The window shrinks through a window-pane

Lectures and events
Publication Date
12/08/2021
Featuring
Robyn Marsack FRSE
Victoria Crowe FRSE
Christine De Luca

This event was part of the RSE’s summer events programme, Curious.
Find out more on the Curious website.

An illustrated conversation between artist Victoria Crowe FRSE and poet Christine De Luca.

Another Time, Another Place was an exhibition of 12 paintings by the artist Victoria Crowe made throughout 2020 in response to our changed world and to the year-long disruption to her artistic practice due to illness and recovery. The intense visual images engendered by these experiences were further explored when the Shetlandic poet Christine De Luca began to respond to them with a series of poems. So began a discussion and interchange of ideas between the two women.

This collaborative venture reflects on our changed circumstances, on the search for meaning and transcendence and acknowledges the fragility of our interconnected ecology.

The resulting book  Another Time, Another Place was published by The Scottish Gallery. Now the collaboration has become the springboard for a musical response, courtesy of the Michael Cuddigan Trust.

Image credit: Kenneth Gray

transcript

Please note transcripts are automatically generated, so may feature errors.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Hello and a warm welcome to Curious the Royal Society of Edinburgh summer programme. The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland National Academy, and its motto is knowledge made useful. This year the RSE events of insights from some of the world’s leading experts across four key themes: health and wellbeing, innovation and invention, our planet and COVID-19 living within a pandemic. This year’s programme also comprises tea and talk events format inspired by the coffee house discussions of the Scottish Enlightenment. These are free and they take place on Zoom. There are also many other panel discussion webinars on a wide range of subjects. So please do visit www.rse-curious.com to have a look at the programme and book. I’m Robyn Marsack, a Fellow of the RSE and I’m delighted to be joined today by fellow Fellow Victoria Crowe and Christine De Luca. I don’t think either of them would describe themselves as world experts. Yet of course, they’re both very distinguished in their respective fields of painting and poetry. Victoria studied at Kingston School of Art and the Royal College of Art London before being invited to join the Edinburgh College of Art in 1968, where she taught drawing and painting until 1998. She’s had over 50 solo shows has been awarded numerous distinctions, and her work is held in a large number of public and private collections worldwide. She lives and works in the Scottish Borders, and when she can in Venice. She has been described as one of the most vital and original figurative painters currently at work in Scotland. Christine writes poetry and prose in English and Shetlandic, her mother tongue, she was the energetic Edinburgh Makar or Poet Laureate of the city from 2014 to 2017. Her works been translated into French, Italian and Nordic languages. Her eighth collection, Veeve is out from Mariscat Press this summer. She has been my guide into our living language of vitality and depth writes Tom Power. And Shetland writer Jim Mainland remarks that her can do candour is the perfect pick me up for these cautious and emerging times. In this event, the world shrinks to window pane, we will be exploring some of the curious themes through art and poetry created only last year, we might think of them as gestures of defiance against the circumstanced, which held so much back in our lives. Another time another place was an exhibition of 12 paintings by Victoria Crowe made throughout 2020 In response to our changed world, into the year long disruption of her artistic practice, due to illness and recovery. The visual images engendered by these experiences were further explored when she invited Christine De Luca to respond to them with poems. Their collaborative venture reflects on our change circumstances, the search for meaning and transcendence and acknowledges the frailty of our interconnected ecology. The resulting book, another time, another place, a beautiful book was published by The Scottish Gallery, and you’ll find a link to that in the chat box. Now, the collaboration has become the springboard too, for a musical response courtesy of Michael Cuddigan Trust, and there’s a link to that as well. In this event, we’ll be looking at some of the paintings, listening to Christine’s readings of the accompanying poems and reflecting on the works and the process of collaboration. We’d be glad to have your questions, so please do submit those at whatever point they occur to you using the q&a function. Two final points before we begin with a short film that will introduce the paintings and the poems. This event is being recorded and will be made available on the RSEs YouTube channel in due course, and if you require subtitles, you can turn these on using the otter.ai function at the top of the Zoom screen. We’re going to begin with a short film made by the Edinburgh film company.

