Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An invitation from me and the sea

Dear friends 

I am nearing a comma - a place of pause - in what I'd have to name one of the most prolongedly challenging chapters of my life. For now, I will stick to the steadying process this maelstrom has called me to in my studio.

I cannot help but see you as mysteriously and powerfully linked to the way my work's unfolded during recent weeks and I want to thank you for this and for the countless ways in which you open my eyes to new ways of seeing and perceiving.     

This coming Monday, my exhibition titled Waters I have Known opens at The Diversion gallery in Marlborough. Marlborough is a watery region at the tip of our South Island that's perhaps best known for its delicious wines (carbon-zero, some of these ; )) and for its magnificent, moody Sounds. You may - actually, how could you; it's ages ago! - recall my posting a few entries from the Sounds when I was there on a writing retreat in August last year (a more-or-less unexpected treat after Questions of Balance opened at The Arthouse in Christchurch).

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I popped the bigger paintings for this show into the back end of a freight truck which means I have a wee bit of space now to complete the final few small images. These I'll carry underarm when I fly North this weekend. 

This body of work explores a number of different themes, perhaps the two primary ones being (1) the power, wonder and fragility of our world's oceans and (2) this blogging community. These may at first seem worlds apart but I don't believe they are. We are water; our different countries and cultures are linked by water.  . .

I'd like to extend an invitation to you all. . . It seems there's (at least) one more work that wants making and I'd love to make it a 'communal composite'. (You'll be able to get a good sense of the journey of this work by visiting the new blog I've been building specifically to accompany this series. I have yet to write up the background story/exhibition statement and will do that before the exhibition opens on Monday 18th.)

What I'm proposing is this . . . please consider the subjects of ocean and community (specifically, but not exclusively our blog community) and send me a few lines that encapsulate what they mean to you? You will notice in the attached painting that I have already quasi-/metaphorically painted you all into some of this work (this one's titled Group Dynamic and you can see the process of its making here). . .

Group Dynamic (detail)
Oil on board - 2010 -  910 x 910MM

It occurred to me once I'd finished this painting that these 'featureless' web-style portraits are as they are because this is a place where the ego resides 'elsewhere/outside', so long as we turn up here and meet each other openly, with warmth and curiosity and without judgement or expectation. . .  There's a particular energy inherent in this modus operandi that enables us to take our place as individuals and as equals at our virtual, communal table. The portraits (each one tinged with light from its interaction with whomever happens to pull up a chair beside him/her) become keyholes to rooms and worlds we might ordinarily not have access to. To my mind, this is a facilitative process, one that has all the elements of privileged encounter.

The web is an extraordinary tool for communication. As a portal, it offers us so much more than first meets the eye. Each time we enter this space - this curiously intimate, electronic space - we open doors to unexpected new places. Something mysterious happens whether or not we intend it, I think. I acknowledge your generosity in this - and, too, appreciate the vast wealth of complex material and layered landscapes that continue to beckon with your invitations to ponder, research, engage and explore. How much of life enacts itself beyond the eye, beyond the ear, beyond our rational comprehension, and yet there can be little doubt that despite our various dramas and our different realities, worlds of wonder and glory are out here, ready and waiting to meet us.

With your permission, I would like to incorporate the lines you send me in a composite image (part painting, part text) that'll say something about us all and take its place as a kind of communal breastplate. . . I'm not sure what follows on from this, only that this work will carry all your names and if it finds a home somewhere, you will all receive a piece of it, somehow or other. . . (this is about as far as I've got to date. . . does this make sense/sound okay?)

More from me as more arises. Meantime, if you would like to participate in this spontaneous and possibly (but hopefully not too) hair-brained project, please write, reflect and write some more. . . ?! We have just three days to make this work and I'd dearly love it to be a part of this show. . . time is of the essence!

Thank you all v much - Claire
(otherwise known as A Relic)


(PS. Words can be posted on either blog - I will be sure to check both places ~~~ and here's my email address ~ )


  1. What a beautiful idea!

    (And it's given me another thread of thought in my approach to Paper Wrestling!)

