.....and reappearing (Part 2)

1 March, 2015


'Seafaces' came about in a different way.

I was working on a collection of work based on the epic saga of Saint Brendan the Navigator. There is a point in the adventure when the monks come across a vast 'island' of living seaweed (thought to be the Sargasso Sea). It took them days and days to get around it.

I thought about how we normally associate seaweed with the brownish ­blackish, sometimes dried up, sometimes dead, plant matter washed up on the seashore. What would a mass of living seaweed look like? In my mind's eye I saw luscious greens, yellows, blues ....

Whilst building the layers of paint; ­ applying and removing; scratching and scoring; ­ my mind kept wandering to the sixty monks who accompanied the saint on his adventure. Their faces kept floating to the surface as if coming up from beneath. I had no intention of painting them but they kept appearing and reappearing. I repressed the urge to include them. So I finished the seaweed painting and was satisfied with it. The colours and textures were just as I wanted them to be.

.....and then the phone rang.

As I chatted to my friend I absent­mindedly picked up a sharp pointed tool and started to scratch into the painting. When I put down the phone I realised I had created a face. And then it became relentless. I worked on the painting for hours and hours as more and more faces, and faces within faces, emerged. It was compelling. Somehow the painting was telling me what needed to be done. It took control. It felt to me that all along there was a force acting within me that overwhelmed my conscious mind.

At this point the faces were barely visible. You had to look sideways to really see them. I grabbed some Conté pastels and rubbed them over the surface allowing the pigment to fill the crevices. Wiping off the excess revealed the subtle faces etched in among the weeds. Applying a layer of wax brought back lustre to the colours and fixed the pastel in place. From a distance the faces cannot be seen. It is only as you approach the painting that they become apparent; seeming to come and go. This effect really surprises the viewer and the painting got an amazing reaction. People love to talk about this piece – what they see and what they don't see in it. Many saw waterfalls and forests too. ( In fact at one exhibition I gave the painting an alternative title ­'Silva', which means forest.)

I delight in the possibility that a painting can be seen and interpreted in many ways – not all of which have been anticipated by the artist! The viewer brings his life experiences and imagination to the work of the artist which she has created from her own set of life experiences and her imagination. It could be the time of day; your mood or a certain light that presents a new perception.

Would you like to take a closer look?

Seafaces © (detail)

Seafaces © (detail)

Seafaces © (detail)

Seafaces © (detail)