonely for your lovely thoughts too long-

India xx

Rachel Fox said...

We called in at Weaver's once too (on way home from family visits in Yorkshire). Sat by the fire, walked the dogs... perfect.

Elisabeth said...

What a lovely connection to the wonderful, Weaver, Pat. She has made the yorkshire countryside come alive for me, too Eryl.

I enjoy the way you describe these paintings here, too. They come alive through your associations as wonderful as they are in their own right.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the compliment Eryl. I think, you know, that a lot depends where one is brought up. I was brought up in the depths of the Lincolnshire Fens and had a father whose love of the countryside he passed on to me. Together we catalogued wild flowers, looked for nests, spotted birds and just walked. Then for years I taught in an inner city (Wolverhampton) but luckily had a big garden - but even so we would spend every weekend out in the Shropshire countryside. Now, married to the farmer I feel as though I have come back home.

As to those paintings - thanks for showing them in their entirety. The first one is interesting because of its associations for you but I absolutely love that second one - particularly the strength which bursts from it.

Golden West said...

That is a wonderful piece of writing, Eryl. All best wishes for a new year of health and happiness!

Lulu LaBonne said...

I love both these paintings - lucky you to have them in your life.

The World According To Me said...

Happy New Year. You post was a pleasure to read and admire.

Sharon Longworth said...

I love the Goat Fell painting - coast, countryside and colour on a canvas. This post was a tempting glimpse into a whole heap of things, that I just know you could write more about and keep us intrigued.

Monica said...

love the fire and earthy intensity of the 2nd painting, and the story attached to the first.

snorting tea at you loving diesel.

Carole said...

Beautiful words. Beautiful pics. You have such a knack for saying and showing real stuff.

Sarah Allen said...

Omg those are gorgeous! So jealous of you, I've always wanted to see Scotland.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

angryparsnip said...

What a wonderful post, your writing made me feel like I was there with you walking the gas fumed streets and parking the car but most of all I was standing at the door with your family and looking up the stairs, at the painting.
What a wonderful painting. I aspire to paint like your Sister in law,
what talent !
The second painting is indeed very strong.

cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

I love both paintings; Goat Fell not least because it is the last climb MTL and I did together and the second because you sell it so well and it exudes passion.
I was a committed country girl until Paris - which I discovered in the sixties and found it to be, with it's parks, galleries and history one of the most romantic and inspiring places on earth.
Thanks for the heads up on Weaver.

Kim Ayres said...

Yes it is Bea Last - she also appeared alongside you in the Staring Back exhibition :)

Eryl said...

India ~ I'm itching to tell you a new story, about musicians and inclusiveness, so will be posting early next week.

Rachel ~ I've only been to Weaver's through her blog, but I have plans...

Elizabeth ~ Weaver's passion is so illuminating, isn't it?

Weaver ~ it sounds like you had the kind of childhood I read about in books as a child, and didn't quite believe! I thought the countryside was something you drove though to get to the beach. Now I know different thanks in no small part to you.

Glad you like the paintings.

Golden ~ thank you, same to you too.

Lulu ~ I am lucky to have them, and I hope I appreciate it!

Worldy ~ thank you. Very happy new year to you, too.

Sharon ~ maybe I'll do a series on my art collection. People's collections must be pretty insightful.

Monica ~ I've been known to hang around bus stops to get a diesel fix.

Carole ~ thank you!

Sarah ~ you must come over one day.

Parsnip ~ Sue is very talented indeed, I have lots of her paintings from over the years which is interesting as it tracks her progress.

Pat ~ have you written about that climb, I'd love to know more about it.

Ah, Paris, I'm desperate to go back there with my camera.

Eryl said...

Kim ~ you snuck in there! Thanks, I knew I couldn't have made up such a good name. The painting was once on a mount which was signed, but that fell by the wayside years ago because I never got round to having it framed.

Titus said...

Love the Goat Fell, and the Bea has that Rothko drama of colour I always fall for.
Funny, after 14 years it is only in the last one that I sometimes look towards the hills and think. "Yes, this is the place to be." A tiny part of me really was glad to back after the New Year break down home. More the space and sky, not so much the trees and flowers. Or mud.

Kass said...

Wonderful pictures! Love the colors in the first and the second one is so visceral.

I agree with everyone. Your writing is compelling.

Eryl said...

Titus ~ nice to hear it's taken you so long to get used to being here too. The space and sky are the things, I'm beginning to find the light quite seductive too. Glad you were glad to be back.

Kass ~ thank you.

Pat said...

Eryl: no - it was along time ago - before I became digital. Just a lovely memory of when we were still fit enough to climb together.

rochambeau said...

Hello there,
Always I admire the way you weave YOUR words. ALso, I do appreciate the Weaver's blog and how she made me feel her surroundings via the written word. I admire this because it is a daunting task for me and you make it look easy~ Your words feel as if they effortlessly tumble out of you and they express so well who you are!

About your paintings. Both lovely. About the energy of the person you bought from the lovely gypsy woman. I
believe in this 100% I have a few small things that an Asian woman in San Francisco made, Laku. I just want her energy around.

Thinking of you Eryl.

Eryl said...

Pat ~ maybe, one day, you'll feel the urge to write about it. Until then, let it stay a lovely memory.

Constance ~ you do pretty damn well on the writing front. Your posts about your work are particularly brilliant, and the ones about your mother, too. I love reading your words.

I'm so glad you understand about the energy thing. Sometimes I think I imagine these things and no one else in the world knows what the hell I'm talking about!

Thank you, as always, Constance, XXX

elizabeth said...

It's such fun to see/feel lots of my blogchums from different worlds collide (in the nicest possible way!)
I met real live Weaver in NY but visit her for virtual trips to the English countryside. Titus grew up near me.
Constance's real live birthday party 08 was at my apartment.........Parsnip likes my dog (!)
Blogging for me is a way to keep in touch with other striving creative spirits out there.
Instead of being just a mindless time-suck, I think Blogworld makes me richer and richer.

ps We all need wonderful healthy air countryside but
gritty city can be good too