New RHS Exhibition

Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm (1)Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

Hallo,
Just to let you know that Eilean Eland and myself have an exhibition at RHS Rosemoor in the Exhibition Room opening this weekend, running through till January.

As you can see from the picture at the top, they are not all flower pieces this time, so if you are in or near North Devon please do come along. It would be great to see you, I’ll be there off and on, and if you’d like to meet up send me a note and I’ll make sure I’m there.

Additionally, the Winter Sculpture exhibition is also on and in the evenings there is the beautiful Glow event (see https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor/whats-on/rosemoor-glow for more details).

Hope you can make it
All good wishes for the Christmas season.

Richard

Winter shorelines of the north

The winter shore is a magical place partly because there are no trippers, in fact, there are few if any people at all. This opens up space for the birds, especially winter visitors fleeing here from fiercer conditions north.

‘Opened up’ it certainly is. There are wide expanses of shore, earth, sea and sky raked by wind, rain and a slanting sun. Dusk is even better. When I was much younger, I would go down regularly in the winter – a three mile walk from my home in Prestatyn in North Wales – when home from school or later after work. Even though I now live in soft Devon, a big part of me remains resolutely Northern.

These walks came back to me this winter in North Devon, I don’t know why apart from loving northerly places, and I wanted to crystallise the remembrance of those melancholic beautiful lonely walks with a poem Winter shorelines – it contains this stanza:

The winter beach was my escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot brain’.
Where I could wander and be truly me;
Then came a Sibelius symphony.

Sibelius pastel

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was dying just as I was beginning to live; he has spoken directly to me ever since. A critic, Olin Downes, in 1913 said about his Fourth symphony, my favourite, “Sibelius speaks of grey skies and silent expanses of lakes and forests, of bristling crags and winds and supernatural sounds in a wild land.” And “[It] is the solitude of a man alone with nature, bitter against fate, cursing the heavens.”

Much later, in the year of my birth, he said Sibelius had “…gone too far and remotely into the fastnesses of his own spirit, following a path from which there would be no returning; that had lost touch with his fellow man.”

The doyen of Sibelius critics, David Hall, said of his “… grand, solitary … mood … its sombre but intense beauty, are still heavy upon us as we try vainly to communicate in words the quality of Sibelius’ Fourth.” It is an “evocation of the stark and the superstitious.”

David Hall is right. My poem does not try to do that; it is just a personal connection.

The raven – Evermore!

The raven –
Evermore!

Then it was January already
And I see a raven atop its tree.
Very early in the year it’s come
With sparkling life so barely begun.
Here now the king and queen of crows
High in the pine with me far below
Wishing for certain I wasn’t here.
But, for my part, wish he had no fear.

Those centuries of persecution
Have caused this undeserved exclusion
And brought about such calamity
By those with sighted eyes that can’t see
The glory of its magnificence.
Despite all their poison, guns and sense-
lessness they’ve failed in their regicide,
For safe in London’s Tower Rex survives!

Scorning humdrum landscapes, the raven
In its vaulting poise will freely reign
Over tree, mountainside and cliff edge.
Tail fanned full free, they say like a wedge –
But not really, much more arcuate
For the soar and swoop of mate on mate.
It reminds us, wherever it be,
Of primeval pre-man history.

You prehistoric fantastic beast!
Remembered from where we used to meet
In limeston’d quarry when I was young,
Where once I stopped a kid with a gun
Even though myself scarcely older.
Passion made me angry, nay bolder.
And becoming a man from fey youth
Surprised even myself by such proof.

* * *

The raven’s rasping corronking call
Gives notice; fearing nothing at all
Except endless man – arch enemy –
Who darkly shadows his destiny.
Now see the Raven, still beguiling
In its lonely ancient travelling.
This gaunt grim ominous bird of yore.
What is meant in croaking ‘Nevermore’?

