A series of big drawings and small sketches of Life in West Hampstead in 1986. I call it “The Rubicon” because just before it began, I dreamed:
28 November 1985 – I am on an indented coastline. Around us – me and who? – is desert, and maybe a holiday camp. But a long headland of cliffs stretches away up the coast. It becomes increasingly wild, rocky and beautiful, with Mediterranean juniper and olive, more and more trees, and the potential to explore and get away from this place. I see the rocks in sunlight, adventures as yet unknown; and life is coming back!
First there is a river – the coastal headland is quite far off – which rushes inland from the sea.
So swift and powerful the current, that huge, round loose boulders hurtle headlong, buoyant along the depths. There is no way to cross this river. I imagine my fate – colliding with those swift boulders.
But a little way to the left – towards the sea, the torrent’s source – I find a built up ford or bridge by which it might be crossed. It doesn’t look as if it will be swept away. There’s a house near it. Anyway I set foot on the bridge.
After I woke up, I wondered – am I about to cross the Rubicon?
GALLERY ONE – to view, click any image
Good Friday – (written at Damehole Point, Hartland, North Devon
The Passion spills grotesqueries
upon my dinner table.
It blasts my loved ones
with proxy imagery.
I may as well converse
which people my world
with Goyan gnomes and witches.
The Passion is then
a tarty tarnishing splendour,
a fools’ errand: the phantoms belong
in pictures, for they are not human beings.
Instead, put sail about,
change course, my grief
the people from my pretenders.
25 March 1986
Priest on the Front Line
Went down to Speakers Corner to photograph Alan Cheales. I only had five or ten minutes before he finished – I took 10 photos. He had a large-ish crowd and was vehemently haranguing a heckler. I caught up with him afterwards, and we travelled one stop together on the Underground. He is extremely tough, out on this cold day in his white and black medieval robes, no gloves, hat or overcoat. I love to see him in his public street-level persona, picturesquely garbed. His listeners don’t know what he is like in private. For he projects his voice to them like an actor, and is rugged and strident, not gentle: he is being the Order of Preachers.
“What a good thing,” he said “that you didn’t come earlier. I had an awful start, there was hardly anyone there, and it wouldn’t have been worth your while. Then I got this heckler, very offensive he was too, he calmed down towards the end, and he drew the crowd for me. You arrived at just the right moment then.” (He didn’t see me moving around with my camera, because he was extremely absorbed in the dialogue, vividly proselytizing with with stabbing forefinger, darting nose and shadowy eyes. He swings about from the waist in his “cradle” platform.) “I had to take him aside and thank him afterwards. I always thank my hecklers, because they do me a favour. There’s a chap round here who goes around persuading everyone to drink meths because it gives him power over them. Well, he comes and helps out sometimes. I see him give me this big wink.”
Worked on David Lewis and his welcoming committee and the blubber stove, gave their modern anoraks thick bright colour, and the firelight which creates an exciting focus of heat and light – a sudden “Illumination” or prophecy from within the grey heroes of 1909. On the other side of the grey hut history is Amundsen eternally, with penguins and snow in ice-blues, ice-greens and whites – all the penguins conversing politely in their black dinner jackets and orange collars. The penguins are a folkloric alter ego to the explorers. They catch human souls who have perished, suffered, triumphed and parasited among them. They were there before and, though much plundered, are there after. This drawing developed a life and complex thematic material, transitions of colour and contrast like music – its possibilities submerge me, and I just have to keep going somehow. The whole Amundsen concept evolved from a chance fanatical gleam in his eye, put there by a clumsy chalk.
Scott is the only one who can see Amundsen, apart from Frank Wild, who is skeptical. But Scott believes his eyes and is dumbfounded: this is utterly unsporting. This terrible phantom in the race to the Pole with Scott still wintering, gave me quite a start – it changed everything. There will still be a howling blizzard outside, at right angles to Amundsen’s progress. The drawing became an essay on How Not to Reach the Pole – you don’t reach it by being kind to ponies but by being cruel to dogs. It was a difficult technical problem to draw a see-through Amundsen driving his see-through dogs through snow and undisturbed penguins. You can see Oates patting the ponies through Amundsen as well.
I made David Lewis look absolutely wrecked and feeble from his voyage on Ice Bird, and his welcoming committee very kind indeed to him – a touch of self pity there! Behind them I drew the wind-up gramophone – the character I originally intended to be Oates (before I drew him with the ponies) is listening to it and smoking his pipe. Seaman Evans now looks more like Stoker Lashly – a real Old Faithful, with no bad habits.
The landscape – vast in miniature – comes to a sudden end with Bowers and Cherry-Garrard (with his diaries under his arm) working in a crevasse.
Last night my thoughts were suddenly aqua-glints of light in crevasses. I am the crevasse, the battered boat in the ice-cove, the snowy romantic inhospitable landscape, the blizzard, the Incredible Blackened Meeting story in the sky (two expeditions which wintered over in ice caves and miraculously converged) … I am the hut roof, the ice being chopped, the penguins, the warm comradeship inside the hut. I am the blubber-fire, the exhausted voyager, the cup of something hot, the hand on his shoulder. I am Scott’s anxiety, Amundsen’s mania, Oates with the ponies, Evans’s quiet practicality, Shackleton’s gallant yarns and Bill Wilson drawing seabirds, saintly-receptive. I am the socks hanging up to dry, steam, stink and dream, and the sledge hanging up in the rafters. I am the Katabatic and human crosswinds. This drawing suddenly took a new and unplanned direction with Amundsen and his dogs – I don’t know what this is, yet.
And what are they up to, what are they doing? No need to comment or analyse. The way to draw things and people is to “I-am” them, so they tell their own story. “I-am” also my conventional portraits – General Bill, Paul, kids and Buller mess soldiers.
I saw where I can put a little symbol for the Southern Cross – a cruci-twinkle of yellow in a shadowy corona, in the Austral-lit sky at the edge of the recessed hut roof. In the Antarctic, everything is topsy turvy and refracted. God is sometimes seen … a distant concept: meeting Father Alan today.
9 March 1986
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.
All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/