Christine De Luca
Rowans on a darkening slope, sink into soft shadow. They stand stripped as skeletons, to shivering nudity. It could be late afternoon, when light on the tree adjusts our compass, finds true north; when the lawn is a sundial catching shadow till each beam is smudged with dusk. Snow folded into contours, sifted and snagged at the zigzag of old walls. Trees were scant shelter in the whip of wind.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
This group of paintings really began their existence based on two events that happened in 2019. On the one hand, I had this big exhibition, this retrospective exhibition at the City Art Centre, which was my whole sort of, life’s work laid out before me. And then on the other hand, I had a serious illness diagnosed. And so I had this weird balancing thing of, okay, so this is your life in painting. But then there’s this balancing thing of a brush with mortality. And it was like a sort of, almost like a Greek myth this strange coming together of the very positive and the possibly very negative aspects of life. And so when the Covid lockdown happened, it gave me a great chance to sort of get back into my work without any social distractions. And at the same time, I think everybody, everybody felt changed by that I certainly did. And I couldn’t sort of simply go back to where I had been a year before. So I think the work changed quite a lot. I was in the sense that it was sort of quite a tentative beginning. And I’d read somewhere that you have to look for the profound outside your window. And that’s really what I did over that period of time. And the landscape, the experience of working in the landscape became more and more intense, really, I suppose partly because visual things happened, like the night skies became very, very clear because of the lack of pollution. And the silence in the village where we lived was quite sort of profound because of no traffic. So the paintings really started off by reflecting that changed world almost as if I was looking at it, a new totally from the beginning. And it seemed to me that I was stepping over into a place I’d not been before in the paintings, and that kind of intensity grew within that group of work. I’ve always been interested how another art forms can bring a different dimension. Seeing how Christine had worked with some of the paintings in the retrospective exhibition, it became apparent that she could encapsulate in words, a feeling that I was kind of groping for in paint. And she brought some unexpected sort of resonances to it. And I was delighted when she felt that she, she wanted to explore the starting points of some of these paintings. They’re lovely phrases that she uses, like, she talks about a tree being somewhere between certainty and eternity. She talks about the axis of the of the world turning, she talks about Venus rising again the next morning. All of these things I was aware of, but I couldn’t actually literally paint about but it’s the subtext that she picked up, which I think has been a great extension to the ideas.

Christine De Luca
snow covers her garden, her world. It is lain long enough to make a history. It stains and variousness marble the ground paths blurred. The way ahead unsure. The trees bear wintered souls bend to the stroke of a friendly hand. She needs to test her strength, her skill, there is a hushed exchange of trust. The hazel is a talisman or touchstone is a larch. The pencil is perceptive, lends lightness to the task seems to know where to go and all that snow. It cuts through oil adds to the frosty patina, picks out contortions, twists, frizzles of twigs. A canvas would have soaked up too much energy, demanded vigour. It will have to wait a little longer till snow melts, and the horizon clears. Meanwhile, this release, a start.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you so much for that beautiful film and gives us, I think, some sense of how these paintings work as a set. And as a collaborative endeavour, and could you tell us a little bit about the process of that collaboration? Was it something that accompanied the work? Or did it strike you at the end? That this is what you’d like to do? Victoria, you’ve said in the film a little bit about why but you might want to expand on that.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yes, well, I think I was really very, very intrigued when five poets were writing about the work in the retrospective. And when I was sort of halfway through this bunch of work, I thought it would be really nice just to have another voice to see if some other creative person could encapsulate what I was trying to do in paint. And I sent Christine a couple of images. And she immediately responded with a poem. And I said, Wow, that’s fantastic. You think you could look at the starting points of some of the others. And this is what we did. And it was when it was during lockdown. So we couldn’t meet Christine couldn’t see the poems, we just corresponded through sort of iPad contact, and built up this lovely conversation about not just the finished image, but the kind of subtext, which is what she’s so good at. So Christine, in your role as Edinburgh Makar, you were commissioned to write on certain themes, I know. And there’s, there’s a long tradition of what’s called ekphrastic poetry that’s poets providing a description of or, or a reflection on work of art. A famous example would be Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn,”. So how difficult is it to respond to a work that’s chosen for you? And indeed, but she couldn’t actually go to see as Victoria said?

