“Domani il mio amore potrebbe arrivare Lo so, il sole e la luna non s’incontrano mai” Songwriter: Rosalino Cellamare
The sun and the moon here, and in Alchemy (one of my favourite subjects), represent man and woman: opposing, conflicting, contrasting, complementing, conjunction. In Alchemical terms, they can also symbolise light and dark; conscious and unconscious; assertive and receptive; hot and cold; positive and negative, and, gold and silver. The union of the sun and the moon is often called the Chemical Wedding. This union or “conjunction” of body and spirit was more recently philosophised in the Double-Aspect Theory by psychologists W. Pauli and C.G. Jung (another of my favourites) and which stands as proof to me that everything is connected.
A curtain of latin calligraphy, echoing the beautiful paragraphs of ancient monastic manuscripts, separates us from these celestial bodies. Whether it is to prevent us from attaining this perfect knowledge, or to protect us from it, I made it deliberately unclear. The texts, which explain the importance of the sun and the moon, are taken from 2 plates of the “Chymica Vannus” of 1666 attributed to Joannes de Monte-Snyders, a celebrated Dutch alchemist.
However, in the moment symbolised by this painting and in the lyrics of the song sung by Italian artist Ron, the sun and the moon never meet. They are close, so there is the hope that their union of love might arrive soon, maybe even tomorrow. But captured in this moment, they are separated by a central void, otherwise a normal space separating paragraphs in manuscripts, yet a definite divide between them. Here it symbolises the space between people but also the space between divine knowledge and us. It is a sad but hopeful message.
“Hythe Bay – Orange” mixed media on canvas 22.5cm x 30cm
This two thousand miles I roamed Just to make this dock my home”
Songwriters: Steve Cropper / Otis Redding
Wait a minute! (..enter needle scratching across a vinyl record here…) Only 2,000 miles and he’s giving up already? That’s an impressive start, I agree, but he should be patting himself on the back and moving on to a new adventure!*
Personally, I have roamed a lot more than 2,000 miles to make this place my home. It actually comes to a whopping 11,022 miles! This does include my “gap half-year” when I travelled Europe (literally living out of a suitcase), but does not count any other holidays (and there were many). And to think that my original dream was only to breach 91 miles, the distance from my small home town to the big city. It seems like such a small baby step now, but it was an important one that set me on my way and, 21 address changes later, I find myself living on the side of a hill overlooking a lovely bay (it doesn’t have a dock) in England, the faraway land of my teenage dreams.
When I look out my front window, this is part of the view I see. And much more. The sun admires its own reflection in the water as it casts shadows on the little villages across the bay and makes its way down toward the west. The hard, permanent line of the horizon contrasts with a spindly, yet determined, young sapling and an impressive reflection on my window pane. This semi-abstract landscape glows with the admiration I have for this ever-changing scene presented to me every day.
I do see the ships roll past. I see the morning sun and I see the evening come, but mostly glimpses while I’m painting or gardening or doing other things, because I’ve got lots to live for. And lots to get done. Life used to get me down. Now I just get on with it. And I’m much happier.
Anyway, I could never waste time. It’s the only commodity I can never get back.
*This is advice to any else but the singer/co-songwriter as Otis Redding actually had done a lot before he wrote that song, much more than 2000 miles’ worth, in my opinion. He died in a plane crash shortly after recording it and continued on his journey in history, as it was the first single ever to hit number one posthumously (and on 2 different charts, simultaneously).
“ No more pencils no more books… No more teacher's dirty looks…” Songwriters: ALICE COOPER / MICHAEL BRUCE
“The Professor’s Tomb” mixed media on canvas (60cm x 60cm)
I love learning. I am constantly learning. Every day. I learn from everything I do, everyone I meet, and everywhere I go. But I didn’t love learning in school.
In primary school, the only things I learned was that I was nervous, shy and different (in a negative way), so I lost the little self-confidence I did have. High school was only about building a social life (against a bland background mush of information that had to be memorised before a final nerve-wracking exam).
However, anything I explored on my own (such as modern literature, art history, King Arthur, concerts, Alchemy, rock music, recording techniques…to name a few) made me determined to take charge of my own education. When I hit a ceiling with what the printed word could offer (no internet in those days), I decided that after graduation, I had to get to the big city. Under the ruse of going off to University, as I never had any intention to finish a degree, I signed up for night classes in a recording studio. But the big surprise was that I started liking school, too! It was a bit too late for me, though, as I had a plan. And I hit that first career goal at the age of 20. But hitting one goal leads you to creating new goals and making new plans.
Those plans and their changes led me to ups but they also led me to downs. This painting was inspired during a personal time of depression when I found myself living near the city of the first university in the world, Bologna Italy. At the time, I felt physically trapped. I was in a very bad relationship in a new country that I felt I didn’t belong in, didn’t speak the language or know anyone, living on a secluded mountain top miles from anywhere (and I don’t drive), with a 1 year old baby.
