.....if you're a follower of the old nature mystery traditions of the British Isles that is! Yes it's almost Samhain, or more popularly known as Halloween. For pagans in the northern hemisphere, Samhain marks the end of the last harvest and the end of the year, as nature goes into winter, and all food and resources are stored to survive the cold months. So what has this to do with my art? Well, it influences my creativity somewhat. I've always found this a strangely fascinating part of the year. It was always a time of magic in my mind when I was a kid. Horror stories, scary movies and gothic novels never really were a part of this time of year for me when growing up. It was more about sprites, fungi, strange spirits and dare I say - faerie? The weird small folk who lived at the bottom of the garden! I was always drawing strange little characters, that popped into my imagination. The sort of characters that wouldn't look out of place in some germanic folk tale! Fast forward to nowadays, and I still feel the call of it now and again.
I've just completed two works that give a nod to nature, old ways and the turning of the year wheel.
"Fire festival" is painted using various waterbased and oil based paint. It has treatments of wood dyes and crayon, then pyrography is used to burn in the lines of the trees and other elements. Samhain is one of the fire festivals, and great bonfires would be lit, and the honouring of the ancestors would take place at this time of the year. Winter was a dark and dangerous time for many in ages long ago, and rituals such as Samhain were important markers in the cycle of the year. Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain all used fire in their rituals. The dominance of reds and warm colours are taking over from the green, as nature blazes before dying down. The shamanic figure could be an effigy of the male aspect of nature, the horned one also referred to by some as Cernunnos a fore runner of Herne perhaps.
There is a reawakening to old customs and the mysterious older spiritualities nowadays. This ties in with the huge movement towards protecting nature, the forests and valuable ecosystems. It is this that fascinates me as an artist, and which is playing a big part in my work.
"Memory of trees" is the second of these recent works. Again, this gives a nod to the changing seasons. Memory of trees could mean the memory they seem to have of changing and surviving with the seasons. It could also mean our memory of trees, as more and more seem to be hacked down in the name of "progress"! The autumnal yellow sunset, sees our woods become mysterious places of old memory. A small fire burns on an altar in one corner, where the mysterious spirals of life and inter- connectedness of life are carved. A mask of some possibly shamanic origin hangs from a bough, with a cascade of green mist pouring forth as a reminder of what was and will be, is this used to go deeper into some other realm? The white rod or spar on the left gives the viewer something to cling to from one realm to another. The wheel symbols hover like bubbles acknowledging the turning of time and season.
So, as you can see, a mysterious and otherwordly mist has infused my recent work. I am finding it extremely fascinating and enjoyable, as these works almost create themselves out of strange meditative states. One should never be afraid to try something different, go down a different path or through a doorway into something different. I have done so here, and it's incredibly exciting.
So, as the time rolls on, the wheel revolves, and onwards we must go down the path infront of us. Now and in age old tradition, we must remember our ancestors, get out the winter coat, and stay safe in these precarious times.
Well, since my last entry on this blog page, much has happened. We have seen Lughnasadh come and go, and Alban Elfed(the autumn equinox) also come and go. We are now heading towards Samhain(Halloween). You'll notice that these old festivals are very important to me. Being a practising pagan druid, they are important markers in the year, and follow nature as it the wheel turns through the seasons.
I have been watching with interest over the last few years, the plans to build a high speed railway through the English countryside. Let me say that this blog is not here with the intention of getting political, however now that construction has started on this project, I am firmly against this extremely destructive project. The reason being, that huge old trees are being felled to make way for this construction. Nature reserves that many folk have nurtured and worked on for many years are being ripped up. People are losing homes, and livelihoods to this supposedly forward thinking project. As a druid it is against what I stand for, and so I have been involved in trying to protect the wildlife in ancient woodland to the north of Kenilworth in Warwickshire. A triad of protective rituals have been performed, and positive things have come from this. Animals have been seen moving away from the heavy industrial machinery up towards the areas where these rituals were performed, and to hopeful safety.