Over our Welsh pinewood winter home,
Where the goshawk and red kite have flown,
Came a strange cork-extracting popping.
Not the usual pruk-pruk toc-tocking
Nor the oft heard bubbling and creaking.
This bell-like liquid gong sent me seeking
Off to Heinrich’s ‘Ravens in Winter’;
Myself once more eager researcher.

In his pages I found a treasure –
That this call is of peace and pleasure.
Now in Devon I hear it a lot
Though from childhood remember it not.
Bold comes its cousin, the common crow
(Less bold the jackdaw) to our window
And raps thereon to be fed some more.
But no raven tapping at my door.

Foolhardy to be any bolder:
Keep your distance from human murder;
Groups of crows are so designated
By man to raise fear of the hated.
O, ebony bird, so beguiling
You set my face gratefully smiling.
Stately raven, quoth I, from my door
I would give you shelter…
Evermore!

© R M Meyer (with respect to Edgar Allan Poe)
Devon, February 2019

Bucks Mills Pebbles exhibition; new Poetry section on website; Literature about children; and public speaking.

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I listened to advice (surprise, as it may be to some, I do sometimes) and Phil my excellent framer gave one of the pebble studies a bigger ‘more generous’ mount; I’d been told my original ones were “too mean”. The two different versions are currently on show at the Burton at Bideford Gallery. Pop along if you are in North Devon; admission is free and there is lots of really good art (I never say that lightly).

Both are available at a measly £145 despite difference in framing, but it’s the art work that’s important, isn’t it?  I feel pleased with this series and also that I’ve broken new ground.  The remainder of the series will go in Recent Work soon – I’ll send a note when that is done (a few test ones are actually up there now, have a look).

Xhibition slide (2)An exhibition of my flower paintings is at RHS Rosemoor from 1st September to 7th October. This is the second collaboration with brilliant ceramicist Eilean Eland. And of course the Rosemoor gardens are always a delight.

Additionally, I’ve been occupied since May with a personal and rather difficult commission.  In fact a painting for a friend which I was most anxious to get ‘right’.  It was difficult in the sense that it is small (A5), a nude figure and I needed to please both my friend and of course myself.  It turned out to be one of the hardest paintings I’ve ever done but I won’t be able to show it  because it is private.

It’s not just this that has been weighing heavily on my mind it is my writing and conservation work too. I’ve published a few recent poems here https://richardmeyer.co.uk/index.php/writing/poems.  I’m finding great release in poetry these days: enabling me to convey observations and reflections in a succinct form which is I hope both exciting and original.

Also finishing my third novel revelling in the fertile imagination of children.  Although stigmatised as ‘children’s books’ they are actually novels about children.  So-called  ‘children’s books’ are the only books categorised by perceived readership not by content: a source of irritation and mystification.  I ask you, are ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ‘His Dark Materials’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’, to name just a few, ‘children’s books’?   I would say not; they are literature which feature children – not the same thing at all.  Maybe you could add your own titles here, and we could explore this subject again more fully.

Finally, on Saturday 18th I was in Exeter taking part in a very noisy public meeting and march through Exeter city centre.  You won’t be surprised to know it was about the appalling Badger cull here in the UK.  I’ve never before stood on a soapbox (in fact a public bench in a sort of ‘Speakers’ Corner) and addressed a crowd through a PA system.  I had 15 mins to summarise nearly 50 years of history) and think I did OK – but certainly no better; not sure that soapbox oratory is my thing.

I hope you may leave the odd comment, if only to show that you’ve read this far!

 

 

New Chris Thomas Exhibition

Chris Thomas catalogue

We took the bike down to the Camelford Gallery for a preview of Chris Thomas’s impressive exhibition Documenting the New Build. The exhibition is exactly that: paintings recording a housing development adjacent to his studio in North Cornwall. From very understandable initial resentment, he soon saw an opportunity to use the experience artistically, in the process becoming part of it, to the extent of being accepted on site by the builders as a kind of hard-hatted, hi-viz ‘artist-in-residence’. From my perspective, this took some guts.