Christine De Luca
I’ll think about the latter point first. It certainly helps hugely if you can see the painting, in terms of the texture and even just the scale of it. But as the Makar, I have to say, sometimes I got some strange things I had to do. And it was quite difficult to rev up and get moving and think what an earth can I write about this? And so that first sort of normal impulse to write a poem wasn’t there, but with Victoria’s paintings, I didn’t have that barrier, I was immediately something would, you know, strike me right away. And I was, I didn’t really have to short circuit anything at all it was it was straightforward in that respect. The first thing of course is just a kind of a wordlessness. I think, just letting go of words and letting go of rational thought and, and just letting yourself seep into this image and just be absorbed, that your subconscious just be absorbed in it and just let go. And that seemed to happen quite quickly, I think with these these paintings, so it really wasn’t, it wasn’t a struggle in that respect. It was a struggle in other ways, but not in that way no.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
A struggle in the way that writing is always a struggle. Well, we’re going to look at some of the work specifically beginning with the detail of painting then the whole painting beside a poem, and we’ll hear Christine reading it. So could we start please with proselect

Christine De Luca
Frost light, 1. It could be morning in late winter. Everything is as before, yet this light is today’s and no other’s. It paints the twigs as it did yesterday. But the Earth has since inclined enough to lay a timely gleam on that particular branch, that patch of grass. Thin sunlight suffuses distance, sifts centuries. In its rays, something almost mystical infiltrates, seeps into slumbering cells, stirs renewal, a sense of making. 2. It could be late afternoon when light on the tree adjusts our compass, finds true north; when the lawn is a sundial catching shadow till each beam is smudged with dusk. Tomorrow, the sun will be higher. All its familiar in place. How come it seems like a yet undiscovered world?

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thanks, Christine. I wanted to begin with this because Christine’s poem in its last lines, sets the question that the title of the book and the exhibition, another time another place echoes, she wrote us and you heard, all is familiar in place. How come it seems like a yet undiscovered world? Victoria, you touched on this in the film, you know, this series was the world through a windowpane. It’s very familiar backyard, as it were a backyard territory for you. So was it? Was it really a decision that you felt was forced on you by locked down and illness? Or actually was it a long held ambition to paint from that window?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
It wasn’t a long, long held ambition to paint from that window, noI I think what happened because my sort of physical strength was at a low ebb at the beginning of this group of work. The outside was intensely seen through the windows. And also, I found that one of the in my daughter’s bedroom upstairs, I got a different perspective on things. So I could look down on the garden and across this hill, in a way I’d never really thought about doing before. Some of them were sort of eye level, like this piece that still on the screen, they were eye level. But there was this intensity of light that I’ve never really had the time to look at, and to contemplate from the seclusion from within. And usually outside doing drawing and kind of taking the messages back with me. This one was very much seeing it there, framed, having time to look at it, and to explore a very fleeting, fleeting moment. Which I think because of not being fully functional as an artist at that point, I was hanging on to the intensity of the moment. And that’s really what fed into the rest of, of the series of paintings.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
So Christine, was that the first image that you were offered, or perhaps not, because when you when you write about a sense of renewal, and here, the branches are bare, they’re tangled and the sun is blurred. So your sense of renewal is quite an optimistic thought. And I wonder, I think that’s characteristic of your personality. Did you already have a sense of the whole the way this series was moving? Or was this just your first encounter?

Christine De Luca
And no, I didn’t have a sense of how it was going at all. I think this was one of the earlier ones. But I think it’s the overall was the first thing and this one I was feeling that amazingly warming sky set against this frosty tree in the foreground. And it made me think I suppose of that, the hiatus the dormant state, there’s something lovely about the dormant state, when you know that the sap is going to rise, the buds are going to come. It’s like being at a concert and the orchestra is tuned up and you’re either waiting for the conductor or or you’re waiting for the conductor’s baton just to go. There’s a there’s a moment there. And it was that kind of tension, I think, between this this warming sky in the still frosted earth that kind of struck me first of all, but that made the kind of renewal sense to me. And then this final part of the poem, the marvel of the familiar, and yet the strangeness and in a way we’re just strangers to ourselves, I think that kind of sense of being blown away by something which is quite familiar.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
That’s great. Could we have the next one? The amazing clarity of the night skies, please? This paintings got an extraordinary intensity of colour. You call it lapis lazuli. Christine, and we’ve moved here into April, but you’re looking back on it from November in the poem. So it could be hear that.