On a different note, the work of Aneurin Arthur is going to be added to this site as well. For those that don't know, Aneurin is my alter-ego, me in druid form so to speak. Just as novelists and writers create under a different name, so too will I. Aneurin Arthur is my given druid name. Not all druids have this, but mine was given. I am partly Welsh, and I live in the county of the bear. In old Welsh and ancient Brythonic, Arth translates to bear in English, Arthur means the bear. I grew up in Warwickshire, and the symbol of the Beauchamp family of the Earls of Warwick was the bear(The Neville's added the ragged staff in the mid 15th century). I am a solitary practitioner, which is often known as a "hedge druid". My art(in this guise) is only created when the inspiration or awen is strong. So from the hedges and woods of Warwickshire, until next month - stay safe and positive.
Yours truly in the role of local hedge druid at the "Acorns to oaks" protest walk, at Hilltop Farm near Cubbington, Warwickshire. (photo courtesy of Martina Irwin)
Lughnasadh, or Lammas as it's often called, is almost upon us. It marks the first festival of the harvest, and rituals have gone on for millennia to mark it. I am currently having time away from the easel, as I normally do at this time of year. I do it, mainly because all the domestic jobs need doing, and I also get time to relax and spend time doing other things. I make the most of the weather, and lately I have been visiting the site of the old castle at Brinklow in Warwickshire, just a short drive away from me. I have family connections to Brinklow, and nearby Stretton under Fosse and Monks Kirby. Ancestors of mine farmed land around there as agricultural workers. Also, for those that follow my work, I am a practising Hedge Druid. I am currently studying a course from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which will take some time to complete. Hedge Druids are solitary practitioners. I tend, myself, to use the term loosely, as I do believe the term druid in its original Iron age sense was something different to how modern druidry is practised today. There is nothing weird about it, it involves the observance of old country lore, some spirituality, some study of mythology, reverence for nature, amongst lots of other things, and it has helped me "quieten" my oft fraught and stressed out existence! I mention this, as it is this subject which I now want to inject into my work. It may take me down a different artistic path. The great thing about being an artist I believe, is that there are no rules! If you want to paint a series of squares for a week, then change to circles the next, who's stopping you? You obviously need to learn some rules in art to get going, to form a basis of technical knowledge that will assist you to create work. For example, using water with oil based paint is never going to work is it? You need to crack open the turpentine or linseed oil instead! However, when you know your basics, then you can experiment. I often refer to my artistic practice, as akin to some mad scientist in his laboratory wondering what happens when you add one substance to another, what will be the effect? Not everything works, some things turn out odd, or just unexciting. Sometimes, it comes right. So, when I'm back at the easel in a months time, I will be injecting my interest of all things pre-historic and possibly druidic into my work. The Stikman works are always going to be bubbling away in the background, occasionally coming to the fore as new works arise. A lot of those works are now in storage, awaiting the day they can be exhibited. The large Abstract works are currently on show at Himley Hall near Dudley in the West Midlands as well, so if you're near, please do go in and see them, its free entry. Right, I'm off to form a list of all the household jobs I've got to get on with!