  2. Dinah - thank you. I'm glad this idea might lead you to 'more' in your work/play with Paper Wrestling. Hope your foot's feeling better? Take care. C

  3. This sounds like a splendid idea. I'd like to offer some words for your project, here or on your new blog?

    Your work is extraordinarily beautiful and so resonant if the sea.

  4. Hi Elisabeth - I'd love you to offer some words for 'our' project, thank you. (Here would be good, but either blog will be fine.) I do hope I'll be able to make something happen before heading North. Whatever unfolds, I see this communal piece as something worthwhile and exciting. I will definitely do what I can to bring something together before Sunday - otherwise I'll keep making it when I get home. Either way, something wants to happen! Thank you for your comment re;this new work, too, Elisabeth. Love, A relic ; )

  5. Scott (The Tearful Dishwasher) has given me permission to include these most excellent words. . .

    "The sea is the best feature of our planet, if you ask me, once you account for a place to stand on to admire it, and a blue sky to stretch over it. All that heaving movement, all that energy and gorgeousness, and the life packed into every inch and drop of it, the mysteries of it, the way it carries so much of the past in itself...I can't stand on the shore and fail to think about how the surf against the rocks is probably the single physical event that is unchanged since the seas were formed. It makes me hope that all of that inertia will carry the sea forward, out of our time, so it might survive us, despite our best efforts to destroy it and everything else we touch."

    Thank you, Scott.

  6. . . . and Rebecca (Radish King) has said I may incorporate her list of precious creatures, named in her post titled 'and what did she see at the sea.' Here it is (I love this; it's a poem) - - -

    Dire Whelk
    Dusky Tegula
    Fingered Limpit
    Hooded Puncturella
    Veiled Chiton
    Bat Star
    By-the-Wind Sailor
    Crumb-of-bread Sponge
    Eye Fringed Worm
    Sugar Wrack
    Frilled Anemone
    Bull Kelp
    Ghost Shrimp
    Walleye Surfperch
    Volcano Barnacle
    Stiff-footed Sea Cucumber
    Leather Star
    Innkeeper Worm
    Lug Worm

    I am going to add a list of Southern Hemisphere sea creatures to these ones, set them up in conversation with each other. No matter the distance between them, the sea will carry their messages, make sure they make it to where they're supposed to go.

    Thanks, Rebecca. x

  7. Oh, this fabulous project--only you could have dreamt it up, Claire. And I printed out immediately and am reciting them as I go about the house Radish King's wonderful poem/list==what could be better. What I've,chosen is probably much too long but take as much as seems useful to you. xx Good luck, enjoy.

    I slept beneath an August mackerel sky
    and dreamt it was a thousand days ago,
    when in November’s grim barrage of rain
    which punished every port and guiltless quay

    for miles, my father’s scudding ghost agreed
    to die--a plashing afterthought to ruin.
    Hours passed before he drowned. It seemed
    the buckled sea had buried time itself

    by picking seismic quarrels with the stars,
    like soldiers streaming through a million Sommes.

  8. Claire, oh, this is the best idea...of course our connections are here. My contribution, if it is too long, keep the parts that work best. xo Marylinn

    We were in our 50s when we each blurted a shared obsession with giant, rogue waves, in our 60s when our terror of slipping between the planks of old piers became known to the other. You built boats and lived on the sea. From my home beside it I launched wish-filled thoughts and flowers, petitions for lightness, release from gravity. It is all one water. A finger in a tide pool brings our shores together. When our lost and land-locked sister bares her feet and dances along the surf line, we will know.

  9. i'd be so honord to be included, claire; here's a portion of a long prose poem of mine, called The Beach:

    The women, too, come and go, in and out of the water, with towels and lotions, sun hats, and canisters of drinks. They settle into their chairs, facing the arc of the sun, and turn the yellowed pages of novels. They inhale and then release soft plumes of smoke, as though their cigarettes are tiny flares, signals to distant sailors. It is their dance, the coming and going.

  10. Claire - what a beautiful idea! I love what is happening here and what you are doing and the idea of what you will do.