Christine De Luca
The amazing clarity of the night skies. lines written on All Souls’ Day. A night soaked sky slips into lapis lazuli, fights the final incandescence of that April sun. The days then – unseasonally dry and sunny – were full of news spooling numbers of the dead. On All Souls’, there’s constellation in candle light. This backcloth has a biblical feel, and immensity entreating us to read its signs and portents; it’s a waxing crescent moon, it’s pin-prick Venus at her brightest, nailed to the firmament; held, us we are spellbound in the moment.

Christine De Luca
On the skyline, trees are bold, yet insubstantial; real, but ethereal. Below, the woods are a mystery to themselves, a web alive to secret processes of awakening. Day flows into night flows into day flows into eternity. What will stay? Tomorrow, careless of posterity. The heavens will have tilted and Venus will rise early in the chill of morning.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Christine, of course that April 2020 was a gift to us, wasn’t it? Well here in Scotland. Anyway, those all those days of sunshine, which were in a sense, spellbinding in themselves. To us in that moment, which is often a moment, an agonising moment. So why did you choose to? Why did you choose to pair it with All Souls’ Day, which is, of course, the beginning of November and darkness.

Christine De Luca
Well, Victoria was seeing it in April, and painting it some time later than that. And I got the poem, I think was the first one you sent Victoria. Late October. And by the time I was writing the poem, we were getting into early November, and I suddenly saw it was All Souls’. And when she’d been seeing it in April, there was more than 1000 deaths a day from the pandemic. And when I was writing it, we would enter the next wave. And it was, again, huge numbers of people dying. Every day, every news bulletin had this. So it just sort of seemed appropriate somehow to link it to that to think about the dead.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Yeah. And Victoria. I know that this that Christine’s poem when you got it caused you to do a little bit of repainting? Am I right?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yes, you are. When I saw this image back in April, the village was silent traffic had stopped, aircraft noise that stopped, there was this amazing luminous sky. And it was held with this, this little waxing moon with Venus right at the top, you can still see it in this slide right at the top right. And the sort of artificial light of a roadway through the village completely silent. And as Christine said, I couldn’t, I saw this first in April. But of course, I couldn’t draw it at night, I couldn’t see it. So a lot of the drawings and research this had to be done through the day. And then the in this intense image remembered. And one of the reasons that this image I think works very well is the abstract composition. So we have this huge expanse of sky. And this tiny point right at the top, which gives really deep feeling about the kind of almost sort of exceptionally miraculous event of this luminous sky with the moon. And I wrote Christine about all of this saying that, yes, I wanted to have a waxing moon at the top. It’s very sort of elemental painting. And as I say it was these abstract elements that are so important, but I’m not very good at telling my left from my right. When I drew the moon and sort of diagrammed what I had seen, I kept saying to myself, right, it’s it’s not C for cat, it’s the other way. Or did I say it was C for cat. Anyway, whatever happened, when I came to paint it, I’d looked it up on the Internet, what a waxing moon and waning moon look like. And I painted it the wrong way around. So the first draft I had back from Christine was talking about a waning moon. And that gave a whole different subtext to it. So the little bit of repainting, there’s only a few people knew about but, now a lot more people would know. Was repainting the, the angle of the moon above. Yeah.