So, we're past the half way mark of the year. It has been a hugely traumatic one for many. I have just kept my focus on my work, and tried as much as possible to get further along with my "Stikman" works. Earlier this month, I was struck down by a badly swollen left foot, which turned out to be a combination of fluid retention, and a bad gout attack. I've spent this last three weeks with my foot raised up, drinking lots of fluids and reading. About a week or so ago, I decided that I would take the stikman series in a new direction. I had been looking at images of ancient petraglyphs, and primitive art. Not only from here in the UK, but also from other areas of the world. Primitive art has always been a fascinating subject for me. In fact, I don't really like to call ancient or tribal art primitive, as it can be quite a complex thing. It often had purposes completely different to how we in the "enlightened" west have used art over the last few hundred years. Realism, in terms of accurate representation of the forms of, for example, the human figure and animals, does not seem to be a high priority of these ancient artists, in much of this work. There is often a lot more going on, in terms of "style", representation or depiction. This is something we as modern viewers will never fully understand. It may come as a surprise to some, that I am fascinated with paganism. Not only the various forms of modern pagan spirituality practiced here in the UK, but also the tantalising glimpses of historical paganism as seen through ancient writers, and the wonderfully enigmatic historical sites such as West Kennet Long Barrow, the Rollright Stones, Silbury Hill, Avebury to mention a few of the famous ones. I felt, that as it has been an important subject for me, I would now bring it into the imagery of my Stikman works. I had briefly touched on this in some earlier Hidden Monster works, such as "Monster in Spirit", and the more abstract work "Triad" created last year, and exhibited at Himley Hall near Dudley this year.
(Left)"Triad" 2019. Acrylic on canvas.
Groups of three, or triads, are hugely important in druidism. The famous legendary mystical Bard of Wales, Taliesin, famously changed three times into different animals of land, sea and air to evade the wrath of the Goddess Ceriddwen, before she consumed him as a grain of wheat, he then grew as a baby inside her, to be reborn as the mystical bard. Triads are often depicted as Triskele's, or three spirals interlinked. Modern Druids often use the symbol of the Awen, the three rays of light, representing three aspects of deity, mind body and spirit, and also the points at which the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices - the triads of the sun.
So, I have tentatively and fleetingly touched on this subject in this body of work. I shall now bring it forward in its various forms to take a special place. For me creativity is being like a magpie, picking through the tastiest choice bits, and keeping or storing them. Sometimes you go back to things, to see if you can re-use them. This is no different to the way I work, and I may return to revisit ways of working, and the use of certain elements. Prior to my recent ill health problem, I was taking Stikman into the realms of graffiti and street art. He became "MiStik", a sort of angry version of the Stikman. Yesterday I completed the last of those works called "Window pain". Very much a scream from the alienated, outcast hidden realms of society, its a cry for recognition in painted form on a wood panel, with lots of lettering on it. This way of working, I may return to, or fuse it together with the primitive aspect I'll be working with.
I have also been awarded a bursary from the MAIA arts organisation, to enable me to buy materials to extend my work into three dimensions. This will give me the proceeds to buy in plaster, wood, resin and other materials to create some sculptures and reliefs. I'm hugely grateful to MAIA for this. Also a huge thanks to A-N Artists organisation for the funding to enable me to devote the time to create this work. Without this funding, I could not carry on producing work that deals with a subject that is not represented that often in the artworld.
I would also like to mention, that a fabulous friend of mine passed away yesterday. Alan Harvey was a well known living historian specialising in the Medieval and Tudor periods. I spent many a happy hour shooting arrows with him in displays at Warwick Castle and Harvington Hall many years ago. He was also a very hardworking member of Dudley Councils exhibitions team. It was through Alan, that I got to exhibit my recent solo exhibition at Himley Hall near Dudley. A very creative and thoroughly pleasant guy, Alan will be missed by many people. My thoughts are with Pam and his family at this sad time.
Towards the end of each month on this blog page, I'll post updates, and other items for your perusal. As we're getting to the end of May 2020, I thought I'd have a look back at the last couple of months, in what has been a very disrupted and worrying time. You only have to watch or read the news to see all the frightening, tragic and horrible things that have happened regarding the present pandemic. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones due to this awful disease. However there are stories of hope, selflessness and inspiration that have come out of this situation too. It has been a hugely disrupting time for nearly everyone, due to the lock down(here in the UK). People have lost jobs, careers and income. The Art sector has been hit very badly, with venues having to close, lay off staff, and in some cases shut for good.