    I'd like to contribute some lines from my poem, 'large adventure'.

    '... in the wide sound of the sea
    the sound of a large adventure
    a sound that follows flight

    paths of blood rushing through veins.
    And the roar of the sea is the roar
    of a planet as it revolves

    where my feet are planted
    in the salt, the spray, the sand,
    each wave of the earth'.

  11. Here's my watery contribution, Claire.

    Surface Tension

    I dream of the sea, and from its edge, I gaze out to the pencil thin line of the horizon where the sky and water are as one. The sea’s surface on this windless day is set still and hard like the ice coat on a frozen lake.
    In the distance, I see people. They walk on water and I imagine myself, like them – an insect, a dragonfly, a mosquito buoyed by surface tension.
    I step out from the safety of the shore, and tread gingerly, fearful my heels might crack the water’s glass and I might sink.
    Fish swim below, a kaleidoscope of colour. No single fish is large enough to present a danger but still I wonder if one of these might rise up and fracture the surface, haul me down, weigh me down, deep under water, to drown.

    I wake on the land, webbed feet, flat footed, unable to swim.

  12. Clarab, to you from me:

    Look how upright they are these three; how their faces shine even while while the light is dimming. Hear their voices, the lilt and lift, the tumble of words. Watch their stride all in keeping; see how the sand flicks and settles with each one’s footfall. And the sea at their right hand, how it murmurs, how it murmurs...

    Pam x

  13. Dear Melissa, Susan, Elisabeth, Marylinn, Kay & Pam

    Whole worlds! Thank you. It's been a mad day over here and I'm running to keep up with things. . . more from me tomorrow, I think, once my mind has been straightened by sleep.

    There's so much here - thank you all for your generosity. My brain's going overtime!

    Claire x

  14. If it is the Net, am I a boat or a fish? On good days I am buoyant, exhilarated, a flotilla; on bad days it's just me - circling below the surface, catching on invisible mesh.

  15. Claire!
    I would love for you to use my words about the lightning and the churning and the storm - I'll resend them if you need me to.
    Thanks for letting us be a part of this!

  16. Claire, you are brilliant!

    I've always considered the oceans to hoarders of holy mysteries and generous to a fault. How to reconcile that with the garbage that accumulates on so many beaches, swept in from who-knows-where? This, I think, only further reinforces our connectedness, as humans, to every living thing on the planet, including the oceans. One organism, one breath, together.

    My offering (after Irish beach-walking):

    Our Lady of Flotsam

    O she who keeps watch
    over the rubbished, the odd shoe, the cracked
    crockery flung in rage, the zipper pull,
    chunks of airborne, waveborne styrofoam.
    Vigilant mother-of-pearl, of cockle & scallop.
    All ruin, all glorious sand-glinted treasure
    is welcomed into her o-holy-arms.

    Tides strew a briny indulgence
    at her feet. She makes incarnate the shred,
    the bit, the fragment. Grants goodness
    to the twist-top, the peach pit, the tangled line.
    Gull-beaks beseech her name, crab-hulls
    praise the stones which tumble upon her strand:
    an ocean of miscellanea become sacred.


  17. Hi Claire,

    Best of luck for your wondrous project:


    Ears of ice
    into tongues
    of song.

    Echoes river
    into seas
    of sound.


  18. Oh my goodness, dear fine people - - - how generous you are! A thousand thanks to you all. . . there is enough material here to create an entire exhibition, let alone one composite work!

    I might have to do that instead? Would you consider that an acceptable alternative? I don't know how to build all these wondrous contributions into just one work . . and before Saturday night becomes Sunday morning.

    I am thinking as I write here.... What I might do - with your permission, of course - is read your words at the opening. Actually, what would be even better is to take this community to the community at the opening and offer them all our words 'in the moment.' I could print your and my texts off and pop them into a large paper boat (or turtle shell?). This 'container/vessel' could then be handed around the room at the opening and people could take turns to read what's in there.

    Oooh, this is exciting. Whatever happens, I will take you all with me and create something special around this. You have my word.

