Tuesday 23 December 2014

Light in the dark belly of winter


IN THE MIST OF MY STUDIO WINDOW ivy has been tracing silhouettes of cathedrals; evergreen hymns to the light in the darkness of winter, in which we are now fully planted. I have sat there at my work table, or at the drawing board, or knelt on the floor, painting ferociously for many many weeks in preparation for A Fourfold Fable - a joint exhibition of Devon-based mythic painting in Exeter, which took place at the beginning of December. Not only have I been busy with the particular creativity and organisation that goes into making an exhibition, but Tom and I have expended a super-human amount of energy birthing Hedgespoken - our long-awaited and long-dreamed plan to create a home and travelling vagabond theatre on our vintage Bedford RL truck. For those who have been following the past momentous two months, you'll be rejoicing with us at our frankly mind-bloggling success and the utterly wonderful throngs of support we have gathered along the way. Steering a successful crowdfunding campaign has been more work than we could ever have imagined, and we are thrilled at the dream that has become tangible thanks to all of our supporters, and equally utterly exhausted; the reality of what has been achieved is only slowly dawning on us through the veils of tiredness. This project will continue to grow over the winter and into spring, and if you'd like to follow the progress, you can do so over at the Hedgespoken blog. So far, our wonder-wagon looks like this:

Not one to allow myself much breathing space, the exhibition opened at the beginning of December just as the crowdfunder was ending!

Together the four of us (Michael Broad, Anna Georghiou, Phil Birdmyself) transformed the little upstairs gallery of the Glorious Art House into a veritable Aladdin's cave of storied paintings...

And in the middle of the room was a tablefull of prints, cards, calendars, books, CDs and other artful goodies.

photo by Anna Georghiou

For the grand opening, which we had on a Sunday morning instead of the standard evening do, we served coffee and croissants to our many enthralled guests...

photo by Michael Broad
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Michael Broad
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Phil Bird
photo by Anna Georghiou

 The walls rang with magic, as I'm sure you'll agree...

Stories and motifs meandered around the walls in and out of the works of four artists, whom many visitors assumed were just one painter! We mixed our works in the space, creating a myth-rich storybook of colour and tone, and were thoroughly pleased with the result. One visitor suggested we should call ourselves The Fabulists!

We took turns in sitting with the paintings every day for two weeks and in that time met many lovely folks and had lots of fascinating conversations about art and magic and the threads that link them. Thanks to all who came to support us and dwell in our otherworlds for a while.

photo by Rose Tydeman of the Glorious Art House
Many good things have been brewing in the cauldron this winter. What with one thing and another, I've not managed to list all my new works in the shop in time for Christmas, I'm sorry. But be sure to look out in the new year for many new cards and prints and paintings, both here and in the etsy shop, a few of which I'll share with you here below now.
Some of my wintry work is featured (front page, back page and middle page spread, no less!) in this month's most excellently put together Doncopolitan Magazine, which champions Doncaster's growing creative arts and grassroots scenes, and can be got for free in print or online.

The woodburner in my studio has been burning away as I work, as the nights have got longer, and my paintbrushes stragglier.

Those of you who have bought my 2015 calendar this year will have seen this little birch painting on the month of December.

It's a Once Upon O'Clock, painted for Assia Alexandrova in Hollywood, who asked for a Lappish-styled winter goddess... and so I painted this - a reindeer-riding Winter Queen, Mother of the North, holding her baby in a traditional Saami cradle, flying over a sickle moon through a blue icicled and snowflaked winter sky.

Queen of Winter by Rima Staines

As part of my pre-exhibition panting frenzy, I also decided to experiment with a more painterly technique in oils on paper.

This was somewhat out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed playing with the paint, having made no underdrawing or sketch whatsoever.

The painting grew and changed with each layer of paint.

Under the earth, the land-mother sleeps, her belly swollen with growing seed, with golden light. Over her, a winter landscape lies blanketing the promise below. A band of masked mummers dance through a snow-capped village, bringing their music to wake the sleeping one under the ground.

The Munmmers by Rima Staines
And third and last in this collection of folk-madonnas, this little painting used a piece of wood I found in a skip, already treated with green colour, which I rather liked and so decided not to paint over.

For this one I returned to my more typical thinly-applied oils, and enjoyed the simplicity of the portrait. I had a gilded frame ready for this too, which I had found in a second-hand shop, and which you'll have seen in the exhibition photos above.

As day turned to night, and coffee to tea, I painted on...

The mother and her child emerged, smiling...

Between them something grew. An umbilical understanding, a love profounder than the roots and the stars, an Unfathomable Language.

The Unfathomable Language by Rima Staines
And by now, I am sure you'll have guessed the most important of all my projects brewing over these past months, the inspiration behind these paintings and my fervent creative frenzy, and the reason for my extra layers of tiredness. 
Yes, a wonder beyond words in my belly, precious and unfathomable indeed.
I haven't felt to share very much of this private thread of my life here, and don't know how much I'll want to do so as the little person steps into this roaring beautiful world either, but I wanted to let you know the reason for my quiet here, which I'm afraid will only get louder come February when our lives will be changed forever...
Two thousand and fifteen promises much adventure for us, as both new parenthood and a story-rich and hedge-spoken life on wheels beckon. I look forward to sharing the wonders and the tales with you as we go. Meanwhile, I send warmest greetings to all of you who are mothering golden seeds in the dark earths of your winters, and wish you joyous green sprouting as the light returns.