However, for myself, it has been pretty much - situation normal. Since 2016, I've been a lone artist. I hardly see anyone anyway, except when I have to pop out for groceries. I'm pretty much a hermit. This is one of the reasons my art is so important to me, as it gives me a purpose. I'm always seeing what I can create next. A couple of months or so ago, my solo exhibition at Himley Hall in the West Midlands was coming into its last couple of weeks, when the lock down came into effect. All the work is still there, in quarantine! Also, just prior to the lock down, my painted relief "Apologies for the inconvenience" had been hung at Compton Verney Art Gallery in South Warwickshire, as part of Outside-In's "signs" intervention there. I was to give a short talk at the opening of the exhibition, but all that has been put on hold.
"Apologies for the Inconvenience" 2020.
So, after the announcement of the lock down, I decided to concentrate my efforts on developing "Stikman Cometh". Being an lone artist, requires you to be extremely creative in regards to your work, but you also have to devote time to search out funding opportunities, and do all the other admin. A lot of artists find an income creating work that is "sellable". However, work such as "Hidden Monster and "Stikman Cometh" are bodies of work intended to be shown together in a large exhibition at some point in the future. They have an important message to convey about physical and mental disability, and how it feels to be cast aside, surplus to requirements. These aren't the sort of paintings that the average buyer will put over his mantlepiece! They take a lot of time and effort to produce, so whilst creating them, I need to search for funding opportunities. I was successful in being awarded an Engine Micro-bursary from Outside-in/New Art West Midlands/New Gallery Walsall, for research purposes. This will be put towards my personal research of Alberto Giacometti, and his almost obsessive study of the figure in space, in both two and three dimensions. Due to being financially challenged as a disabled person for the last few years, I haven't been able to afford to get to London to see Giacometti's work up close. So when all the restrictions have been lifted, and the galleries are open again, I will make use of this research funding to get to see Giacometti's work.
This month has also seen me have a written piece published in Disability Arts Online. The brief was to discuss your work, give examples of how a work evolves, together with examples of other work. It has received a favourable response I think. I've also(insert drum roll.......) done my first Zoom meeting! I have always found technological face to face meetings, virtual meetings or whatever, very odd. I've never really been comfortable with the idea. However, when everyone is doing it, you have to come kicking and screaming out into the modern world I suppose!
So, I've been pretty busy creating work, networking and getting all the associated stuff done that an artist has to do this day and age. Its very time consuming, you rarely get much in the way of income, but something inside you makes you do it!
With all the new changes here in the UK, the country slowly opening back up, we might see some changes by the end of next month, and things may seem a little different. I'm hoping within the next few months to offer work for sale here on this website. So please, keep an eye out for that.
Well, that's all for now - stay safe everyone!
Hi there, and many thanks for looking up this website! I've created this blog page, just to let you know what I'm up to, news on my art, where you can see my art when exhibitions come up etc. I intend to keep popping back and adding to this a couple of times a month or so, or when news and updates come in. Remember, I do have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, just click on the icons on the other pages of this website to pop over to them.
Currently, as I write this, the Coronavirus situation is still raging across the planet. I do hope you are keeping safe and well during this awful time. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who're suffering from this awful virus, and their families and friends. I also have a huge amount of respect and thanks to those in the medical profession, the support staff, and all those doing the essential work to keep society running at this dangerous and frightening time.
I often wonder how important art is, when society is facing such a huge challenge. Art isn't going to stop the actions of a microscopic virus. However, art is important to us as humans. It can give comfort, it can convey a message, it can show support, and it can be a chink of light at a very dark time. To me as an artist, its hugely important. I cannot operate properly unless each day I create something, whether that be a drawing, painting or a small sculptural piece. My art brought me out of a very dark place, when I felt as though I'd been thrown on the scrapheap, classed as "ill health retired" by the organisation I worked for. Slowly my world shrunk. I knew or saw less people. I slowly became a phantom. However, I still had my powers to create art. So here I am, alone, creating my art even now.
So, if you're reading this, be creative. Do some art, don't worry about it, just do it. It can be very therapeutic at a dark time. Most of all - be safe.