Thursday, 24 October 2013

Gallery Days 2

The images that face me in the gallery are full of colour, suffused as blushes, subtle pinks

and greens and sometimes, a grainy surface.

Parallel with me on my left is my favourite, papery ovals of honesty against a rippling 

background of pale grey blue water. (top right, in above image).  A drained sky, a pond full

of rain. Water is what I see anyway, and I think as I walk among the images, that it is 

always nature images that appeal to me, not realistic necessarily, but recognizable, like les 

nymphéas you know what they are, the lilies and the vision, that's what they are. After 

nature, well there are human beings and the buildings and artefacts made by them. Best of 

all is people in relationship to walls and buildings, people in houses, coming out of doors, 

standing in doorways as if they loved them, not as if they were forbidden or locked out, or 

waiting for a buzzer to open it, waiting for someone to answer their knock or bell, no, but 

doorways that embody thresholds and have all the patterning to show their symbolism, 

decoration that would be pointless if the threshold could not be stepped through.

Maison de L'Amour doorway, Saint Antoine, France

In the decoration will ye know the momentousness of what you pass through, how different 

it will all be, on the other side. I'm thinking of the archways at entrances of medieval city 

centres, archways that once marked the entrance to truly ancient cities, Fez or Marrakesh, 

Herat or Istanbul.

Archway near Kairouan, Tunisia

If we all chose just a handful, a small circle of images to illustrate our lives, what would you 

choose? I would have oiled and carved wood, and a terracotta coloured bowl, with a 

see-through glaze, uneven, containing sand, seeds and husks of plants that remain after 

summer has left us. I like the left behind, the earth colours, the incomplete, the sketched 

 and drafted, and the awkward and imperfect. So my imaginary glaze would be scattered

with the leftover detritus of nature, preserved in pine resin, scented and sticky, pine glaze, 

and cones that burn well in the fire, that spark and pop..

After the honesty reflections in water, another image I really like is of feathered big birds – 

so I see – with black beaks and bodies of fawnish white and terracotta, with a background of 

greenish blue, mould colour, fading into the conversation of the birds.

The third is a spiral, ammonite or snail shell, in the greenish light of early morning or late 

evening, it could be either. Then there are the shawled women, (top left in the first image) 

one leaning forward to the smaller one who inclines sideways, to hear what she is saying. 

Seen from behind, in a grey blue mist, perhaps evening is approaching, on the moor. But

they do not look lost, they look at home, just like standing stones with a view out over wold 

and copse, with a slip of river running in the valley, with patchy curtains of leafless trees 

lining the banks.

This image [E3] can also be seen on Margaret's website here

and her thoughts about art can be found on her blog

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gallery Days

The urn wheezes, the heater rumbles then clicks off. When I arrived here this morning, just after I had switched on all the lights, there was a sound from the hallway, like someone calling or laughing but when I went through there was no one there at all. From time to time there are brisk footsteps going past the doorway, 


but there are not many for this street is off the main road, it's a few metres away from a garden where people walk their dogs and on sunny days, sit on the benches. But there is not likely to be many sunny days now, we are shrouded by the misty air of autumn and the leaves hang, discoloured and dispirited, lank in the damp air, too irresolute even to fall off the branches, still linked to the tree trunks by the wetness of everything around them, colours dust-grimed rather than bright with frost.

Afternoon I read, in The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, harbouring a centuries-old grudge against the day as a whole, I read this on the bus this morning, the overheated and overcrowded bus, and the morning too has a feeling of being too closely packed with moisture to be comfortable in its skin, the light diffused, spread out like a greyish layer covering the bus windows and the fields outside, turning the trees a little insubstantial, and later, the walls and buildings of the city.

Yet still, something of Paris here in this early morning pavement, with cafés newly open, yes it must be that, the open cafés that remind of Paris for really, there is little else resembling it. Unless it is a memory, brought in on the damp wave of the morning, the flatness of the light, a memory of autumn in Paris, the fallen leaves slippery on the pavements, the pente savoneuse of Paris flagstones, the lit brasseries, the outside heaters, the way people are both sheltered and intimate whether inside or out, and are also involved in the theatricality of all streets, gestures, brasseries and cups of coffee on the small tables, the chairs pushed far too close together, as if all French people were midgets or enjoyed proximity to one another.

Which I can't believe, and then I remember that they are adept at another art, and just as in the crowded metro carriages, they are able to be closely packed together and yet separate, in some mysterious French way that is beyond the capabilities of other people. They have perhaps through their language, which has pores more subtle than the skin, devised a cocoon, their particular language, made of finer spun silk, more robust and strong than any other, as well as more refined, more akin to purest gossamer, than any other too. So through this invisible yet tightly knotted meshwork, the French have developed the capacity to be physically close to others yet distinct and apart, subtly aloof and sublimely separate.

