Secret Spaces

When I was a child, I used to have a recurring dream, wherein I was in a huge house, an old stone building and there was a secret door that only I knew about. I would enter the door and a whole new space opened up to me, and it was mine alone. There was something so enchanting, mysterious and secret about this labyrinthine special space, with doors and rooms and corridors where i could explore or escape from everyone and just hide.

Well today, I found a place like this, decades later. I am teaching English part-time in an independent school.  In an ancient abbey.  Sometimes all the classrooms are being used and today was one of those days,  and I had to ask my line manager where I could take my two Chinese students. It’s the end of half term and i had brought in one of my favourite films, Paris Texas, for them to watch on my laptop as a treat. She suggested I used this old classroom in the eaves. She found the keys and led me up through a network of stairwells and doors to the old classroom. I loved it. Now used as a dumping ground for piles of pillows used by the female boarders; there were old telephones, folders, pots of pens, rickety chairs and tables. It was perfect. I found my classroom and a secret place very similar to my childhood dreams.

There is so much more to this ancient abbey. Sometimes monks are walking about, along the corridors,  in and out of rooms.  They are real monks.  At first I thought they were apparitions, because they are not something you see every day, but they appear to work here too.   I don’t quite know what they’re up to.

There is something about me that needs to hide and retreat frequently. It feels sensual and exciting. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of the secret classroom.

 

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Autumn

Autumn. An original painting in my etsy shop. All works are my copyright.

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The Seed 2

All works are my copyright.

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The Green Night

An original acrylic painting on canvas on heavyweight paper in my etsy shop. All works are my copyright. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/649245673/the-green-night

Sometimes I get a song I play over and over while painting.  Although during this painting I wanted to echo the feeling I get while looking at paintings by Leonora Carrington and also the beautiful work of my dear friend Emma Turpin, I was listening to ‘Visions of Johanna’ by Bob Dylan while painting this, and the lyrics fascinate me:

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind
In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place
Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
It’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn
Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeez, I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel
The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Visions of Johanna lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Audiam, Inc
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Words and images

Words are powerful.  In an age of social media, blogging and the internet in general,  words are used constantly.   They are used as weapons, and as healing salve.  Words are encoded in us, it is my feeling.  Meaning, I cannot express this with accuracy but with an inner knowing, that our being is encoded with some kind of alphabet.  When I rub my eyes, I see all kinds of alphabets, signs, symbols; small hieroglyphics.  I feel that when we use words, and knowing or not knowing, their power goes out into the ether, and the collective consciousness or unconsciousness and creates a kind off accelerationism and creates more of what is contained in the meaning of the words.  When the words are used, in printed, published matter, whether in book form, blog form or the ubiquitous form of social media, the words take their place in the minds of the reader, and the power of the reader’s consciousness is beamed out into the cosmos and increases the intent exponentially.  When we see acceleration in events, perhaps this form of using words should be considered.  I am saying, use words carefully.  Use words and actions to create a new paradigm and tear down the old paradigms; not through destruction, but through construction.  Construction of new paradigms begins when the old outworn patriarchal systems fall away through disempowerment.  It is vital we use words to disempower the systems that oppress us.

When creating images, create them with the same thoughts in mind.  Use images to create a new paradigm.  Whether it is to create a feeling a peace in an otherwise challenging world, or to illustrate a powerful message of hope in action.

Within my art practice, I use words as under-painting.  The intent is thus contained within the image and thereby further empowers and encodes it.  The painting is used as a kind of vehicle in the acceleration of form.  Taking the form of the painting and asking it to manifest in ‘reality’.  Creativity is powerful and it is a rebellious act in a world of neo-liberal, patriarchal values, which only wants to see us working to conform and uphold the status quo.  The sacred feminine is needed right now, for women and men.  I have a son and a daughter.  I create images of the sacred feminine archetypes, to, in my own  way create a new paradigm for both my children and of course for myself.  Creativity is power.

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Ingerland

England.. Land of austerity, Brexit, ‘ Get a Grip’ campaigns, where we are told to send our children to school unwell to keep up attendance numbers.

Land ruled by the Nasty party, selling off our NHS, destroying our libraries, dismantling our hard-won social schemes. Land of fragmented families, lack of social cohesion, where gang culture is following in the U.S.’ footsteps, where young people have fewer youth clubs, because public spending has been so dramatically cut.

England i never really loved you. Where bullies from the Bullingdon club have formed our governments and failing newspapers owned by billionaires control the minds of the masses. Where TV shows are about people baking cakes or even of people watching telly. Wtf? Wtf England?

Land of traffic jams and wind screen wipers; two layers of cloud sometimes.

Pubs are nice and so are the people. The self- depreciation, the humour, the belly laughs, the irreverence, the adorable neurotics, the ability to laugh at ourselves. The music.

