Painting Poetry

and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned

Oil on linen

Although this painting is an evocation of the whole poem, it refers particularly to the above lines. I worked on it as news poured out of Syria and other places where life is evil now, and I endeavoured to portray the remorseless horror of war, brutality and loss. I have tried to be true to the imagery of Yeats’s words, written so many decades ago. To illustrate the pitilessness of conflict; attended by wealth and greed, poverty and betrayal, I have carved swirls of palette-knifed paint, painted gold embellishment and flicked, scattered and dragged petrol-rainbows. The awful symbolism in the hints of realism and the stridency of my chosen palette is deliberate.

From The Second Coming, WB Yeats

The sunlight on the garden

Oil on linen

I chose to convey this poem, written in a time, seventy years ago, of anxiety and uncertainty, as a seemingly simple portrait of summer flora. Today feels just as fearful and uncertain so I began by interpreted the spiralling words by painting circles of my own - the petals encircling the bracts and the daisies encircling the tree; all, despite the apparently burgeoning light, embedded in shadow. I’ve tried to explore the sense of loss and time past in the poem through contrasting the strong sunlight on one side of the tree trunk with ever deepening gloom advancing from the other. The dark paved path threatens hard times to come, the dancing light, an affirmation of good.

From The sunlight on the garden, Louis MacNeice.

Warm are the still and lucky miles

Oil on Linen

In the imagined landscape of the mind, Auden summons up a vision of the universally unique state of new passion. By creating a mythical place with suggestions of calm blue sea, burgeoning green trees, yellow blossom and crimson shade I have tried to emulate his light and lovely words. I have painted an illusory world of discovery and delight where hints of fiery palaces across water and beached smooth white stones lead to promises of peace and fulfilment. I have merged the serendipity of flicked diluted paint with studied strokes of light and dark to echo Auden’s intense realm of love.

From Warm are the still and lucky miles, WH Auden.

So from the years the gifts were showered

Oil on linen

The crucible of creation imagined: the optimistic certainty of the opening lines of Auden’s long sonnet sequence deceives – this is a poem steeped in thought and regret. Life is growing out from the vaporous acid-green centre of the painting; hints of beings forming, iridescent wings, seeds burgeoning. Shaped and coloured by choice and fortune, lines fracture and re-form. Light and dark begin to signify. And we, weakly kicking against our essential greed, are both less and more than a dangerous element in the maelstrom.

From In Time of War, WH Auden.