Christine De Luca
So can I just mention, I think this poem, this painting has a kind of sublime feeling, a real spiritual dimension. And I’d rather look at it than look at the Sistine Chapel.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
That’s wonderful. Thank you, Christine. I agree with you about the, the sublime element and the intensity of the colours are so wonderful. And the poem says, What will say what will stay, and I just wanted to touch on that role here of memory, Victoria, because, well, first that you had to do, as you say, the drawings during the day, and then think about the colour, when you could come back in and paint it, that night colour which you had painted during the day. But is memory, do you carry a memory of paintings with you as well, it’s just that that particular gold, I have to include. And I have to say that that beautiful gold ground just reminds me of delight in some Samuel Palmer’s paintings. And you know how poets borrow sometimes a little line from other people, I went with a painter, so borrowed something, even as even something like a patch of colour or keep that memory of paintings with them.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
I think. I don’t care. I mean, I’ve got a very good visual memory. So the actual memory of that astonishing night, I can remember very, very clearly, I can still see it now. And although I acknowledge other artists who’ve dealt with similar Twilight themes, what the memories are, are my feelings in response to them, not the actual visual images themselves. So it’s, it’s one step removed from another visual image. It’s much more I remember feeling like that when I looked at, I don’t know, Turner or something. How, how does this now become become my image? How can I make that happen? And so I have to rely on internal memories, reflections, historical sort of experiences, I suppose. And those are the those are the references rather than that I’ve recognised in other artists work, rather than the other artists work themselves.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
That’s really interesting. And other people may have questions on this point or other points, so don’t forget to enter your questions in the question and answer box. The next slide we’re going to look at is November Stillness.

Christine De Luca
November stillness: a puff of smoke. In the woods, young owls have left and the old pair call only to each other. They glide silently out of nowhere. Night-life abounds in undergrowth. Light fades behind the hill, evening fires are lit: a plume of woodsmoke lingers in the chill. There will be stars, perhaps a memory, a trace of fireworks. Children have been cajoled from cold windows in attic rooms. They drift off under coom ceilings. Only the owl is vigilant, slipping beyond stillness.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you this. This is one of the paintings that suggests human habitation beyond your own, Victoria. And is the house part of the paintings simply because you can see it? Or is there more to this inclusion that than meets the eye as it were?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
I think it goes back to that point of the memory that a visual image stirs is often associated with a personal experience. So in this case, it’s very much almost a childhood experience of a lit window, and looking out at the night from the safety of within. And one of the kind of absolute gifts for this was, of course, the puff of smoke because it animated the whole of that background, where in Christine’s poem, she talks about the kind of night life and the continual ongoing of the trees, the plants, the animals there. But this puff of smoke defines a human presence. And it lingers with an incredible intensity just for a little while. And so that juxtaposed to this kind of childhood memory of a cold window is very much why, why that is there and identifying, I think, with other people that were going through this extraordinary sort of isolation. You maybe just saw, you know, we all clap for the NHS against a light of window. You know, if we couldn’t go out on our on the streets, we clap from the windows. So that was this kind of contact, as well.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Christine, you’ve introduced an owl into your poem, and you’ve got the children up in the attic. So I wonder whether this aspect of other lives, the human lives and bird life, was something you discussed together? Or was it something that you usually entered?

Christine De Luca
I think we’d talked a little bit about childhood and things like that, which is lovely. And that’s the fireworks and so on. November sort of reminds you of things like that. But to be honest, this was the most difficult one for me in some ways, because photograph, it was very, very difficult to see because it’s immensely dark. It’s a beautiful painting when you’re up close. But from a photograph, you really can’t see the detail. So I was a little bit stuck. But I was wanting to get this feeling of silence, and stillness. And to me, the owl is the most silent of all birds, they just float past you, and make no noise at all. So I thought I would maybe introduced that because there will be much life in there that you can’t see. But yes, we did talk a little bit about childhood. And so that kind of comes into the point. But I suppose it’s maybe the most narrative of the poems. And that’s something that words can do you can add a narrative to something which, you know, in a painting. Victoria was very good about that. She didn’t she didn’t ban it.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
I haven’t even thought to ask you whether you disagreed about something, but actually, yes, I will come on to that, in fact, so can we move on now to on the cusp, please?

Christine De Luca
On the cusp. Embers of sun copper the branches: earthing rods that ground us, linking land to sky, they arc upwards with a boldness red and fierce out of the mirk. They are alive, ablaze. Perhaps that is burning farther away, in canyons beyond that benevolent watershed, beyond the rim of trees shrivelling on its lip.

Christine De Luca
Boundaries are soft and indistinct: a lochan could find equilibrium in blue infused with coral; or a roof glint coldly, as it douses flaming light.

Christine De Luca
The maple endures, daringly propitious, fully charged to shape a brighter future.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Victoria, this and another couple of paintings sharing almost shocking palettes, if we could go back to that, and send what I’d call an incendiary brightness. And Christina picked up on that, with her mention of blazing and canyons further away. There were of course, massive wildfires last year, in Australia and Turkey, in California, even in Scotland on a much smaller scale, because it was so dry in April. So in the sense some of the other pictures were you thinking about the planet we live on and such a live off, actually, in such a spendthrift way often when you were painting these?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yes, I mean, I couldn’t help but think of burning images. But I wanted to root them into my own experience. I didn’t want to make a painting about a bushfire in Australia. I wanted to think about how the sort of experience we may have of that intensity of light, which could be a low winter sun, you know, when you’re looking to low winter sun, it can have that sort of scarlet feeling behind it. I wanted it to ask a question as well. Is it fire? Is it sunlight? Are we as a society so interchanged and held together, that what happens, there is no over there anymore. It’s over here too. What we experience what’s happening in with the bushfires with terrible fires that are happening again now. It’s all interconnected, the pandemic, the isolation, all of these things have a connection. So I wanted to allude to that, but not to make it specifically painting of a fire. I want to leave that up to what people want when people come to the painting. I want them to think about it. You said before that Christine’s probably an optimist. And I think that’s very, very true. I think she does put an optimistic point on it sometimes. And it was about devastation. But the interesting thing is that, in the period when I was really quite ill and couldn’t work. I had started diagnosis, I’d started a drawing of this maple with this intense, fiery growth. And it wasn’t until after the treatment that I completed the maple painting. And so in a way it was my sort of a salvation. For me, it was the thing that I held on to so in a way Christine’s quite right. It was my talisman, the thing that got me through. So there is an optimism there as well, Christine. But let’s think about it. Let’s keep thinking about

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Well, I’d like to contrast it with the white trees in luminous trees. So can we look at that slide please.

Christine De Luca
Luminous tree. Rowan on a darkening slope sink into soft shadow. They stand stripped as skeletons, to shivering nudity.

Christine De Luca
The youngest loom, pale and defenceless, barely aware that sap will rise. It is as if the moon has lapsed, earth slipped her guard, till even the solidity of trees is in question. If we look away, will they fade, seep into deeper distance? If we breeze, will they give up the ghost?

Christine De Luca
Only Scots pine has stayed a sentinel, kept faith. Resilient, they brush the skyline, holding tints of dusk that illumine, hint at hope, return rebirth.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
So in both of those, those poems, Christine, you’re looking for signs of hope and return. And the previous one on the cusp, I thought that was, you know, a sign of destruction, as Victoria mentioned, too, but you’ve taken the opposite turn. So is that a very determined view on your part?

Christine De Luca
Well, I think I was very struck at the beginning with these striking maple branches they just seemed so alive and so electrified. And Victoria had mentioned about this other painting she had done with them. So that was the first that came to me. And then as I looked further into me, it could be either the beautiful, benevolent, sunset, or the fires. So I kind of open that up a little bit. And but there are actually quite a lot of negative words in the poem. Fierce, merk, shrivelling and dose. I mean, I had thought that was a little loch and trying to see in a photograph what this was this bluish surface and infused with coral, the light from the fires or the sun. And of course it was Vicki said then afterwards, it was actually a roof scene from her daughter’s bedroom window. So I just kind of left the suggestion of the loch in there. But actually another poem which we’re not doing today, which is conflagration, which is a very, very intense bush, in bright red. That one, it says, or is this merely the sunsetting lighting, the old hazel warming, it’s twisted bones. It has given all once more laid down its fruits and foliage, a healing tree for a wounded world, and another bit there, these are no games In our mind’s eye fire encroaches coming our way. So I think that other poem is a little bit more, perhaps a conflagration. And if I had been writing on the cusp this year, with more of these intense fires, perhaps I would have been a little bit less optimistic.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
In this, in this, looking at this white tree, we talk about ghosts of trees, and thinking about whether the sap we know, have people given up the ghost, and do they think the sap will rise? And I suppose that too is thinking in a broader sense, not only of renewal in the natural world, in our environment, but in ourselves to, the steadiness of trees, and but also the lack of breaths she mentioned.

