CiR Hereford College of Arts, September 2015 – April 2016
Artist’s Statement April 2016
This residency began with a wish to explore the work of Herefordshire writer Thomas Traherne (1637-74) in such a way as to make visible some of the spiritual ideas in his writing. I have personalised his ideas as a way to develop my own visual language and outlook. The images, derived from Traherne’s poetic ideas such as ‘Thoughts are Angels sent abroad’, ‘They really do Bottle our Teares’ and ‘The Sun is a glorious Creature’ are chosen with a view to collate images for wellbeing. These images, inspired by Traherne’s poetry and poetic prose are a way of making emotional descriptions of nature something mapped in an imaginary way. The two term residency at Herefordshire College of art has been invaluable in allowing me to find new ways of working with etching and painted monoprint. It felt surprisingly seamless, to be able to work in different ways and mediums in the Printmaking Workshop and the two libraries, in the way that an in depth project can. It was a simple aim really, to find new images. And they did turn up like treasures on a shore line. Now is the time to take them inland.
‘Untangled from all the world’
Thomas Traherne’s writing for me illuminates the possibility of, in his phrase, being ‘untangled from all the world’. As a visual artist, much of my visual development is about the layering of lines and the spaces between them represented by patches of transparent, translucent and opaque colour of differing tone and intensity. It can get complicated. Turning to the writing of Thomas Traherne can open up, for the reader, a particular way of experiencing the world. He was almost a cartographer. He wrote of ways of knowing the world.
You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars…
Thomas Traherne from ‘Centuries of Meditations’
The above lines about ways of enjoying and perceiving the world were the first I came to know by Thomas Traherne. I read them quoted in connection to exploring ways of map making. The concept evokes medieval Mappa Mundi like the Ebstorf map and the Hereford Mappa Mundi. The Hereford map may have been on display in the cathedral when Thomas was a boy growing up in the city.
Traherne writes about his childhood in Hereford in a way not dissimilar to William Blake’s sweeping spiritually heightened descriptions of London.
Without we see Streets, Cities, Houses, Lands, Bodies, Temples, Skies etc. But it is impossible to see, so as to Enjoy them, unless only within.
Thomas Traherne, unlike Blake, was not a visual artist, although as a boy he writes of ‘light discovering’ a painting’s ancient story.
A painted cloth there was,
Wherein some ancient story wrought
A little entertained my thought,
Which light discovered through the glass.
Traherne’s descriptions of childhood’s wonder rediscovered, in a vision of nature and of ownership of the whole world are timeless poetic ideas.
The Spiritual Sun
They really bottle our Teares
Details from etchings,
handcoloured above and below, before printing