"The only journey worth taking is the journey within."William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart ... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." ~ Carl Jung



July 19, 2010 - Detailed analysis of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes reveals a secret that's been hidden for 500 years: an image of the human brain-stem in ...........see http://www.truthinpictures.com/

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, in February 1976: -

"RA opens up a private world through his paintings which is almost embarrassing to intrude on, showing extraordinary vision with a very personal sentiment.

RA creates a transparent, dreamlike quality, with his watercolour landscapes taking you through the outward façade of form into the innermost workings of nature.

Trees double for waterfalls, branches blend with cloud formations and plants with slabs of rock to create the essence of Nature's ever - changing moods.

Strong lines and rich, radiant colours take away any feeling of haphazardness from these superbly composed pictures.

RA produces a Chinese feeling in "Express Wood" "Apple Tree Wood" and "Engineers Wood" with delicate water washes and fine lines which bring out the spiritual floating elements of his work.

"Apple Tree Wood" particularly evokes a lazy, idyllic atmosphere as the apple tree lingers on the ground with the ladder of childhood memory leaning at its side. Now in The Dartington Hall Trust collection.

In the "Rocking Horse Wood," magnificent thick green trees tower from the base showering into rich foliage where houses sit like buds in the bowers, exuding a warm presence from this private world.

RA Engineers Wood; Watercolour 110 × 80 cm Photo Allan Grainger

Five large acrylics were included in the exhibition, at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, which ran until February 26th.
The same exceptional vision is evident in these works, in particular in "Shrimp Boy" where the domineering picture portrays a young boy coming out of the haze of spring with his net.

This exhibition was the contributor to my name appearing in 1990 in the Dictionary of British Art - Vol. VI 20th century Painters and Sculptors.

These "roots" were to continue even after I had become a student at the RA.Schools. My grandmother considered I was wasting away, after one term of city food, so she very generously paid my train fare every Friday, back to Leicestershire.

It was during these steam train journeys that many of my future "wood" paintings were conceived and later hatched in Rye and Devon. All Artists have to cultivate quick observation, some things do not hang about for you to say, 'is it OK if I paint or draw you.' Looking through the train windows over the four years developed my eye to work like a camera shutter, capturing one view after another. Plus being a steam train, sometimes part of the view was obscured by smoke, adding a magical dimension of poetry. Though the incubation took ten years to resurface, it appeared as watercolours like "Yellow House Waterfall Wood", now in the permanent collection of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.
Woods like Rocking Horse Wood, Viaduct Wood all contain views within other views. In the train a group of factory chimneys would still be registered on my retina as the express hurtled past a spinney, lake, and a heron flying over a river. In the most recent 'woods' - "Sun Rise Wood" an oil on canvas, 244 × 122 cm, and "Wild Flower Wood" 183 × 122 cm, the same structures appear to be more evident, and 'abstract.'Yet this is not why I have painted it in what superficially looks like abstraction. It is to encapsulate the memory of the fields at Low Woods full to the brim with wild flowers and health promoting herbs. The edges of the blocks are the boundaries of the fields, with the early morning sun rising to slowly dry the dew and release the aromas of these magical plans, now long gone. We have been taken down a path of fear, by faceless bureaucrats, to make mountains of wheat that contain less and less 'life.' "That man shall not live by bread alone," seems very appro here.

RA Wild Flower Wood; Oil on canvas 183 × 122 cm Photo Allan Grainger
The following is a foreword from the catalogue for the exhibition.

One remembers the names: Clearwater Wood, Engineers Wood, Coalmine Wood - names which haunt the mind like half-remembered memories. These are visionary poems with a strange and very personal lyricism. For RA the names are important.
Like a lost key opening a forgotten door a name triggered the sequences of paintings that compose the main body of this exhibition. Scanning an Ordinance Survey map of Sussex and Kent he surprised, with that rush of excitement which precedes every important discovery, the seed of an idea. The idea was a landscape, and in the seed - like the acorn in the oak - were the furled waterfalls, the white waters, the long-boled trees, the buds and suns, compressed and interchangeable, out of which it would all grow. The conjuring name: Waterfall Wood. WATER - FALL - WOOD. Inside the word, beheld by the inward eye, the self-same "sounding cataract", "the tall rocks" and "deep and gloomy wood" which had haunted Wordsworth as a boy.
The co-incidence is interesting. Born in a part of Leicestershire called Charnwood Forest, RA was taken to Loughborough at the age of three. Here he grew up, but every summer returned for several idyllic weeks, to his grandfathers farm, the cool, deep-walled house, in which he had been born. Once a huge wilderness Charnwood
preserves much of the natural appearance of a mediaeval hunting park with its fern and gorse, its ancient woods and outcrops of pre-Cambrian rocks. RA still remembers many still and secret places - a spring amongst trees, a white house on a hill - which he acknowledges, like Wordsworth, as the source of both his imagery and his art. Scenes of childhood, poised upon the border of town and country and made all the more precious because they were so different from noisy street life, had had a similar impact on D.H. Lawrence some forty years before. The influence and memories of another farm, The Haggs, and those who lived there runs through much of Lawrence's early work. Not very far from Eastwood where he was born, there is a deserted quarry which is described in The White Peacock. The quarry dwelt in Lawrence's memory as a place of mystery, "very old and deep", filled with "oak trees and guelder roses and a tangle of briars". Eastwood, a small mining village of shabby cottages was then a new and developing coalfield on the edge of beautiful countryside about fifteen miles from the farm where RA was born.

