Life is a series of moments. Moments that either nourish or diminish us. In my art practice I try to paint moments that sustain and convey serenity. I tend to listen to Pat Metheny when I paint, above all other musicians. His music is uplifting, complex, soaring, dream-like, transcendent, hymn-like, with soundscapes that transport me to other worlds, even universes. I would love to meet him. Fortunately, during this time of covid, I have sold more paintings than ever. I occasionally feel the overwhelming sense that our perceptions are being managed and there is a drama addiction forming. It has always been thus, in matters of main stream news. To detach from MSM drama, I disconnect from it, paint, listen to music and walk, see friends, contemplate nature, read books. I have fallen in love with the book ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’ by Polly Samson. It is possibly the best book I have ever read, and that’s saying something. It hooks into so many parts of the Romantic in me. I don’t want it to end, so I am reading it slowly.
After the rain last night, I walked into the garden. The air was gentle and the Snakes Eye flowers were standing so straight and tall, the earth was breathing and the green was greener.
The other day, Ellie and I found a special place above the bowling green in Hastings. It was like a secret space overlooking the sea. The sea was azur-blue. We met some friends, and had gin and tonics and laughed and talked of everything and nothing. Yesterday my friend Jo poured prosecco into long-stemmed glasses and we toasted the sea again from her balcony overlooking the channel. Moments like these sustain and nourish in difficult times.
It looks like we are going to have to wear masks in shops, and even though I only go to my local farm shop, and never go into large shops, I have bought a stack of them, as well as one made from cotton. Cognitive dissonance feels like a near-constant companion.
“It is a series thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.”
Some photos (me seated,) of our team headed by David Cutmore, painting the wall cloths for the Elizabethan bedroom of Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford upon Avon. Also some fine photos via Lawton Mull of the wall cloths in situ.
We painted these medieval cloths throughout a long winter and spring/summer in a large barn in Fairlight, East Sussex and they were transported, fitted and completed in Stratford.
I was always inspired by the album cover from ‘Songs from a Room’ by Leonard Cohen, so although it is not at all the same, this feels like an influence from that time. I think she’s Marianne and this is entitled the Summer Room. In acrylic paint and oil pastels. In my etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliceMasonArtist
For Lorna, front row lady. I didn’t know you well, but I saw you at every jazz gig, which you attended without fail. You took photos every time and shared them with the wider music community and they used them with your permission. You wore gorgeous hats and clothes made from patterned fabrics of texture and colour. You had been an art teacher in London and retired to the seaside, with an interesting and cultured past. You lived alone without family and I didn’t know your age, but I sensed you had had a life of fun and creativity, travel and joy. More than that, I don’t know. What I do know is that the day before lockdown you told a friend you were worried about what the isolation of lockdown would do to your mental health. You told him that seeing live music kept you alive. You died the other day. It seems you were right. Dear Lorna, what has this done to us as a community? The kindest, sweetest, most creative and beautiful people are suffering. The musicians who have brought as so much joy as a community are alone and isolated, unable to see an end to this new paradigm. Wedding rules for couples getting married are nuts: Couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings. They must speak their vows quietly. No singing allowed. No wind instruments. You couldn’t make it up! It is absolutely ridiculous.
What is an ‘underlying health condition?’ Well, we know about the obvious ones. It seems to me that just being alive is. And loneliness. I am not lonely, as I have family, and I am an artist and it is part of my nature to seek a certain hermitage. But so were you, and even the most monastic of us need others. We need community and conviviality. I know I do. I am going to drink wine with friends tonight and make a toast to you dear Lorna, because hindsight is not always a wonderful thing, as it makes you sit up and say, hey, I didn’t think to check in with you Lorna. I didn’t wonder enough if you were okay. Of course I hoped you were, but now I feel I didn’t do enough. I have been checking in with friends who I know are struggling, but why didn’t I check in with you? Dear Lorna, I am so sorry. I hope you had company, and music to listen to, and painting and friendship. For some reason this makes me cry today. I hope you are flying high with the music angels today. I wish you love and I wish you peace and I wish you music.
My friend John Donaldson’s Unity – Nearer Awakening by Bheki Mseleku
Many years ago, when we were young and free, my then love T and I picked grapes in France, camping in the peach orchards near Argeliers, in the Languedoc. The local cafe was like a ballroom with old black and white tiled floors and a faded elegance with ornate details and vast carved doors; the old men playing cards, drinking Pastis and smoking Gitanes. After a day’s work we would get a lift back in the truck laden with grapes, to the orchard. We stood up in the back of the truck, no thought of health and safety and we were saturated in grape juice and sunshine.
After the vendange, we hitch-hiked to the Cognac area, armed with a scribbled phone number on a piece of paper and a bar somewhere where we should find a farmer, but we failed to find more work so decided to go to Greece to pick oranges. On the train journey through Italy there was a thunderstorm outside Rome and we had no seats, so sat in the corridor of the train carriage and I was overwhelmed with emotion and wept. An Italian mother saw me crying and gave us large chunks of chocolate. We got the boat from Brindisi to Pireaus, sleeping on the deck in our sleeping bags, having strung up damp washing that hadn’t fully dried from the day before. When we awoke in the morning, seagulls were following the ferry and we were passing between lands or islands. We were approaching Greece. Athens was dirty and chaotic, full of traffic and street food and we slept in a dirty bedsit. We went to Mycenae, where we had heard that there was work to be found picking oranges. Unfortunately there, I encountered a Greek farmer and his cousin who got us drunk on Raki and abused me, outside the tomb of Agamemnon in a dark cave, and although I broke free it left me reeling, and my boyfriend so incensed, we left in a hurry, but not before telling him what we thought of him.