During the course of building 21 ‘affordable homes’ Chris produced a tumultuous body of work: starring large oil paintings (some of them 2-3 metres wide) mainly on board. It is not hard to imagine how, to a casual passer-by, Chris lugging these round the site would have looked exactly like one of the builders. There are also intense smaller studies exhibited and a portfolio of large charcoal drawings. My favourite of all is Study from the studio executed in February this year. – I wish I could afford it. 

There is also a comprehensive illustrated catalogue with illuminating text produced to a very high standard. This was something I could afford and mine – the first to be sold at the Preview – Chris kindly signed for me: it is something I will treasure.

 

Chris Thomas frontispiece

Gratitude also due to artist John Blight for putting on the show at his gallery which, for me, exemplifies precisely what a gallery should be: something not unlike Rembrandt would have recognised: a real working artist-gallery with little concession to commercialism; in other words, not a ‘picture shop’ which so many so-called galleries actually are.

I’ll stop there lest another rant begins!

Residency at the National Trust’s Bucks Mills Artists Cabin #2

Residency at the National Trust’s Bucks Mills Artists Cabin #2

BM05, Oil pastel on silk paper 13.5 x 8.2cm (2)

BM05, ‘The Cabin from the beach’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 13.5 x 8.2cm

After my last entry which was somewhat concerned with the Bucks Mills venue and its interior decay, I showed a few examples of the Pebbles. This series amounted to some 30 sketches and subsequently has developed work in the studio where I am able to work up the drawings both in technique and scale. Below are two examples:

Pebble series 30, Oil pastel on silk paper 32 x 45cm

Pebble series #30, Oil pastel on silk art paper 32 x 45cm

pebble-series-31-oil-pastel-on-silk-paper-32-x-45cm.jpg

Pebble series #31, Oil pastel on silk paper 32 x 45cm

But the coastline was compelling both on the small and large scale. So here is some of the other work done there. As mentioned before, I felt the urge to disappear into the woodland: 66 steps both east and west, up and down a steep climb. There were some overgrown steps on the western side; coming down first time I did an ungainly skidding swallow dive coming down painfully on my left wrist. Fortunately no lasting harm done and not my main drawing hand. It wasn’t this that deterred me from going back there time and again, it was realising that I can study woodland to my heart’s content at home and that it was the coastline which was the whole point of me being here.

BM06 Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

BM06, ‘Woodland’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 23 x 32cm

BM02, Oil pastel on silk paper 13.5 x 8.2cm

BM02, ‘Tree trunks’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 13.5 x 8.2cm

At first I was inspired by ‘Bideford Black’ (a pigment historically mined just up the coast http://bidefordblack.blogspot.co.uk/p/history.html) to work in monochrome and while this was satisfying I felt unable to get the quality of the limpid light. Though I did try and these are some B&W sketches.

BM15, Oil pastel on silk paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

BM15, Oil pastel on silk art paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

BM01, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

BM01, ‘Coast westward towards Clovelly’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 23 x 32cm

BM18, Oil pastel on silk paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

BM18, ‘Coast eastward to Hartland’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

After to some extent abandoning this rather artificial monochrome constraint, I did do more work in and around the woodlands in the company of my parasitic arachnid friends…

BM10, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

BM10, ‘Edge of woodland’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 23x32cm

… but concentrated thereafter on the cliffs and shoreline.

BM11, Oil pastel on silk paper 8.2 x 13.5cm (2)

BM11, ‘Cliffscape’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

BM04, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm (2)

BM04, ‘Coast east to Hartland’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 23 x 32cm

BM13, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

BM13, ‘The red cliff’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 23 x 32cm

BM08, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

BM12, ‘Vegetated cliffs’, Oil pastel on silk art paper 8.2 x 13.5cm

I have subsequently been developing the Pebble series because of its enormous possibilities. I’ll post some of this work later and hope also to show some paintings from these same sources before too long.