RA. Coalmine Wood; Watercolour 56×76 cm, Margaret Harwood Collection London. Photo Allan Grainger
So there is a Coalmine Wood as well as a Spring Wood, an Engineers as well as a Yellow House Waterfall Wood; a feeling of industrial energy (bridges, pitgear) interwoven with the natural lyricism of an English landscape (rocks, water and trees). Besides, what childhood is complete without the fading smoke and smutty smells of a steam train?

Yet RAs paintings are not landscapes in the topographical tradition; no one could trace, as they have with Constable or Turner, a panorama of trees and hills and say that he painted them here. Nor, of course, are they anything so single minded and uncomplicated as a remembrance of things past. These are visionary poems. What one needs, fully to appreciate this quality in the paintings, is a quieting down of mind and spirit to an intense privacy. Coming thus to him, as one comes to Palmer, one begins to peer right through the forms of his imagery, to an interior sense of magic, of universal and desperate recognition of beauty: the transparency within the substance of things.
This recognition, felt by many artists, is an acknowledgment that Art does not imitate the externals of Nature, but its operation, because there is at work in both, from within, the same divine creative principle. "The rules of the Imagination" observed Coleridge "are themselves the very powers of growth and production". But the outward forms of Nature, for RA no less than for Coleridge, were never things in themselves; they were, as for Wordsworth, in his sublimest inspiration, "Characters in the Great Apocalypse".
Thus beneath the skin of the paintings - the furled and ravelled waters and the stratified clouds; waters and clouds and roots and branches rhyming in organic unison like the separate parts of a round - beneath this skin, is a kind of spiritual essence, a force of being only partly revealed in the forms themselves. "In looking at objects of Nature" wrote Coleridge, "I seem to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolic language for something within me that already and forever exists". Two centuries earlier Thomas Traherne experienced much the same awareness of the immanence of things: "The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting.... Eternity was manifest in the Light of Day, and something infinite behind everything appeared: which talked with my expectation and moved my desire". In these extraordinary paintings, interleaved with memories of a childhood long ago, the artist provides another window onto the selfsame imaginative world.
In 1971, the date of the first painting in this exhibition, RA, his wife (also an artist), and their two sons, moved from Rye to North Devon where they now inhabit an old Rectory (like the house in the paintings), surrounded by a thick fence of tall beech trees. This part of Devon is solitary, gaunt, haunted even, with something of the same silvery wintriness which characterizes the Gothic vaulting in the nave of Exeter Cathedral. One of Blake's marginalia to Reynold's discourses runs: "The difference between a bad Artist and a Good one is: the Bad Artist seems to Copy a great Deal. The Good one Really does copy a great Deal". Imaginative painting, for RA, never involves distorting the facts. The landscape of his painting is the natural landscape through which he takes his dog for walks.
To the contemporaneity of a natural landscape with childhood imagery and a sense of the spiritual within things, should be added a further element without which the paintings would be little more than a porridge of coloured mud - I refer, of course, to the precise and formal arrangement of lines, colours and so forth. Paul Nash, an artist with whom RA has certain affinities, often talked about "trying to discover the appropriate form" in what he wanted to say. Form is conditioned by content in all the arts so that to ignore the latter, and concentrate on RAs handling of paint, his colour, or the discipline of his design, would be to treat him as a decorator. That is why I have stressed, perhaps overstressed, the spiritual and transcendent elements in the work and said nothing about the radiant delicacy of his colour or the Chinese feeling for the application of water colour paint. As a young man RA dreamed of playing the violin and there is something of the musician in all his watercolour works. But music is as much imitation, as any of the other arts. Beethoven, for example, did not invent anything; he perceived something and tried to reproduce it. "Art", said Paul Klee - in a sentence which RA likes to quote - "Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible". So that all his characteristic colours, his characteristic forms and design have always been the obedient servants of that quest.

But are they, one asks looking at the more recent paintings, are they as characteristic as all that? The cold brightness of the colour is now golden and thick, the flat and almost Celtic skeining has transmogrified into thousands of horizontal lines. The metamorphosis of the chrysalis into a butterfly could not be more complete. Yet, as the analogy suggest, the essential spirit of RAs vision remains unchanged.
This vision, as close as you can peer into the heart of nature, to genesis itself, has as its concern the everlasting transmutation of things. Things which ebb and flow, things which are always changing: growing, seeding, dying and growing again in an everlasting circle. Correspondences abound: the skeins of foliage are the strata in a slab of rock; the tiny sutures in a badger's skull echo the crinkling edges of a cloud; the white bulb of a waterfall suffers a sea change into a hyacinth's stock. "Trees show the bodily form of the wind, waves give vital energy to the moon," says a Zen poem in the Zenrin Kushu.
One of the most recent paintings, unrecognisable in outward form, yet true in essence, "makes visible" some flowers. Or is this a sunset? A painting of the life force? A painting of paint? Or all of these? Another shows a child, one of the boys, transparent as water, on a shining beach. Or have the waters, hot and magnificent, forged themselves into a sparkling ghost? And is this sparkling, flesh? air?, water or light? Nature and glory in Nature must be grasped by reaching for Nature's qualities and selfhoods. The spirit of these latest paintings is not inside Nature but, as Gerald Manley Hopkins observed, "under the world's splendour and wonder." Talking of trees RA has said: "A tree has its own particular music, its own language, you can hear it, it leaves it behind. And if you cut the tree down it is still there." Perhaps the same can now be said of water, sunlight, sunsets and shrimp boys?

John Lane. Dartington Hall 1976.


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