    Thank you, thank you. You're awesome ; )


  19. Dear Rachel
    Oh, I'm so glad you suggested I might be able to include this piece of yours... I was going to email you to ask you if you'd mind if I did, and also if you'd be okay about me posting it here - and then, well, there you were! Same page, as so often seems to happen. Thank you ; )

    This is a wonderfully fierce piece of writing -

    "In the middle of the night a thunderstorm arrived. She was fierce with white strikes lashing electricity. I can’t wait to see what she kicked up from the water. If the sea purged parts of itself on the beach – an injured jelly, someone’s hand or keys, oil slicks like the rank fluid from her undercurrents, the pit of her stomach. Nature knows what to do with itself when we fuck it up. She was white hot angry and lashing down."

  20. And now I'm thinking I can't PRINT your words off. . . I need to transcribe them by hand onto individual 'turtle breastplate' shapes; i.e write them onto the same beautiful cotton paper that's provided the grounds for the paintings. Perhaps I can set them adrift on water - or on a stain of oil paint 'made-to-look-like-water' so that they float in a mini sea of their own. (This makes sense given there's so much about oil and water in this work, right down to the materials).

    I'll keep popping in here with ideas as they arise - and would welcome any you'd like to add to the mix?

    L +++ C x

  21. My dear friend Annette (with whom I hugged the Moeraki builders not so long ago) has sent these words about Ocean and Community. . .

    '. . . What it means to me;

    Ocean, not an indulgence but a necessity, to float, to flounder, to regain balance. Community, a depth that connects, senses alight or adrift, linked nano bubbles the cushion.'

    Thank you, Annette xx

  22. Claire - yes, so many many words... why not steal small phrases here and there for your artwork.. and the rest can be tucked away for later? ... none of us minds that I'm sure... they have had an outing here.. pushed out into the ocean of the blogosphere on one very lovely boat with that vivid slightly and rather wonderfully mad sea-pirate Claire Beynon at the helm ...

  23. I like Mary's idea Claire. :) Go well. Peace.

  24. via email, this ocean to contemplate (from Penelope)

    ". . . I wanted to say something about ocean and community but what could it be, that isn't as pitiful as a grain of sand away from its beach?

    My first thought was about the choice we have to pick our way around the fringes (in the intertidal zone) where wonders can be found, sure enough, washed up out of their element, OR to throw ourselves in, half-naked, alarmed and gasping but soon enough elated, afloat, finding that 'it' — the ocean, the community of people — is holding us up. And 'it' is all shot through with wonders and toxins, nutrient-rich streams and currents bearing death, predators, prey, symbiotic arrangements . . . held together in the ma-mare-mother-matrix of a common life.

    If any word or two from that is useful, please help yourself, Claire . . .

    Oh yes, Pen, yes. And my thanks.

  25. Claire,
    Every time you carve a new channel, a tide of dreaming surges through, as if the edge of the ocean has held back waiting for the moment you set it free.
    Is it any wonder that the pool you thought it could flow into, your last painting, the community of thought, would overflow?

    I was always told, leave your writing at a point where something new is about to happen...

    See you here tomorrow, and on Monday. Thanks so much for an exhibition I cannot wait to see...

    x Barb

  26. Claire, you are such a generous spirit, and I love that you are so creative and inclusive. What a wonderful idea.

  27. John, your words formed part of the ribcage in our composite 'ocean of words' piece. Thank you. I read the word 'river' as a verb and wonder if you meant it like that? The way this poem metamorphoses from one element to another (from a solid to a vapour to a liquid) speaks so beautifully and directly to my painted interpretations of water. C

  28. Mary, Kay, Marylinn - thank you for being so fully on board and at the same time so wonderfully unattached re; any particular outcome. Wow . . . the way you've ALL pulled on your swimming togs (a very Kiwi term, that) and dived in is slightly mind-blowing.

    A week later, I'm still floating.

    Love, Claire x

  29. Vanda . . . if you have any 'words on water' you'd like to add, please do? There's always room for another rock pool, lagoon or brimming, upturned shell. ; ) L, C