Don’t get me wrong – Italy is beautiful and interesting, and I eventually made some very good friends there, but when you feel trapped, you temporarily lose control of your life. The dark heavy ceiling, walls and floor encase you like a tomb buried so deep below the surface you don’t know which way is up. A person, whom I thought was my friend at the time, said to me “Just take the baby, get on a plane and go.” To her, a happy wife and mother, it was obvious and easy. To me, it was a dark, complicated maze in which I didn’t know if each step I took was finally in the right direction or even further in the wrong direction.
Having hit bottom, I started to slowly clamber back up. I managed to get a baby-sitter and a part-time job in the centre of Bologna. One lunch time, I was wandering the nearby streets and saw 3 beautiful tombs outside a church. I later found out that they were tombs for the first professors of that first University which was created by students who were not happy with the education they had been provided. They pooled their resources and invited their own choice of professors whom they revered so much that they created beautiful elevated tombs for them when they passed away. One had a panel that particularly interested me, as it showed part of a Templar cross (a subject I was interested in and therefore identified with) so I took a photo. A few years later installed in the city centre, with life getting brighter and more hopeful, I used it as the inspiration for this painting as it described the dark, trapped feelings I had experienced and escaped.
Inspired by the iconic, elusive and greatly missed David Bowie, whom I felt was always at least 4 years ahead of every music trend. I moved to England in the hopes of working with him, but found he had just left its shores. His music and lyrics continue to inspire my art today – here with only a taste of the Ziggy Stardust blaze (plastic collage) and illegible calligraphy amongst the white clouds and blue of the atmosphere that he watches us from today.
“King Arthur’s Battle” (100cm x 100cm) mixed media on canvas
Search your heart, name your dreams, follow them, fight for them – they will come true! (..but be careful what you wish for…)
“No one can tell us we’re wrong,….Searching our hearts for so long” Performed by Pat Benatar, Songwriters: Holly Knight / Mike Chapman
Since I was a child, I was mesmerised by the romantic tales of King Arthur and medieval England. This quest stayed with me throughout my teens, as I collected all the books I could get my hands on (there are many versions), whilst my parallel obsession with music began. Pat Benatar was one of the artists I loved and would heartily sing along with her records in my bedroom. I knew my future was in music and no-one could tell me that I was wrong.
And I wasn’t – several years later, I had established a firm foot in the Toronto music scene. But it wasn’t enough, so one day I followed my heart and got on a plane to the land of King Arthur (which also happened to be the homeland of many of my favourite rockstars!). I stayed in London where I happily advanced in my music career, but then 2 years later Love found me and whisked me away to France for new adventures.
On my way to work in Paris one day, I passed a high wall in front of a grand manor on Rues de Francs Bourgeois. I suddenly noticed that the crumbling stonework was creating the illusion of a battle scene. I saw a crowd of knights riding through the dust following a crowned leader. Even though this was France, King Arthur is the only person who sprang to my mind. The next day, I brought my camera and took a photo.
About a year later, on maternity leave, I finally had the time to translate this striking inspiration onto canvas (in between nappies, bottles, household chores and playtime). Despite it being an exciting battle scene, the cream “dust” colour created a serene environment. This was history, it was meant to be, it has happened and we are safe. Along the edges, a frame depicts designs that can be deciphered as the Holy Grail, Excaliber, Lancelot and Guinevere, For me, this painting represented a medley of old dreams come true, new dreams developing and good memories. I was happy and successful with a good career, a new relationship, a new baby and a new home in beautiful Versailles. I had no idea, then, that my life would soon change dramatically, nor that I would one day return to live in Arthur’s England again.
The last time I went to Paris, I deliberately went back to see that wall, and found that it had been repaired. It was so different, reworked and unblemished that I almost didn’t recognise it. But then, it probably didn’t recognise me, either.
Whilst travelling to Avignon (France) many years ago, I visited a nearby monastery called the Chartreuse de Villeneuve lez Avignon. Somehow, I felt strangely at home and tranquil. I even seemed to know my way around without looking at the map. I eventually made my way down to the cellar where the laundry and punishment cells were, and immediately noticed the ceiling. There, mould accentuated certain stones, miraculously creating the form of crosses! I took many photos which, later inspired this large (130cm x 89cm) semi-abstract painting made of layers of oil and watercolour on canvas. At the time, I dubbed this style as “Abstract Reality”. This artwork is my personal favourite and every day it both inspires and calms me while hanging proudly in my own dining room.
Come along with me on a journey to the semi-abstract. A world where feelings are expressed in many layers and a hint of something recognisable makes you ask “is that something I know or somewhere I have been?”. Step into the painting with me.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton