Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Did you know?

                                for Norma & Peter (N&P@HQ)

                                Did you know
                                spiders do their housework
                                on Tuesdays in Canterbury?
                                They hang their silk on particles
                                of dust, a low-slung cloud,
                                any available hook
                                of air or charged electron.
                                Threads are pinned to telephone wires,
                                shredded vestments shaken out
                                and strewn to lie across the tops
                                of orange poplars. By five, the sun
                                is loosely tacked behind
                                a thousand spiders'
                                webs. It's quite a sight
                                when they turn the night-light on
                                inside the mountains.


Did you know? was the first poem I posted on this blog as part of our Tuesday Poem series - the date was 30 March 2010. I'm posting it again today because Christchurch and our friends in the Canterbury region continue to be very much in heart and mind. As part of this, I'm working on a series of small drawings/paintings for a group show that opens in Christchurch next Friday, 12 August. One of the images incorporates this poem. I want to offer something hopeful, a kind of beacon to the people and to our land's inherent beauty and strength. I also want to say something about to our capacity to endure and to heal, despite external and internal shaking, and despite damage incurred to infrastructures.

For the past decade I have shown my work in Christchurch at The Arthouse - a stunning, cathedral-like gallery with an open heart and calm, deeply-centered energy located in Gloucester Street on the edge of the city's CBD. I have been blessed to work - and walk - closely with Norma and Peter, the directors of The Arthouse, ever since my first show with them ten years ago. Their gallery (new, custom-designed and built to highest earthquake codes) stood up well to the September earthquake but was irreparably damaged in the February quake; months of ongoing aftershocks have weakened even the noblest of buildings' resolve. 

A few weeks ago, the gallery was officially declared unstable and given 'the red sticker'; it is one of an ever-growing company of buildings scheduled to be demolished in the near future. 

Mysterious processes are always at work, even when we do not fully understand what these might mean, or what they will ultimately reveal to us. Norma and Peter have remained faithful to this ethos throughout these past months of change and uncertainty. I bow to my dear friends in their strength during these vulnerable times. They continue to keep a strong presence via their website and have hosted a series of online exhibitions. For their forthcoming show, En Masse - the first 'in the flesh' since February - a Christchurch business with premises in a steadier part of town are making a space available to The  Arthouse for a 'pop-up' show - a generous endorsement of Norma and Peter's wish to gather with their artists and the community for a show of optimism, good faith and solidarity. Yes

I've needed to make a work - or works - about 'all this'; work that speaks to Now. The following drawing - Murmur - is one I completed over the weekend. 

Murmur          Charcoal & pastel on paper - CB 2011

As so often happens, I begin with an idea, thinking I'll have some say in the matter, but it quickly becomes clear that  drawings have their own intentions. I often don't know what'll appear on the page. It's a mysterious process, one that never ceases to fascinate and fortify. Murmur feels a little strange to me, like a landscape I need to spend more time with - even so, something's opening up, I think. . . Why, just days ago, I wrote of my concern that after too many months of fractured time in the studio, I would not be able to make anything at all happen. I had looked at my frustrated hands one close-of-day and thought 'you're not going to betray me, are you? Not after all these years?'  Melissa Green sent loving encouragements, reminding me that our hands do not 'betray' us, though they do sometimes need to 'sleep'.  

I'm getting side-tracked, though. It's Tuesday and I'm supposed to be posting a poem. Going back to where I started, which was to do with the fact that today's poem Did You Know? was the first I posted as part of the TP series, I wanted to mention that the comments thread accompanying that earlier post contains the stirrings of today's TP community. The conversation's about whether and how we might be able to make Tuesday poems a regular, co-ordinated 'happening' - a treat to be reminded of its origins. . . Mary McCallum was - is - the helmsman of our TP boat. She's a treasure.  


  1. Perhaps someday you will have a show about perseverance and courage entitled "Red Sticker."

  2. I love seeing this poem again, Claire - I felt so excited when I clicked on your blog and found it - it's a lovely poem - and your drawing is terrific and so is your huge heart holding so much of Christchurch inside it... thanks for what you say about TP - it is what it is as much because of your early excitement and inspiration and your watch-my-back support. I love that we are still going strong. XX

  3. . . . "loosely tacked"--I like that phrase and am glad to know you are working in the studio.

    Yours for healing,

  4. Hi dbs - a show about perseverance and courage, for sure. I think I'd want to call it 'Coeur' or 'Chaudement' (with all one's heart). . .

  5. Dear Mary - I love that we are still going strong, too. All thanks to you, my friend. x

  6. Dear Mim
    I love your words 'yours for healing' - thank you, and love to you from me and la studio (where I am having interesting, mess-making, finger-grubbing, heart-opening times; thanks for getting how important this is, Mim. . . ) L, C x

  7. Your work reminds me of a moment at the end of the matrix movies where mr smith is filled with light from the inside and instead of being many only he is left and then is absorbed back into the whole of the matrix. In this moment he shines. It is perfect Clare

  8. Poem is wonderful. Immediate thoughts of dew on spiderwebs.

    The spine is very architectural. Like the drawing. Hope and strength.

  9. Claire- What a beautiful poem and stunning work of art. Whatever the mysterious process is that results in the creation of your beautiful art (and writing), there is most certainly an element of pure magic. Tuesday is always a treat. And I'm forever in awe of what I find here, the work you do, and your thoughtful attention to our universe.

    I imagine that if we had a world full of Claires we would have a much more harmonious existence.

    Godspeed to Norma and Peter, such inner strength they have, and a good friend in you, indeed.

  10. Claire, I am very much looking forward to this exhibition, the first event I will have attended since February 22nd. If you send me the details of where and when I shall spread the word far and wide. I am terribly sad to hear about the gallery though, it was such a beautiful space.

  11. Kat - hi! The Matrix. . . I like your interpretation. There is something rather futurist about this drawing, isn't there? I'm not sure about it, to be honest, just know it was wanting out and there would stand no arguing. (Bossy drawings. Does this kind of thing happen to you, too?). Thanks for coming by, Kat - hope all's well with you and yours on the other side of the harbour ; )

  12. Hello Ant. I'm always happy to find you and your bright icon here. Hope and strength, yes. We need great dollops of both at the moment - humour, too. . . and, perhaps most important of all, regular contact with our good earth. Barefoot is best.

  13. Dear Jayne
    You are such a generous spirit, thank you for bringing your goodness and good will into this space. I am coming out of a long 'incubation' period (let's call it that rather than 'fallow', for there is always a process at work even when we cannot see it?) and am taking what feel like faltering steps in the studio. Melissa Green speaks of our hands needing to 'sleep' from time to time, and that we can trust them in repose as much as we do in action.
    Sending you love, dear Jayne, and thank you for your acknowledgement of Norma and Peter, too.

  14. Dear Helen - it will be wonderful to see you at the opening of En Masse, thank you. (I will email you the exhibition flier and venue details in the morning. . . ). The Arthouse was a stunning space, yes - it was important and emotional going back there just before it had been formally pronounced unsound. The site will carry the resonances of a great many conversations - between artworks, people, bricks & mortar. . . all the key ingredients that make a space like that the meeting place and container it has been. L, C