My Dad.. he was English and the best kind of Englishman. A gentleman and a socialist, a musician and architect who rebuilt classic cars, loved real ale and was vulnerable yet strong. The handsomest man in the world.

English eccentricity; yep that still abounds. Women are strong here and don’t take bullshit. They are proud to walk alone and don’t need a chaperone.

Multiculturalism still thrives. Long may it thrive.

Random thoughts on a country which is supposed to be my home.

Ambivalent about that one.

England. I can never really love a country so easily persuaded to vote so stupidly for something about which you know fuck all…

Brexit. Don’t even get me started….

 

Written in mavaise humeur 😉

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Meditative Art Retreat

Meditative Art Retreat. November 3rd – 10th 2018

 

My next art retreat/workshop will be in a beautiful bohemian rustic mountain farmhouse in Orgiva, Las Alpujarras in southern Spain.  One of the most beautiful locations I have ever seen.  The accommodation is in traditional Alpujarran style, with solar-powered hot water, with the most amazing views and a wood burning stove for warmth in the evenings if needed.  The accommodation comprises three bedrooms:  one double room, a room with two single bunk beds, and a room with single bed, so places are limited, as this arrangement sleeps five people.  It would be great for a group of friends coming together.

Cost for the week: £350 (GBP.) Includes accommodation at the farm house, all art materials, tuition, and a guided walk with me. Also includes breakfast and lunch.

I am also offering this workshop for people local to Orgiva, at a cost of 140 Euros per person for the week, or 20 Euros per day if you can’t do all week. The house is along the Rio Chico, about five or ten minutes drive.

If the farmhouse gets fully booked, you may wish to book your own accommodation, ( I can recommend various places nearby,) and just pay me the 140 Euros for the week’s workshop.

The weather is often sunny and warm in November, with cooler evenings.   For people staying at the farmhouse, the retreat includes breakfast, provided by Rita at the farmhouse, including cereal, muesli, toast, juice, teas and coffees, and also lunch will be provided. Supper will be self-catered, and there is a fully equipped kitchen.  The nearby town of Orgiva (a short walk away,)  has lots of cafes, bars, shops, health food shop, supermarkets, and a Sufi cafe restaurant called Baraka, and other restaurants.  There is also a colourful weekly outdoor  market which sells all kinds of food, art, crafts and clothes.   There are lots of beautiful walks to be taken locally and I know of many beautiful walking routes and will be happy to take anyone who wishes to come along with me as part of the retreat, one afternoon.  A particular favourite walk of mine is from Ferreirola to Busquitar, up in the higher mountains, and where there are spring waters from fuentes coming out of the rocks from the higher Sierras.  Some of them are effervescent, others iron-rich. The water is said to bestow great healing and health-giving properties.  The walk in the mountains goes past threshing floors, with lots of fascinating folklore, and there is a rarefied and magical energy in that area unlike anything I have ever experienced.

We will be painting together.  All tuition and art materials will be provided by me.  The painting classes will be based on my practice of meditative art in the lovely art studio.  We will be painting for approximately four to five hours per day.  Space is limited.  This retreat is for up to six people.  Depending on the weather, we will be painting either indoors or outdoors and the space will be set up as an art studio, with all materials provided.

Contact me via the contact form above.

or:

Email: alicejulietmason@gmail.com to register an interest.

 

I will teaching how to paint a self-portrait as our symbolic / mystic-self.  I will be offering meditative, gentle guidance, setting intentions, using guided meditations, knowing the painting as a secular prayer. Painting modern iconography. Teaching my own techniques: the methods I use such as painting my birds, or other spirit animals, how to paint a face, a figure, light and shade, a symbolic landscape, glazing, colour washes, pattern, how to bring forms forward or push them back through glazes, using under-painting through abstracted techniques, adding white, or leaving white space, using words as under-painting too. Techniques such as glazing, dry brush work, stippling, acrylic pen-work, detailing, and stenciling. Working from my favourite themes: Iconography, Goddess archetypes, the Divine Feminine, Jungian archetypes, symbolism, mysticism, metaphysical art, shamanic and alchemical totems, sacred geometry, pattern, ornament, process and intuitive painting.
For me, there must always be the still-point. The point where you find the zone, where the painting is painting itself through you as the conduit. Or you come to a point where there is a deep meditation.  This is my intention in my art practice and in teaching.
Accommodation, breakfast and lunch, painting in the studio, tuition and guidance, art materials,  a guided walk in the mountains included in the cost.

Cost doesn’t include flights or car-hire. This retreat is self-catered for supper, so we will make trips to local supermarkets for food.   For evening meals, there are several restaurants and cafes, and all the food shops and markets in the nearby town of Orgiva, just a short walk or drive away.  The kitchen is fully equipped.  Orgiva is a lively, alternative  and fascinating town; full of shops, a Sufi cafe called Baraka, health food shops, a colourful weekly outdoor market, with bars and cafes.  If you do not wish to hire a car, transport to and from the retreat can be arranged (£100 GBP.)

