Thursday, 17 September 2015

Wild Goddesses and Gods

IT'S AN AEON AND A MINUTE since I stood on that shore looking out over the then unknown seas of motherhood which were to wash over me just a few days after this photo was taken. And now my baby boy, deepest joy of my heart, is nearly 7 months old! Words feel strange on my tongue and under my fingers, it will take me a while yet to find good ones to weave around this new story of motherhood in all its depths, and the Rima that writes this now is a different one from the young woman looking out to sea there. But I am starting to feel a creative spring as the autumn falls on us in Dartmoor, and I am wondering how I might continue working as an artist whilst mothering. I feel all of you out there wondering at our news too, though spending time near a computer has proved almost impossible for me so far, so different are the ways of being required to be with my child and with a laptop! 
Much has been happening in our life and work since I was last here. Since the momentous Becoming-Three which happened at the end of February when snows were still falling, we've moved through spring and summer and we've left house life behind, selling many of our belongings in a rainy but enjoyable yard sale, and we've moved into a 16 foot yurt near to where the truck build is happening. I have work in three exhibitions, Hannah Willow & Friends at Obsidian Art in Buckinghamshire, a wondrous new gallery in Portland, Oregon: The Fernie Brae, and a winter show yet to come in our local Green Hill Arts Gallery in Moretonhampstead, Devon. All of this feels quite amazing given that I've hardly made any art all year! We have been out with my red handcart - a lovely creation made by our friend Eric from old doors and bicycle wheels from a drawing I gave him - selling my work on the streets of Totnes.

The truck build continues in its wonderful slow and majestic way, we hope to have an update on its progress soon over at Hedgespoken. During all the welding and decision-making and wood-planing and painting and hammering, a filmmaker from Germany, Marie Elisa Scheidt, has been accompanying our journey for a final piece for her studies. We are one of three protagonists in her documentary, which has a working title of Our Wildest Dreams, and which you can see glimpses of here. These two pictures below, taken earlier in the year, when both babe and truck-home were not quite so grown, are by her.
These days we are living in a circular space amid a copse of trees. We wake to hazel nuts being thrown down on our roof by squirrels and nuthatches, and fall asleep to owls, hooing close by our canvas walls.
Once more we're living a life where water and wood must be carried, and washing up must be done by lamplight. It is wonderful beyond words to be living with the leaves again, though different and harder with a baby, it feels so much lighter and righter than the house did. The view from our door looks like this:

But there is one thing I have managed to create with my hands since having a baby, and of this I am immensely proud. When Tom and I first met, we planned to make a book together; and five years later, having first created an even more incredible being together, we've finally made our first book - a small and beautiful chapbook, litho-printed on recycled paper by a workers' coop - this is Sometimes A Wild God, Tom's widely-loved poem, illustrated with six little ink drawings by me, which I did at night when little one was finally sleeping, though I wanted so much to be sleeping too... it was hard, and I felt very out of practice, but the constraints have forced a new kind of work out of me, and I think this is an interesting beginning. I hope you'll all go and have a look, you can order one for £7.50 from anywhere in the world at the Hedgespoken Shop. We are really proud of this, and excited that it heralds for us a new chapter of book making. But we need you all to support this endeavour by buying copies, spreading the word for us, and asking for it in your local bookshop or library.

Over the last couple of years, some of you have asked about buying the original Weed Wife painting, which I created in oils on burr oak in 2013. Up till now, it hasn't been for sale, I have felt it a deeply special painting and have been unsure how to put a price on it. However, we're now at a crucial point with our truck build, and struggling to make ends meet now that my income has all but disappeared. So, I am considering for the first time selling this painting if the right person comes along and offers me a sum I feel I could exchange it for. If you feel that might be you, please get in touch and let me know how much you might be willing to pay for it, and we can take it from there. I'd love for it to end up in some Herbal library or Wilderness school or somesuch, but perhaps you know of a place and a person who should have it... 

There is so very much to tell you, I don't know where to begin, and finding the right thread of story and secret is hard. I don't want to put pictures of my boy all over the internet, nor write his name, so these are just glimpses of back of head and little feet. But I do want to share some of my experiences as I go along, and hear from those of you amazing women who have gone before me, mothering and making art, mothering and living on the edges of things. I have a new-found awe for all women who do this most sacred of tasks. From the deep love and profound tiredness I salute you!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Light in the dark belly of winter


