You may remember that I wrote last year about my initial reaction to the pandemic and the influence this had on my painting. Like many others, I began lockdown in a state of shock and progressed to a state of equilbrium, enjoying walks on my doorstep and recording the natural world around me. This time, I thought I’d take you on another illustrated journey of events since last summer and again explore the influence that my experiences seem to have had on my work.
Shortly after I finished my last piece, I had to leave for London as my daughter needed an operation.
In quarantine in a flat overlooking the canal in Hackney Wick, East London, I made many sketches of the industrial landscape in pen and ink. I wondered afterwards if the detail of these drawings had been influenced by my need to concentrate on something other than the immediate circumstances!
When I returned to Northumberland, I was under some pressure to get a range of work together for a planned exhibition at the Newbiggin Maritime Centre called 'Exploring Places, Discovering Styles'. (This has been postponed because of lockdown, but I didn't know this at the time!)
I included images of the Isle of Bute and also some abstract work.
I painted a few small images which people visiting Newbiggin might like to see - ‘Newbiggin Cobles’ and ‘Three Men in a Boat’.
I was now free to roam both the footpaths and my canvases and draw whatever appealed to me!
As a start and a complete contrast to the more figurative work I’d been doing, I let go with a large, completely
abstract piece with layers of colour, hoping for a balance and maybe order under the chaos!
During our walks we often stopped in woods and I became somewhat obsessed with the structure of trees, particularly with some ancient specimens growing in a ‘ridge and furrow’ field near Felton.
I experimented in charcoal and acrylic and also painted a mossy wood I remembered from our last visit to Bute. I then wanted to capture what I actually felt at the time - my response to the yellows of the sun on a lovely morning or the reds of an early sunset.
These more abstract works only briefly captured the tracings of tree and branch but it was so satisfying to spread the colours which I had carried in my head onto the canvas!
Christmas came and went, without family visiting for the first time ever. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful sunny walk over the top of the dunes from Warkworth to Alnmouth. The sun was in my eyes as I looked down over the sea, glinting, shimmering, magical. I produced another abstract painting to try to capture the atmosphere.
And now it was time for ruminating again on this very strange time and trying to make some sense of what I had been experiencing. I shall describe some of the thoughts that went into a few of my pieces. First, a painting on wood of a figure walking on a footpath, hedgerow behind. The figure is split in half, one part following the other, trying to convey the endless cycle of the days, the repetitiveness of activities, chasing our tails. It also contains, I hope, the reassuring feel of the passing of time in the natural world which is there to welcome us whenever we go out - and of course the equally reassuring feeling of wellies and scarves!
The second piece is semi-abstract, inspired by a murmuration of starlings which we watched so many times over Druridge. I had been looking at images of microbes in a National Geographic magazine and the shape and colour of these bugs ended up in the murmuration! Obviously the world of viruses which has surrounded us had influenced my subconscious thoughts!
The background to the third and final piece was my transitory preoccupation with making patchwork cushions, to the extent that I found it difficult to stop sewing as I saw the patterns building up! I thought again of how this repetition and watching the passing of time could be reflected in a painting. I ended up carefully painting patchwork on wood. They looked like colourful cells or rooms representing the places we have been in lockdown for much of the time, each communicating with each other in the best way we can, but always with a barrier between us.
The little figures, like hieroglyphics, show this - phoning, waving, leaving food on the doorstep etc.
And finally, back to three reassuring images from very tranquil walks I have experienced recently, feeling like all of us I hope, that there is light ahead. The soft stillness of snow in the morning , the splinters of ice on a pond, and the glint of light through a copse of trees, ‘Towards the Light’.