Christine De Luca
And the fragility of the environment, the fragility of ourselves, our bodies, as well yeah, it’s almost too beautiful that one to look at.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yeah, I certainly don’t think of it as a skeletal tree. I think it I think of it very much as an enduring tree, something that has got if you like, the spirit of a tree within it. So in the in this situation, I see it as quite a hopeful thing.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Let’s go on to making all things new, which is perhaps my favourite of these paintings.

Christine De Luca
Making all things new. The world shrinks to a window-pane holds its breath. Morning light – a hesitant revelation – infiltrates a fretwork of branches warms the sky to a pearly scumble.

Christine De Luca
To the right, an echo, a refrain. But nose to the glass, a cold, fumble, a once upon a time, prospect, obscure, half-frosted, an inner world unsure.

Christine De Luca
We stumble onwards, occasionally surprised by a clarity, we thought lost, or mesmerised by a reflection of a world made new.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
It’s a very resonant title. Making all the things new from from revelations, also a resonant word in this context and would you agree that in a nutshell, that’s what art does for us to painting or poetry making all things new, but it’s not necessarily a comforting, making new. So how would you relate the practice of art, visual or verbal art to well being? Is it a comfort for us? Is this a solace? Or is it something else? Victoria?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yeah, I think that’s really important question. Right at the beginning of lockdown, I was wondering how art could actually make society a better place how we could contribute to a sense of well being is such an overused word, but contribute to a sense of things being okay. And I was reading a piece by a writer called Olivia Lange, who have become increasingly over the last year or so increasingly worried about rise of the far right about the pandemic about the nuclear war, civil disturbance, terrorism, all these things, which she felt she had a dearth of time to actually process. And she said that looking at a painting, time stopped for her reading a novel, you suddenly begin to see patterns and consequences that you couldn’t possibly see. And there’s a lovely quote, that has been sort of really very important to me. Art has become to feel not like a respite or escape, ie not just a pleasant feeling that conferences but a formidable tool for getting perspective on an increasingly difficult time. And I think that’s very much what I hope these, these paintings, and this painting, perhaps in particular, does it. It gives us a chance to think chance to reflect it’s it’s seen in a mirror anyway. And it gives us that time to process and to question. And I think that’s, that’s all we can hope to do. Really.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Christine, would you agree with that?

Christine De Luca
Yes, very much so. Yes, it’s beyond something that’s just aesthetically pleasing. It’s purposeful. And this one particular I think, helps, I mean, the kind of image I suppose of mental health and things being obscured and and you’ve held back and held in and locked up and the world is all wrong and then this kind of melting and these reflections. Just allowing yourself to see things in a different way and being released from this lockdown so I think there’s there is something there in in the actual structure this painting that is quite a healing thing in some ways.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Well, we have the last one now, the last pair we’re going to look at is light and reflection from within.

Christine De Luca
Light and reflection from within. All is familiar; an opalled snow-lawn gleaming. The tilt of plant-pot, old seat, bushes stripped and stark, shrugged down to gather vigour.

Christine De Luca
Beyond in deepening dusk, all but a witch-hazel dims: the golden bush about to flower, exudes an inner glow, its smoulder. Nothing

Christine De Luca
is out of place, but sudden as if transfixed in light that seeps through inner doors ajar, kaleidoscopes on white, it’s strafing beams

Christine De Luca
encountering the dark. Edges smudge and soften, become indistinct. Can we tell what lies beyond, where,

Christine De Luca
merging into something bigger and unknown, shards of brightness startle and the sky forever holds its mystery?

