Friday 4 January 2019

Becoming Blue VI: Blue Sun Orchid - HAUNTING III

The blue man meets the alchemist in the middle of a city. Both standing barefoot on the pavement, they exchange bags. It was all a dream.

Convicts used to call this place ‘The End of the World’. Where I am, there is a place called ‘The Edge of the World’. Beyond this and beyond me, is the largest uninterrupted expanse of ocean in the world. That is quite something to consider. All that blue.

"The moment that we landed there, upon that fatal shore, 
The planters they inspected us, some fifty score or more, 
Then they marched us off like hosses, an' they sold us out of hand, 
They yoked us to the plough, me boys, for to plough Van Diemen's Land. 

As I lay in me bunk one night, a dreamin' all alone, 
I dreamt I wuz in Liverpool, 'way back in Marybone, 
Wid me own true love beside me, an' a jug o' ale in me hand 
Then awoke so broken-hearted, lyin' on Van Diemen's Land."

I have been hiding in Marrawah (translation: number one) for three days. I am no longer shaking. I am happy here. The sun is shining. I might go and ask if I can borrow a push bike so I can cycle to the beach.

Bicycle ride number II.
When I visited this part of Tasmania on November 1st the place seemed rather different. It was stormy and windy. There were four seasons in a day. On my last night here, a thick, spooky sea mist blanketed the landscape so that you couldn’t see a thing. It felt mysterious and at times, perilous. All the roads here have a dark romance about them. I am particularly fond of ‘Wuthering Heights Road’ and ‘Rebecca Road’. Yesterday I walked down ‘Loverock Road’ and of course there is ‘Comeback Road’. I wonder if there is a ‘Jane Eyre Passage’ or a ‘Dorian Gray Point’? 

Went out for a bicycle ride, my first one... To nowhere. Alone.

I found a diary entry for the 4th November on a scrap of paper which describes my entry into Australia and why no one received any updates until now. At the time I decided to fully embrace the wild. To let go and fall, to see if Providence would swoop down and catch me. This is the life of the Romantic. You have to go to these places in order to paint them.

Chasing summer, chasing light, chasing blue.
When I arrived in Australia, the sun was rising and I was given a blue house key to number 5. I was full of anticipation. I expected a depth, but it so far hasn’t been an easy ride. Blue tears of awe, grief, loss, pain, joy, and confusion. Buds tightly coiled unwilling to open up. The wind howls. The heath rages. The storm pulses and then there’s the famous blue coat. Blue joy turned to a loss in an instant. Nipped in the bud. Love lost. Dreaming of a future that won’t unfold. I am uncoiling still. Un-coming. Blue moves the goal posts. This is a project that moves, that evolves. I am moving, traveling and the situation moves. Something dark in the Tarkine Forest. A place of contrasts. My fingers are full of dirt. My hands scratched. Rebellious, the soles of my feet still scabbed from walking barefoot a week ago. Emotionally hurt, my insides are ripped. I feel ripped. The trees are ripped. The trees will be felled. This forest is for logging.”

Romanticism is an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in the late 18th Century. It stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom from classical art forms, and rebellion against social conventions. Romanticism's celebration of euphoria and sublimity has always been dogged by an equally intense fascination with melancholia, insanity, crime and a shady atmosphere; with the options of ghosts and the irrational. The name "Dark Romanticism" was given to this form by the literary theorist Mario Praz in his study of the genre “The Romantic Agony’’. Considering this, I guess it is only correct that my foray into Romanticism would lead me to this more shadowy point. To a landscape covered in myth, magic, and murder with a man who would fade into the mists and a flock of orchids that kept their insides hidden. I even met a witch during my first week in Tasmania. A Scorpio, with a rich accent, she was hiding deep in the Tarkine Forest when I stumbled in on November 3rd.

Arthur River meandering deep into the  mysterious Tarkine Forest. Photo taken on my first trip to Tas.

I am slowly being rescued from a fall by Michael Nyman and Jeff Beal in my new pop-up studio. The table is covered in paints, cups of tea, diaries… many, many diaries of which I have dipped into repeatedly. These have helped me to join up the ends of a peculiar story. As I listen to the notes chime across a stave, I find myself being incredibly grateful to have finally been lent my first set of speakers since I arrived in Australia. I needed the music to find my flow. Now, thoughts and feelings are slowly bubbling up ready for filing. ‘Dreams of a Journey’, ‘Trysting Fields’ and ‘An Eye for Optical Theory’. The later of which I find is great to paint to.