We went back to Athens and stayed with T’s uncle and French aunt Ghyslaine. Ghyslaine was glamorous and bohemian and wore see-through skirts that moved with her body and she seemed such a romantic, erotic figure to me. I think I paint her still. She told me stories by the fire at night about her past lovers and how Leonard Cohen had fallen in love with her when they lived on Hydra. She said we must visit Hydra and find Leonard in the bar he frequented. I remember every night we listened to his album Recent Songs and would talk and drink wine together. T and I would go on long walks in the mountains above Ekali where they lived. There had been vast forest fires the year before and we found large white tortoise shells from the remains of tortoises that didn’t survive the fires. We climbed higher and found an abandoned shepherd’s hut with an altar and religious objects and artefacts from the 1950’s. The shepherd’s hut was hand-built from mountain stone and we felt that nobody else had found it except us as it as it was untouched and only weather had dismantled the roof which had been made from the shepherd’s own hand. It was a beautiful place. A place of refuge, hermitage and solitude. I loved that place and it has stayed in my consciousness ever since. It reminds me that wherever we are we can create beauty and sacred spaces for ourselves.
We took a boat out to the islands, specifically Hydra and Spetses. An old man met us from the boat on Spetses in a horse and cart and took us to a pink room where we slept and the next day we walked around the island and the scent of hot pines filled the air. We made a fire on the beach and cooked sausages. It was winter, but the sun was warm and the sea cerulean. On Hydra we found Leonard Cohen’s bar, but he wasn’t there. We stayed on the island a while and I became the subject of the attention of a strange man, which moved us on again. I learned to stop drinking raki with locals. We went back to Athens and I got various English teaching jobs and continued to explore the mountains above Ekali.
It feels like the world has changed irrevocably since then. Places like the shepherd’s hut are permanently etched in my mind and I feel that since that time I have been searching for the romanticism of such abandoned beauty and sacred contemplation.
This photo fills me with joy. It was taken by Lee Miller in 1937 and sent to me from San Francisco from friend Julie as a birthday card last month.
Roland Penrose, Lee Miller’s husband is looking up in ethereal reflective manner. In the photo are: Nusch and Paul Eluard, Roland Penrose, Man Ray and Ady Fidelin.
Soon I expect this image won’t be able to be bought as a card, which saddens me. Full of joy, sensuality and life. Lee Miller had such an incredible life. I am going to visit Farley House in East Sussex as soon as it opens again. It is where Picasso, Miro and Man Ray visited and where Lee brought up her son Anthony. It is also where she died. Her life fascinates me.
The summer solstice on June 21st 2020, will coincide with a new moon and solar eclipse. 2020 has been a year of extreme polarity and numerologically the year is a 4, and also the date of the solstice adds up to a 4. 2+1+6+2+0+2+0=13. 1+3=4. This is a powerful combination. New moons are about creating anew, and visualising that which we wish to manifest. I feel a softening of the energy, that has built up in the past year. The universe manifests the energy of the Divine Feminine at this time. I am painting the sacred feminine as we pass through this time to birth a new world. This is my prayer.
My faith in Life is restored. An afternoon on the beach with dear friends, talking, drinking wine, playing guitars and singing. Groups of young people enjoying life. We stayed until the sun went down and I went back to Sarah’s where we talked til the wee hours. She did some Reiki on me, as I was so happy and excited to have been with friends, I felt I was spinning out a bit, and needed grounding. She used crystal tuning forks and put her hands on certain chakras, and I felt myself become more centered. I sipped more wine, we talked more. We had intended to sing together but we just talked. Suddenly exhausted, due to wine, sun and sea, I lay down and said I needed to go to sleep and she went to bed. Being in a St Leonard’s sea front flat, and those fabulous high ceilings, and bay windows, and surrounded by Sarah’s paintings and brushes I felt so at home. I awoke at about 5. It was already light. Pulling the door to and trying not to wake her I walked through the damp and musty-smelling communal entrance way and out into the dawn light. I walked through Burton St Leonards to my car. Some people were already out, either walking or perhaps off to work, although I wondered what work, as so many jobs are still dormant.
Today with Ellie, feeling rejuvenated, we walked through the old town where some shops are open. I wanted to support independent shops, so I bought some clothes and sunglasses. None of the cafes or pubs are open yet so George Street was still quiet. A guitarist was playing in the chess square. We bought orange juice and coffee as take aways from Judges bakery and sat on Rock a Nore beach near the harbour arm and fishing boats. Teenage boys were chatting and laughing. I was so happy for their freedom. They went down to the hard sand and started throwing a dead wet fish at each other. I loved those boys so much. It made me laugh. A sailing boat drifted past. I thought and felt teenage boys should always have the freedom to be on a beach and throw a fish around.
Driving, I heard a piece of music I have long loved, Hanacpachap Cussicuinin. Such a moving piece of music; sacred, powerful, ritualistic, magic. I got home and listened to it over and over again, feeling the music move and shift stuck energy that needed to be moved. We will all need a sacred healing after this experience of lockdown, which we are slowly leaving behind. Music is the most powerful healing force. It is like a baptism. I am ready to be free of hermitage.