Biting the paper IV: sylvan idyll.

I pay a yearly subscription for access to a private nature reserve.  Here there is a small wooded hill, largely ignored by the twitchers who congregate at the hides facing the flooded gravel pits.  I am self-conscious painting in company whereas this secluded wood is free of children, walkers and dogs.  This allows me to spend time just looking and experimenting in paint.

Siden Hill Wood - March (5)

I painted this in March, weather shifting between drizzle and sleet, a dry-run perhaps before my sketches in the Yorkshire Dales later that week.  At the top of the ridge, weak sunlight through the trees gave a luminous quality to the lichen covered fallen logs.  My painting had elements I liked, but the woodland floor was over-painted and dull (the digital image flatters the actual painting by being back-lit on your screen).  This weekend, I scraped it back with a knife, re-painted a single layer of green over the refreshed paper and brought more reds into adjacent areas for contrast.

Siden Hill Wood - March

Minds play tricks and odd thought pathways become ingrained.  Each time I cut into paintings in this way, an ugly little phrase recurs in my mind: “It has been knife work up here”, a comment by the Elf Legolas in the Lord of the Rings as he reports his tally of slain orcs.  I find I have  sympathy for the orcs, represented as a caricature of and metaphor for the industrial working class, invading and despoiling the rural idyll, mobs marshaled by elites and slain in their thousands.

Landscape with gun

I listened to Janacek’s sinfonietta on the radio.  The anchor commented that two different recordings of the same music  provide the soundtrack to Murakami’s novel, 1Q84.  I downloaded the music, and the book.  Janacek’s sinfonietta marks the boundary between the real and unreal, the profane and sacred.

Landscape with gun 13

Around the same time, I listened to a learned discussion on the writing of Anton Chekhov.  In 1890, the ill young man made a three month journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony of Sakhalin Island.  After listening, I have begun to work my way through his stories. As it turned out,  Chekhov’s narrative power is another thread running through the tapestry of 1Q84

Landscape with gun

According to Chekhov, says a character in 1Q84, once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.

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Thryme

There is a place where, no matter how thirsty, it is better not to eat of the puthyrme fruit.  In that place, the deceased are cremated, no matter what the mode of death.

This picture began as a random doodle using acrylic ink into pools of water on the paper, forced to dry fast under a closely directed lamp and then worked into with chalks and ink.  As it evolved, it took shapes drawn from Christopher Priest’s imagined archipelago in which space-time is drawn into an vortex overlying equatorial islands such that flight is possible but traveling unpredictable.  In The Islanders (2011), he writes a travelogue, a kind of guidebook, and only as you read about first one then the next of these various islands does it become apparent that this is in fact a narrative of tragedy and love.  However, I think I first read the chilling story of the puthryme in an anthology, long before I had heard of the author or knew his books.  That story is called The Cremation and I found it again recently in The Dream Archipelago.  As I came close to finishing this drawing, its links to that story became clear in my mind.

Listen … Poo tee weet

It is written that of all the 31 known sentient species, only humans believe in free will.  This illusion arises because although perceiving the existence of four dimensions, none the less, their view of time is severely constrained to glimpsed, mostly falsified memories and a probablistic view of the future.  Their outlook on life is as if their heads were imprisoned in helmets and vision permitted only through rigid six foot scopes without mirrors or lenses to enhance the passing image while strapped unknowing to flatcars careering under their own momentum along interweaving railroads.

Even if you read the book thirty years ago, i bet you will get the literary reference right away.  If you are guessing, I won’t spoil the game but someone I hope will post it below in a comment.  It is a classic of twentieth century fiction (actually much based on fact, frighteningly).  I re-read it in snatched moments recently.  I’ve had little time to draw, hence this rather rough sketch.

They cannot conquer for ever

Look! The king has got a crown again!

This was drawn in compressed charcoal on buff paper.  I have returned to a limestone block eroding from an arid karst platform, supporting trailing caper plants in flower.  My attention was drawn to a large hole, somehow reminiscent of an eye socket.  I have drawn this before, like a side view of an ungulate’s skull (https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/limestone-skull/).  This time I saw a more anthropoid facies in the same image.  The overlying white flowers brought back to me a scene from Lord of the Rings describing an unexpected vision of hope for the beleaguered characters.  Unintentionally perhaps, my own image subverts this and is rather bleaker in mood.