Current Palette... Moving away from watercolour

I want to paint a sensual world. Primal law. The rhythm of a landscape and the rhythm of our hearts. Every human here has a space-time machine inside of them. It can open doors as fast as it can close them. Our hearts are powerful and provide us with the key to all things hidden. “A beating heart drives us downward far down to the primal ground, what is encountered on this journey must be taken most seriously when it is perfectly fused with the appropriate artistic means in visible form because it is not a question of merely reproducing what is seen; the secretly perceived can be made visible” Paul Klee. In his work, the spirit of nature and the spirit of the unconscious became inseparable. His paintings have drawn him and draw us, the onlookers, into their magic circle.

Close up on blues... as they dry

I feel I was drawn into a magic circle of sorts. As I begin to inhabit an entire house alone, I am being constantly reminded that someone else is supposed to be here with me. Their ghost lurks in every room. I catch myself talking to them as if they were here. Maybe they are? Secretly. As I start to draw out the first painting, I change tracks. The one I wanted to paint has been put aside, instead, I am going for something far more haunting. The haunting of Tasmania. A place of ghosts, lost tribes and of aboriginal dream time. Dream time…

As I fetch a poem I wrote on the 12th November I discover to my astonishment that I was already thinking about a haunting back then.

The Haunting

Dew drips from a withered blade
That burns brightly at its tip
Tightly closed blue cups of ecstasy
that hold a thousand delights

A tightly knitted corset of opal green
Covering layers of shimmering blue satin
and a sweet, sticky nectary

The bit before courting.
Just exploring one another with words.
Just being
in a pub
drinking beer
and not really worrying about anything in particular.

The early days, which are so short 
Within weeks, the Delphiums will bloom
Along with his Campanula.
Tall, heady spikes will sway in the breeze

But on a heath shrouded in the sea’s soul,
The buds of the Tasmanian sun orchid,
Shall remain tightly closed
Their dangerous depths hidden
Frozen in time
Like an iceberg


Jung drew an analogy between the psyche and light on the electromagnetic spectrum. The centre of the visible light spectrum (i.e., yellow) corresponds to consciousness, which grades into unconsciousnesses at the red and blue ends. Red corresponds to basic unconscious urges and biological instinct, which merges with its chemical and physical conditions. The blue end of the spectrum represents spiritual ideas; and the archetypes, exerting their influence from beyond the visible, corresponding to the invisible realm of ultra-violet. Jung suggested that not only do the archetypal structures govern the behaviour of all living organisms, but that they were contiguous with structures controlling the behaviour of inorganic matter as well. This is where I find myself, in the deep blue end of ancient rocks, crystals, caves and dreams.

My pop-up studio in Tasmania. Making headway with the first piece.
Twenty years ago, around the same time I had the premonitory dreams I discussed in my previous post, my mother bought me a present. It was blue-green, had a bell and two wheels. I called her Neptune after the planet and rode her everywhere. She was my freedom. I remember cycling along the promenade on several occasions when I was 14/15 years old thinking ‘I can now go anywhere and at any time, the world is mine to conquer’. Twenty years on, I find myself strapping a blue helmet onto my head and jumping onto a bicycle in my determination to get around this new landscape without a car. I had forgotten about the feeling Neptune had given me all those years ago, despite the fact I still ride her in Spain. As soon as I found myself peddling along a ‘Postman Pat’ sort of road I got the feeling. I suddenly felt like I could go anywhere and could feel those places properly. Embrace the wind, taste the flowers, smell the sea.

First night in Tasmania, I go for a walk alone and it greets me with this

Dressed in blue, the time traveller hands over a stripey blue bag. Dressed in white, the alchemist hands over a white bag. They stand there, trying to eye the other up in heavy Australian heat. Her hands shake in time with the clicking of nearby traffic lights and the parrots of her dreams sing. Will they ever meet again? Will the alchemist summon the time traveler? Will the time traveler summon the alchemist? Is it even in their control or were their paths just mapped out and they blindly followed them in good faith and hope? Maybe it really was just a dream, the ticking of a heart, an opening and a closing between curtains of deep blue velvet.

The ‘massa confusa’ of alchemy.


With thanks to Susan for giving me her copy of Jung when I visited Canberra. Your book has helped me immensely, especially as I grapple through the crash at the end of this Australian entry wave.

Thanks also to Lorraine for giving me a book on Greek Mythology when I was in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand.