Myrddin's Land - Merlin Gallery, Singapore 13.11.15- 3.12.15
Myrddin's Land is a solo show held during November and December 2015 at the Merlin Gallery, Singapore.
Myrddin is a god, mythic figure, trickster, nature-lover, magician. This series looks at the mythology and landscape of Merlin. The nearest large town to my home is Caerfyrddin (Place of Merlin) and the Towy river is lined with many evocative and mythic landmarks, including Aberglasney, Myddfai and Merlin's Hill itself.
Strange tales abound, some written, but most passed from mouth to ear and ancient. The series of paintings will reflect the mysterious and the uncanny, being derived from visions, journeys and wanderings through the landscape both real, half-remembered and imagined.
1. The Old Way (2015) acrylic on canvas, 160x180cm
According to the stories, Merlin was conceived by a union between his mother, a nun, and a ‘shining one’, an elemental being, who would come and visit her in her chamber. The idea of immaculate conception is not unique to the Christian parable. Women become pregnant from a whole host of forces, not all of them male, not all of them human. The great mother herself seeds like and life throughout. Everyone is a magician.
2. Smoking the Land (2015) acrylic on canvas, 60x75cm
There is a steel works at Port Talbot on the eastern curve of Swansea Bay. Across Wales the land heals its scars where it is able. When coal stopped being an economic mine, the pit heads closed, the land became irrelevant, life returned. Fields become again forest. On the shores, tankers give way to electric lagoons. Windmills stand sentinel among the beacons, peaceful graceful giants, at the mercy of the elements.
3. The Dance (2015) acrylic on canvas, 100x100cm
What do you see?
She marches from the woodland, her face a mask.
Look on her.
What do you see when the death-marked spiders wait in the dark?
Allow their medicine to remove the socket patch.
4. Flowers Paru (2015) acrylic on canvas, 70x70cm
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5. The Magicianer’s Tree (2015), acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 100x70cm
Merlin raged and Merlin sank. He gave himself to the rot and leaf mould beneath. Amid the black, roots take, and up springs everything, tree and fire-summoner alike.
6. Yew Community (2015) acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 90x180cm
At the ancient gardens of Aberglasney, on the northern shore of the Twyi river, ride Merlin’s Hills. The strong wild forces of the ocean are beaten down this far inland, like laundry on the wind. Here they ripple, tease, vanish screaming, share their tales, defy time, laugh like sewin in the glittering serpent of river. The gardens were lost, amid a curse uttered when they were stolen from the land and sold into private hands 500 years ago. No family who owned the gardens since would prosper.
The tunnel of yew trees survived. No one knows how long it had endured. The yew is an ancient tree, celebrated for its ability to gather and hold. When the order to clean up came, the yew tunnel was cut and marshaled into line. Only after they switched off the machines and stopped to listen did they see how many were gathered.
7. The Well Remembered (2015) acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 100x180cm
I was called back to Merlin’s land, to a cottage amid a wood where all the water comes from a well, hidden among the trees. As with all holy wells, I was drawn to look after it, offer up milk from every fresh bottle, tidy away rubbish and make offerings. How much gratitude to drink fresh water from the earth. One of the first things the guardians of the well asked was for the heavy metal gate to be opened. When it was released, the air around the well began to dance.
8. Moon Crab (2015) acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 100x80cm
Everywhere suddenly there were crabs. On the back of a penny found in a pocket, in the walls, in the skies. I moved here under the crab. A time of shelter, of home-growing. The moon was huge and red in the middle of the night (or so I dreamt it).
There is somewhere close by, a ‘castell’, meaning fort or place of the elemental guardians. When I talk of guardians, I mean those less physical than humans, but no less real. I think of them as our equals and respect them like royalty. They are very gracious, quick, fun, compassionate and regal. But you don’t build your house where they have already harmonized the land into their home. Come and join them, but as a guest, never a master. Bring gifts as you would a warm and welcoming host and listen to their wisdom. It’s never about money. We each have gold within us. This painting comes from them.
9. Everything is Alive (2015) acrylic, emulsion and raspberry on canvas, 120 x 120cm
This home, this land, is alive. Its breath mists the windows. Inside and out, on the walls, in the kettle, by the skirting boards and beyond. The rooms hum with their occupants. They leave their marks.
10. Resting Place (2015), acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 100x80cm
Like many legends, Merlin doesn’t die. He is said to be resting amid a garden of light within a hill, which may or mayn’t be Bryn Myrddin, near to the oldest town in Wales: Caerfyrddin (Merlin’s fort).
Amid the crystal, safe
Within the earth, there are wonders
That rewrite the physical world.