Spring to Sea – Painter and Poet
Spring to Sea – Painter and Poet
Painting and poetry make good bedfellows. Here we see the poet Myra Schneider respond to the paintings of artist Bob Aldous.
Collaborations between poets and painters are not new. In fact there is a fashionable movement of responding to painting through poetry. The late art writer John Berger, in his seminal book ‘Ways of Seeing’ reminded us that images come first, then words – ‘but when a poet creates a poem in response to a work of art then the words become another way of seeing.’
There are many artists from the canon of art history that Bob Aldous eloquently cites in relation to his work. Some are influences, other artists mirror his own psyche and preoccupations. Tiepolo and Turner, Tapies and Tillyer all hold sway but lets look at the intrinsic nature of the paintings, performance and poetry of the man himself.
Air and water – breathing through water – walking on air. The elements earth and fire are nowhere to be seen – Bobs poetry and performance pieces exude ethereality; his silk paintings and watercolours do the same. The quality of lightness, as in ‘ lightness of being’ is clearly not thinness. Bobs paintings flow with a deceptive ease of making which is far removed from the vague mark-making of a ‘thin’ painter; Aldous is a meticulous practitioner of his craft and well versed in both art theory and metaphor.
Circle is showing the large silk paintings – silk being the surface of choice for its luminosity and staining qualities. The Chinese and Tibetans have been painting on silk for a thousand years. Silk cloth naturally absorbs infinite hues and gradient washes therefore it is the perfect medium for Bobs romantic vision of the world. The paintings draw us into the milky scape-lands of the imagination – an arcadian idyll, or the legendary lands of Shangri-La (Tibet) and Cornwall’s Lyonesse – whatever these works suggest, essentially they are places for reverie.
Look, ocean indigo with anger,
ocean rising up into huge crests
which spew fury, ocean bellowing
at the thin-lipped land crouched
behind it. Look, clouds sweeping
through sky eager to marry these waters.
The black wave threatens annihilation
but in the fathomless dark something is stirring
and it fills you with wonder as you gaze
at the ceaseless seagull-white layers.
It emerges slowly from the fog of unknowing,
widens in this place of quiet and mirrors
all the twiggeries straggling from a flock
of shorn trees. Pause here for a while
and you’ll find too the water reflects grass,
the black line of the bank, a silent bird
dipping for food. And as shafts of light
penetrate darks in the thicket, you’ll see
how wildness seeks for pattern.
It begins deep down, wombed in darkness –
so many beginnings take place in darkness.
It emerges from a mountain cleft, is embraced
by light and slithers downwards over stones
and grass in runlets which seem random
but soon it’s a purposeful stream, a river.
Boats dream on it, bridges arch their backs
to span it. At last meaning singles to opening out.
It gives itself to the measureless blue of ocean.
A somewhere of land and water as far
the eye can see. Look at the reeds
bedded in silt, how their upward canes
strive to stripe the sky. Follow
the darks of those long liquid lanes
into the drifting uncertainties of mist.
The melancholy of distant bird cries
will tug at your feelings and always
there is the searching for mother sea.
Under the sea, in terrain where little light
penetrates, sharks and spider crabs roam.
If you look, you’ll find, among rocks clothed
in sargassum and seagrass, a scattering
of columns, some proudly upright, some toppled.
Once this ruin was a temple. It stood on dry land
and rose into the blue of sky but the ocean
has bestowed on it a strange beauty
and is urging you to dive into the world below.
The sea has been dreaming of blue
for days and at last the weighty clouds
have parted. Azure is pooling in the sky.
Look how the deeps and shallows
lap it up. Already blue has infused
these waters with enough light
to quench the grey uncertainty
below the surface. How the sea
rejoices in glittering blue life.