August 27, 2011
Entering her living room in Edinburgh is like coming into an Aladdin’s cave of treasure. Everywhere are textile projects in process. The walls are painted in rich colours and her knitted, crocheted, and woven blankets glow with the colour of the moors: sky blues and slates, moss greens, lichen rusts and ochres, heather purples and pinks. Most of these are also my colours, I realize, but the way she combines them gives me a new slant. There is less ‘air’ between her combinations, making a dense impression of tapestry or richly clad yurts, far away in some African desert.
August 23, 2011
I’ve had a soul-filling 10 days in England and Scotland, soaking up culture, studying period instruments and seeing friends and family.
In the National Gallery of Edinburgh, I attended the retrospective of Elizabeth Blackadder’s work. I had not heard of her, but was attracted by the poster of huge watercoloured tulips. (The whole trip was overlit by the spirit of flowers, as another harpsichord songboard painting is coming up).
I don’t respond to much contemporary art, but this was one of those magical times when walking through a gallery, each painting is like an encounter. These paintings connected me with an inner stillness and joy and an incredible sense of recognition. I still can’t place what exactly it is that moves me so deeply.
Perhaps it is the humble soul of this soon-to-be eighty artist that speaks through her work. As she said in a film I saw, she doesn’t plan her compositions, she begins with objects that are close to her heart and follows the painting where it leads. Maybe it is the sense of trust and openness conveyed by the large spaces and the forms that are realistically but loosely rendered that had such a liberating effect on me.
I made time to also attend a showing of her recent work in a private gallery. There, I had a real surprise. Leafing through a catalogue of previous shows, I came across an image that was as familiar to me as my own work. There, on a page, was a painting that I’ve had in my ‘Special inspiration’ postcard collection for close to 30 years (see left)! It is one of Blackadder’s early works which reminds me more of Klee than her other work, and clearly influenced many of my watercolours of that time.
August 5, 2011
Last month I participated in a Tai Chi workshop given by Rob and Erich Völke with the focus on relaxation.
One of the exercises required me to stand across from another person with my hands on their chest. The goal was to slowly push them off balance without taking a step or exerting any force. The only way this worked was to relax deeper and deeper vertically while still maintaining a strong upright posture and structure (ie, the bones and muscles were working but not tensed), and slowly moving forward from your centre.
My partners tended to be large, muscled men! I couldn’t budge any of them.
The first time I got it, though, when the guy keeled over, I thought he was putting me on. Yet, I had also felt the shift in myself. It was a state of total trust and letting go without the least bit of forcing. It was gentle, and it overcame the full resistance of a man tens of kilos heavier than I.