I go into a café that has always intrigued me since I noticed it, but I've never been in. Café Marlayne. So I imagine its Dietrich décor, its continental charm, that mixture of Gallic suavity and Teutonic intellectual bite. But though the people are friendly, the place cannot transport me to Paris or Berlin for this city, this morning, is as vaporous as the damp mist, and I take my croissant with me, unlock the gallery, turn on the lights. 


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Carnets - From Quetta to Tehran 2

The anthology Emails from India- Women Write Home published by Seraphim Editions, Ontario, Canada, celebrates its launch in Vancouver in a few days time!

And this is the next part of the journey across Asia.

Baluchistan - photo credit

The second morning in Quetta, Pakistan, we were up before it was light, to catch the early bus to the Iranian border. We had met Gustaf the day before and he had told us about this bus. The morning was bitterly cold but the air was unbelievably fresh and clear and the sky was crammed with stars, distracting me as I squatted by the brass pot with its film of ice. There was a reddish glow to the sky, like a smouldering fire that only needs one breath or gust of wind, to make it burst into flame. But there was no wind in this high mountain air. The morning was still as frost. Outside in the streets, some people were already up and about, moving like silent shadows, keeping close to the buildings. The muezzin called into the silence, stirring deep into the layers of sleep and dream, echoing them, linking them to the new day of work and noise and activity, a constant rope to bind the worlds of night and day, the expansion of the dream, and the focusing of work. At the point of almost-light, the muezzin calls. The fruits of dream, freshly dedicated to Allah, are put into the work.

It was almost light by the time we reached the place where the bus was supposed to leave. There were plenty of buses around, plenty of people too, but no-one seemed to know where our bus was. I was used to it by this time. We were offered cups of tea, by people who smiled and gestured at us and we squatted down beside them, to watch the sky grow light.

By some apparent miracle, we followed some side-streets and found a bus away from all the rest, with Gustaf sitting in the back. He waved wildly, when he saw me. He was quite convinced this was the right bus. I had no intention of arguing.

The morning was confidently settled in the sky by the time our bus left with its cargo of noisy gesticulating passengers, with extra baggage piled on the roof and secured with ropes. Inside the bus it soon became stiflingly hot and claustrophobic as people and baggage were crushed together. A couple of russet-haired goats joined us later on and settled near the back of the bus, where we were sitting. This delighted me but irritated my companion, who glared and muttered angrily if goat or person pressed their flanks too closely against his. As the day wore on he slumped back in his seat, morose and silent.

We made several stops during the day. We travelled through dry desert country with no vegetation that I could see, just brown stretches of land, hills and flat land, mud-coloured houses blending in with the brown landscape. After midday there was a dust-storm, the air turned thick and swirling, blotting out the light so that the afternoon turned into a gloomy twilight. The bus pulled off the road at a chaikhan and we got out, covering our mouths to avoid breathing in the choking air. When the storm passed we set off again but after sundown it got steadily colder inside the bus. I was sitting next to the window and part of it was broken. In my attempt to make my burden as light as possible I had left all my warm clothing behind. All I had to travel back in was a shirt, jumper, sheepskin waistcoat and jeans. A freezing current of air blew through the broken window, penetrating my clothes. Someone tried to drape something over it, which partially succeeded, but still an intermittent icy draught blew onto me.

Baluchistan photo credit -

When the bus finally stopped in the early hours of the morning, I'd already fallen asleep. Gustaf woke me, very carefully. It was hard to believe he was the same person who had been so full of anger and irritation the day before.

After three or four hours sleep the bus continued and we reached the Iranian border before noon the next day. But we all had to wait until mid-afternoon before another bus appeared to take us to Zahedan, the nearest town. 

The road to Zahedan - photo credit -

When we arrived there, we spent the night in an hotel on the outskirts of the town, with the wide brown desert all around and a red mountain rising in the distance. Gustaf, who had clearly had enough of travelling by public transport, managed to track down some Italian people who were driving through to Europe, and persuaded them to take him with them.

And so the next day we set off for Tehran. The desert rolled on like a carpet of rock and sand, subtle rock colours of green purple and yellow against the unbroken blue of sky. Iran is a country of curious contrasts. In Zahedan, there were wide, almost-empty streets and immediately you left the town you were back following a dirt-track through the silent rock and sand, the hard silhouettes of mountains carved against the sky. Modern angular houses mingled with round igloo-shaped dwellings. But they were all the same mud-brown colour. They ended abruptly, where the desert took over. No gentle transition, just an end of occupation, then the desert was the sole ruler, supreme, once more.

Tehran was grey, still winter-caught, suffering in its slow thaw. No spring here, no sudden vivid green, just a gradual easing of winter. A brown city, beyond it a landscape of mountains with no vegetation, streaked with snow and frost. The cold was raw and old, solid and tyrannical, like some despotic ruler, querulous in old age, unrelenting and monotonous.