The places are limited and we can accommodate up to five people.  If you are coming with friends, the set up is ideal,  as there is a little self contained house, with outdoor seating with beautiful views, three bedrooms; one double, one single, and one with bunk beds, a sitting room, with two sofas and wood burning stove, kitchen and bathroom.  The loos are slightly away from the house outside, and are eco-compost loos, with amazing views and feel very clean to use. with a sink and soap.  There is a organic garden with fresh vegetables kept by a resident gardener.

The large studio where we will be painting is a couple of minutes walk from the house.

To register an interest, please use the contact form or email me: alicejulietmason@gmail.com

 

 

Cost £350 (GBP)  for people wanting to stay at the farmhouse, and 140 Euros per week, or 20 Euros per day, for those people living nearby and local to Orgiva.

Cost for the week includes accommodation at the farm house, breakfast and lunch, all art materials, tuition, and a guided walk with me.

The house is along the Rio Chico, about five or ten minutes drive.

If the farmhouse gets fully booked, you may wish to book your own accommodation, ( I can recommend various places nearby,) and just pay me the 140 Euros for the week’s workshop.

 

 

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Travelling

It is before familiarity sets in that we are most alive and porous to our environment, our relationships, and even ourselves. If you’ve ever gone travelling with a backpack, you’re familiar with this magic. Travelling where we don’t know anyone, or how to get about, we are forced into complete unfamiliarity. Though part of us is impatient to have community and anchors in place, this clumsy period is full of potential. We could reinvent ourselves or meet different kinds of people outside of our habitual type. Now imagine that we could be symbolic travellers every day of our lives by becoming friendly with the awkwardness of all that is unresolved in our hearts.

Toko-pa Turner.

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Displacement

It’s not often my great friends are here when I am, but yesterday two of my dearest ones and their son were in Malaga for a couple of days. We met at the beach, at a beachside restaurant and sat and ate, drank and swam. R is like a child-man, although tall and exceptionally handsome, he is wild and enthusiastic, with mad uncombed hair and shoes in shreds, with a spontaneity I have rarely seen.. B is beautiful, empathetic, fiery, loving and makes me laugh til i cry. On the beach, R went on a giant inflatable bouncy thing with his son for an hour, bought beer from every passing African salesman, and a massage from a Chinese masseuse.

I drove them back to their B and B near the airport and got lost in an industrial estate for half an hour. It was dark by now, so when i found the Autovia, I took the one sign-posted Cordoba Granada Seville, as in my haste to return to my mountains and self-imposed semi exile, I thought that would surely be right. It wasn’t. I drove through high mountains for a very long time but gradually Granada drew nearer. I stopped at a services to go to the loo and buy water. When i got out of the car a whole family of muslims were sleeping on cardboard on the ground, with a huge tarpaulin roof rack with all their possessions. I looked at the mother and little children laying there and the mother had her arm outstretched on the floor, palm upturned. I wasn’t sure if she was silently asking me for money as the gesture was so subtle. In the restaurant loo were beautiful teenage girls with their mother in traditional dress, with bare feet and uncombed hair. The dresses were colourful silks and long to their ankles. I couldn’t place their clothes, but could only think perhaps Afghanistani. I emptied my purse of change and thought I would give the money to the family by the car, but when i returned they were no longer looking at me, and the mother’s palm not upturned, and i was not sure if giving them money unmprompted would offend, so I didn’t give. I now wish i had as no doubt they were refugees and the awkwardness was only a typical British fear on my part of doing the wrong thing. The night was hot and still, filled with a peace and sadness of displacement and resignation. By the time i got to my car, another Muslim family were laying down mats on the ground. In my weary state I assembled the image slowly and realised they were praying. Spain seemed even more mysterious and full of people moving slowly through the landscape, to a hoped-for new life, laying down to pray and sleep in a service station car park somewhere in the mountains of a hot night at 11 pm. More longing and belonging. Or longing to belong. I missed my son and daughter and the constancy of N, whose intransigence sometimes frustrates me, but he knows the value and importance of home.

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Belonging

Belonging and longing are strange bedfellows. They seem to coexist within me throughout my life..

Maybe it’s because of my nomadic childhood with restless parents, but nevertheless they are there like guests in the house of my being, and somehow these mountains are some kind of metaphor for the containment within something larger, yet protective, and the adventures within. The discovering each little nuance from village to village; each so similar and yet so different, like each little bend in the road. The longing for adventure and time alone. The belonging and not belonging to a place, so familiar yet so alien.

Difficult to write on a phone keyboard, but thoughts that need expanding perhaps later.

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