IN THE MIST OF MY STUDIO WINDOW ivy has been tracing silhouettes of cathedrals; evergreen hymns to the light in the darkness of winter, in which we are now fully planted. I have sat there at my work table, or at the drawing board, or knelt on the floor, painting ferociously for many many weeks in preparation for A Fourfold Fable - a joint exhibition of Devon-based mythic painting in Exeter, which took place at the beginning of December. Not only have I been busy with the particular creativity and organisation that goes into making an exhibition, but Tom and I have expended a super-human amount of energy birthing Hedgespoken - our long-awaited and long-dreamed plan to create a home and travelling vagabond theatre on our vintage Bedford RL truck. For those who have been following the past momentous two months, you'll be rejoicing with us at our frankly mind-bloggling success and the utterly wonderful throngs of support we have gathered along the way. Steering a successful crowdfunding campaign has been more work than we could ever have imagined, and we are thrilled at the dream that has become tangible thanks to all of our supporters, and equally utterly exhausted; the reality of what has been achieved is only slowly dawning on us through the veils of tiredness. This project will continue to grow over the winter and into spring, and if you'd like to follow the progress, you can do so over at the Hedgespoken blog. So far, our wonder-wagon looks like this:

Not one to allow myself much breathing space, the exhibition opened at the beginning of December just as the crowdfunder was ending!

Together the four of us (Michael Broad, Anna Georghiou, Phil Birdmyself) transformed the little upstairs gallery of the Glorious Art House into a veritable Aladdin's cave of storied paintings...

And in the middle of the room was a tablefull of prints, cards, calendars, books, CDs and other artful goodies.

photo by Anna Georghiou

For the grand opening, which we had on a Sunday morning instead of the standard evening do, we served coffee and croissants to our many enthralled guests...

photo by Michael Broad
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Michael Broad
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Anna Georghiou
photo by Phil Bird
photo by Anna Georghiou

 The walls rang with magic, as I'm sure you'll agree...

Stories and motifs meandered around the walls in and out of the works of four artists, whom many visitors assumed were just one painter! We mixed our works in the space, creating a myth-rich storybook of colour and tone, and were thoroughly pleased with the result. One visitor suggested we should call ourselves The Fabulists!

We took turns in sitting with the paintings every day for two weeks and in that time met many lovely folks and had lots of fascinating conversations about art and magic and the threads that link them. Thanks to all who came to support us and dwell in our otherworlds for a while.

photo by Rose Tydeman of the Glorious Art House
Many good things have been brewing in the cauldron this winter. What with one thing and another, I've not managed to list all my new works in the shop in time for Christmas, I'm sorry. But be sure to look out in the new year for many new cards and prints and paintings, both here and in the etsy shop, a few of which I'll share with you here below now.
Some of my wintry work is featured (front page, back page and middle page spread, no less!) in this month's most excellently put together Doncopolitan Magazine, which champions Doncaster's growing creative arts and grassroots scenes, and can be got for free in print or online.

The woodburner in my studio has been burning away as I work, as the nights have got longer, and my paintbrushes stragglier.

Those of you who have bought my 2015 calendar this year will have seen this little birch painting on the month of December.

It's a Once Upon O'Clock, painted for Assia Alexandrova in Hollywood, who asked for a Lappish-styled winter goddess... and so I painted this - a reindeer-riding Winter Queen, Mother of the North, holding her baby in a traditional Saami cradle, flying over a sickle moon through a blue icicled and snowflaked winter sky.

Queen of Winter by Rima Staines

As part of my pre-exhibition panting frenzy, I also decided to experiment with a more painterly technique in oils on paper.

This was somewhat out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed playing with the paint, having made no underdrawing or sketch whatsoever.

The painting grew and changed with each layer of paint.

Under the earth, the land-mother sleeps, her belly swollen with growing seed, with golden light. Over her, a winter landscape lies blanketing the promise below. A band of masked mummers dance through a snow-capped village, bringing their music to wake the sleeping one under the ground.

The Munmmers by Rima Staines
And third and last in this collection of folk-madonnas, this little painting used a piece of wood I found in a skip, already treated with green colour, which I rather liked and so decided not to paint over.

For this one I returned to my more typical thinly-applied oils, and enjoyed the simplicity of the portrait. I had a gilded frame ready for this too, which I had found in a second-hand shop, and which you'll have seen in the exhibition photos above.

As day turned to night, and coffee to tea, I painted on...

The mother and her child emerged, smiling...

Between them something grew. An umbilical understanding, a love profounder than the roots and the stars, an Unfathomable Language.

The Unfathomable Language by Rima Staines
And by now, I am sure you'll have guessed the most important of all my projects brewing over these past months, the inspiration behind these paintings and my fervent creative frenzy, and the reason for my extra layers of tiredness. 
Yes, a wonder beyond words in my belly, precious and unfathomable indeed.
I haven't felt to share very much of this private thread of my life here, and don't know how much I'll want to do so as the little person steps into this roaring beautiful world either, but I wanted to let you know the reason for my quiet here, which I'm afraid will only get louder come February when our lives will be changed forever...
Two thousand and fifteen promises much adventure for us, as both new parenthood and a story-rich and hedge-spoken life on wheels beckon. I look forward to sharing the wonders and the tales with you as we go. Meanwhile, I send warmest greetings to all of you who are mothering golden seeds in the dark earths of your winters, and wish you joyous green sprouting as the light returns.