 

 

 

 

Residency at Bucks Mills Cabin

Residency at Bucks Mills Cabin

Two weeks of intensive focus on Art at this majestic venue has now finished leaving me tired but with a body of work which ultimately feels worthwhile. “Majestic”? This is the location, not the actual cabin, which is anything but majestic: dilapidated inside with very little of the spirit of those two lady artists, Mary Stella Edwards and Judith Ackland remaining despite their artefacts being everywhere. Nevertheless, I feel very privileged to have been given this chance of residency at what the National Trust calls an “Artists Retreat”. I should have liked it to have been both: a residency and a retreat. It was neither really: one couldn’t reside there (sleeping was not allowed) and the continual footfall of visitors past the door made “retreat” impossible, at least for me.

Let me hastily qualify the above criticism by acknowledging the difficult position NT must find itself in with regard to this unique place. Deciding how to preserve or conserve perishable textiles is very difficult but there is little inside the Cabin which could not be resolved by a good clean and refreshing of some of the furnishings: the carpet and curtains in particular. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a pernickety person (ask my wife) and well used to roughing it, but I was upset about the disonance between the spirit of Edwards and Ackland and the state of the cabin interior now. They were sophisticated, educated and well-to-do ladies who would not, I’m sure, have tolerated such decay.

There is a vast difference between that and a simple frugal lifestyle. I was told that the dirt was “original” and that the cabin was as it was left by the lady artists but a lot of the grot has been left by subsequent users – and not, I’m sure, by previous artists, who would have all treated the cabin with great respect. [I hear the cabin was used for parties etc between 1971 and ownership by the Trust in 2008.]

Fabrics decay. Should they be allowed to, in honour of their provenance – ultimately to disappear completely – or be replaced by facsimiles the better to convey the original style? Is it necessary, by virtue of dust, dirt and decay, to convey the impression of a ‘time capsule’? I think the Trust should address this question as a matter of urgency. The beauty of Bucks Mills is its inspiring location and the spirit of Ackland and Edwards. It is wonderful to have their belongings as left by them and there is enough documentary evidence to keep it very much the same. But it really does need some sensitive TLC. It was the spirit I tried to tap into.

Although a good part of my working life has been on western UK cliffs and coastlands, my natural inclination is always towards woodland, and there are superb tracts of ancient woodland east and west from Bucks Mills. It was here I first gravitated, spending time in the company of what appeared to be an epidemic of ticks before coming to my senses and realising that the main point about being at the Cabin was the coastline. And so thereafter it was here I mainly concentrated, becoming intrigued by the endless jumble of rocks and pebbles played upon by the light, weather and tides which made each day very different from the preceding one.

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The coastline looking west.

I hope to be posting some other examples of work here and the entire body on my website in the near future. Below are a few examples from the Pebble series. My main medium was oil pastels on high gloss silk art paper in self-made ‘sketchbooks’. I also use chinagraph pencils. These media allow a lot of flexibility. The more I worked, the more I became aware of the magnificence of Jackson Pollock’s intuition – instinctive painting and mark-making.

Some of the studies will lend themselves to larger oil paintings, and I’m looking forward to that. I will post more results soon. Please leave comments, I will greatly value them.

Pebble series 15, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

Pebble series #15, Oil pastel on silk paper 23 x 32cm

Pebble series 20, Oil pastel on silk paper 32X45cm (6)

Pebble series #20, Oil pastel on silk paper 32 x 45cm

Pebble series 13, Watercolour 23x33cm

Pebble series #13, Watercolour 23 x 33cm

Pebble series 06, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32cm

Pebble series #6, Oil pastel on silk paper 23 x 32cm

Pebble series 01, Oil pastel on silk paper 11.5x16cm

Pebble series #1, Oil pastel on silk paper 11.5 x 16cm (the first small study).

Pebble series 04, Oil pastel on silk paper 23x32.3cm

Pebble series #4, Oil pastel on silk paper 23 x 32.3cm