Christine De Luca
The artist slips into the room and, though her look is far away – to recesses of herself – she confronts ungentle places, ponders

Christine De Luca
her image of this moment’s astonishment. But like the bush, unaware, bears a quiet radiance, that inner spark, elemental as the stars.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
I’d like to ask you about the window itself Victoria, I was looking at a catalogue of romantic painting exploring the motif of the open window. And the curator drew attention to the window as a liminal space where we stand between the interior and the outside world. And in some of the paintings, there’s no sense separating window-pane. But here we see the window shadows and we see yourself tucked away and looking out. And could you tell us about painting this, which in the book, it’s the last of the series.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Yes, in many ways, it was the most difficult to paint because I’m in it. And for a long time, it was simply the view out of the window at night with the shadows from inside, hitting the snow outside, and the reflections of open doorways and lights hitting on the window-pane. And I thought of a title quite early on, and the title was light from within, and then it became light and reflection from within. And I realised that that, what that was really meaning was light from within myself light from my own understanding. And so, in a way the painting became about all I had remembered all I had experienced all the things that I was seen, not just physical things memories, life events, they became held in that sort of image of myself against this. You were talking about a liminal space. I think these liminal spaces are where we can really explore metaphorical and symbolic realities which are much, much more meaningful than simply straightforward physical representations. So that very, very complex painting was and I mentioned this to Christine, I was quite sort of embarrassed almost to show it. And yet it was demanding very strongly to be shown. And it was, in a way after that experience of as I’ve mentioned before, experience of mortality experience of the lockdown. I had to come out from behind the canvas and say yes, here I am. And this, this is me, these are my thoughts. These are my concepts and to accept everything, and to be aware of everything in my life up to that point. So it was hard, a difficult one.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you, I’m just going to take one question here from from te audience, and I am used to poetry readings, you know. And I, I know that when I know, when an audience is held pretty spellbound, and I suspect that the audience out there is spellbound by both images and words that somebody has asked Victoria, whether this viewing this perspective from the window also has something in common with your Jenny pictures with your Shepherd pictures. Would you think it does?

Victoria Crowe FRSE
That’s interesting, because recently clearing up a loft, and I was looking back at some of those. And often she appears outside of a window or she appears reflective, reflected in a, in a mirror. And I realised that what I’ve been doing all these years is actually trying to find the space, which isn’t a realistic space. So I think the answer to that question is, yes, there are there certainly are connections, and I’m perhaps only just now beginning to fully realise them.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you so much that thank you very much for that question. Well, I’m going to close with two with a brief question of my own to both of you, if I may. And that is, well, actually, they’re quite large questions. But if you can be brief, that will be good. So these paintings, and the poems are made in the circumstances of the worldwide pandemic. Is there something that you’ve learned over that time that you want to keep hold of? And is there something that that is prompting you to change? And that they might be aspects of the same answer, Christine?

Christine De Luca
Well, to hold on to I think maybe like Victoria, the inner life, I think that the chance to reflect to take time to do that. Certainly, I’d want to hold on to that, not to rush so much in my life. And this idea of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, which is just so true, really. Don’t know if there’s anything more to say there.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Those are things that you want to keep hold of, or change in the sense that you’ve had them already, but you’ve developed them during

Christine De Luca
This this more intense, this intensity of experience, I think and being prepared to, to go with it and enjoy it. Yeah.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you, Christine. Victoria.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Well, I think, very much the same. I think one of the things that I have learned is, is that we are so interconnected that all the problems that the planet is facing, affect every single one of us. There are connections there, we have to work very, very hard at addressing these things. And on a personal level, I think these sort of strange areas of, for example, twilight, or melt, or dawn or the lifting of mist, or the intensity of light, the change in clarity, it does a funny thing to your to your mind. It unsettles the intellect. But it opens up the imagination to metaphor and to symbol. And to me that’s, that’s a that’s a far greater understanding of a situation than physically recording it. So I think those are the things I would take away.

Robyn Marsack FRSE
Thank you so much. And I think people will want to take away those thoughts with them, too. So thank you very much for joining us today to see and hear the work of Victoria Crowe and Christine De Luca. And thank you for your question. Thank you to Kate and Hannah at the RSE team that made this possible. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about this collaboration as much as I have and again, let me recommend the book. And remember, you can find a link to that in the chat available from The Scottish Gallery. Do look up curious too, and make the most of what the RSE has to offer in its programme. Thank you so much.

Christine De Luca
Thank you, Robyn.

Victoria Crowe FRSE
Goodbye now.

A man and a woman looking at the camera
Lectures and events
Publication Date
12/08/2021
Featuring
Robyn Marsack FRSE
Victoria Crowe FRSE
Christine De Luca
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