My choice of object was a delicate and rather fragile painting, ‘Love Dreaming by the Sea‘, Simeon Solomon, 1871, watercolour on paper. It is a bequest from the Nanteos collection, bequeathed by George Powell, who also commissioned the little painting.
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Many years have passed since I first encountered this painting as a print. Its impact was immediate. I was drawn to the warm, subtle hues, reminiscent of the William Morris inspired decor of my childhood. On a beach, an unclothed figure, relaxed and meditative looks out at, thinks about, well, about what? Possibly nothing, just being. How I yearned for such peace of mind.
When I finally beheld the original in its flat, broad gilded frame, I fell in love with the little painting again. The figure at its centre, delicate yet strong, ambiguous, knowing, self-assured, comfortable in its own skin, an angel.
As with most artworks, my response to the painting has morphed through several forms. I began by exploring colours, mixing and matching pigments and painting elements of the original. I drew, traced, dissected, repeated shapes, created patterns, devised a jointed figure and attempted a puppet to explore the pose.
Foremost during these explorations was what might be going on in the angel’s head? The concept of a tranquil mind space led to a small scale mock-up, of a quiet space. This included a silhouette of the angel (which wold be on a human scale), with a seat behind it and a space where a person’s head could rest. Having created a small card model, I went on to construct a full size fabric tented mock-up where an individual could sit, beside a silhouette of the angel and in solitude, pause and simply be. (The full size tented mock-up did not survive house reorganisation.)
Work developed, focussing upon the single silhouette. For weeks, a card version (approximately 60cm high), was moved around my work room, leant here, suspended there, held against a window with Aber in the background. It was forever on the edge of my vision.
Eventually the card shape deteriorated, a more rigid version was required.
Following several trials with stronger materials, I returned to familiar ground , working with wood and gesso. I required assistance to cut the ply-wood base. This was a good lesson. As capabilities change I need to learn to be able to ask for and accept assistance without reverting to personal frustration. Delegation and sharing and teamwork can support creativity.
Coats of gesso were carefully applied to the wood, then polished to a soft matte lustre. The resulting surface is rather fragile, similar to that of royal icing or a sucked mint. Whilst difficult to photograph, this added an interesting challenge. At this point the dreamer had begun to take on a persona of its own and became known as, Being.
Test pieces for Being, support each other.