Poetry review – Astéronymes by Claire Trévien

Claire Trévien is adept at gloriously unexpected turns of phrase. Signs of early life include “collapsed/ arks, kicked in the groin.” History has been shoaled and mouths “left unzipped.”

Reading the poems of her latest collection, Astéronymes, published by Penned in the Margins, makes me feel we’re embedded both in modernity and in the past. At one point she mentions: “There’s a spectator in my boot”, bringing to mind contemporary paranoia and the more innocent species of bug in one neat line.

Asteronymes by Claire Trevien coverMore obliquely, she comments: “The grass here is the kind of green/ that can only exist after rain/ or a monitor failure.”

The collection title works beautifully with the dense and varied contents, referring to the asterisks used to hide a name, or disguise a password.

There is a sense of Trévien playing games, not only with words or sentence structures, but with our expectations, as in Azahara [edit] and The Museum of Author Corrections. In the latter of these, we’re presented both with a poem and a response to it, which is at least in part critical. It’s disconcerting and amusing, as well as giving the illusion of insight into the poet’s process.

A series of Museum have taken up residence on the pages, offering glimpses into ponderings on sleep (including a magical line in which “selkies bump against the hull”, waiting, shared meals and more, reminding us that every element of human life is worthy of examination.

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Life, Love and Mortality – a literary night

St John in the Wall photo credit Andy MarshallSt John in the Wall photo credit Andy Marshall

St John in the Wall © Andy Marshall

I’m really excited to be hosting a special literary event on 9th June 2016, at a very special Bristol venue. St John on the Wall is one of those magical places you can pass a thousand times without truly realising it exists, and then find it hard to believe you ever failed to notice it.

Late last year, I visited this church embedded in one of the only remaining sections of Bristol’s walls still standing. The atmosphere of the place, which is no longer used for religious purposes, immediately stirred my imagination.

Happily the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), who manage the space, were just as taken with the idea of a literary evening at this site as I am.

So this is what’s happening – nine individuals (poets, prose writers and musicians) are creating works inspired by the space and the themes life, love and mortality. These pieces will be performed in the setting of St John on the Wall, with many pieces being read from the pulpit. Doors open at 7pm, with the evening expected to end around 10.30pm.

There will be a small entrance fee of (£3 for early bird tickets, £4 thereafter, and a bar selling drinks. Proceeds will be split between the CCT, and homelessness charity St Mungo’s. Tickets are available from www.visitchurches.org.uk/lifeloveandmortality.

Here’s some text from the official press release that has gone out:

“Featuring the words of Judy Darley, Paul Deaton, Louise Gethin, Harriet Kline, Mike Manson, Helen Sheppard, and Claire Williamson, plus the music of Joanna Butler and Paul Bradley, this will be an evening focused on the things that can stop us in our tracks, and spur us on to achieve our dreams.”

Hope you can come along!

Writing prompt – ship

Small ship cr Judy DarleyI dug this tiny boat up from a patch of dirt when I was a child. For years I kept it in a small box along with other knick knacks from that time in my life. Then, last year, I found it and wondered if I could shine it up. So I did, and discovered that beneath the grime it was this exquisite little pendant.

Who might have owned this miniature ship originally? Who gave it to them, and why? How did they come to lose it?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo

Dreaming The Bear by Mimi TheboSometimes a book can sneak into your consciousness, and warm the parts of you that you hadn’t even realised were cold.

So it is with Mimi Thebo’s Dreaming the Bear, a story beset with snow and wilderness but very much rooted in contemporary life.

Darcy is a British girl displaced by the careers of her parents to live far from the shopping malls she’s most at home in. Instead she’s struggling to get to grips with life in the winter of Yellowstone National Park America.

We meet Darcy when she’s recovering from a bout of pneumonia and is trying to build up her strength though daily walks recommended by her doctor. Everyone is busy, so she goes alone, grumbling inwardly about boredom, tiredness and missing everything she’s left behind in England. As frustration takes hold she decides to climb a steep hill, something she’s been warned against as her lungs are still “crinkly and wet” from her illness.

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Skies full of roses and ducks

Park Street Ducks by Mary Corum

Park Street Ducks by Mary Corum

A gorgeous textural blend of intensely detailed drawing and colourful printed textiles make up Mary Corum’s artworks. Architecturally precise buildings are set against art deco rose skies through which ducks fly. There’s a nod to the ceramic ducks that graced living room walls of yesteryear, and a celebration of cityscapes adjoined with a love of nature.

Looking North by Mary Corum

Looking North by Mary Corum

The results are multifaceted and layered as Mary plays out her artistic leanings coupled with the experience gained via a degree in interior furnishings and textiles design.

In fact, this particular degree led to Mary’s output in more ways than one.

“As a young child I always enjoyed drawing and making things,” she says. “In particular I enjoyed sewing, which probably where my love of textiles comes from. I love to work with fine detail, and as part of my initial degree I studied technical drawing. There’s nothing better than the feel of drawing with a Rotring (technical drawing) pen.”

Rooftops by Mary Corum

Rooftops by Mary Corum

Mary believes that her background in textiles and screen printing meant it seemed natural to print her drawn studies onto fabric, “giving them a much softer look. I then started to combine these drawings with my screen printed designs. I love the combination of the fine illustration and repeated patterns.”

If you live in Bristol, you’ll certainly see scenes you recognise them, though not, perhaps, as you’ve ever glimpsed them before. A sense of place is vivid in Mary’s work, unsurprising given that she says the seeds for her designs often begin with “subjects close to my heart and the places I have visited. My first illustration in this series was a result of my time spent living in Sydney – I love the line and shape found in the harbour bridge and the Opera House. On moving to Bristol I felt the same about the Suspension Bridge and the iconic views of where I now live.”

Suspension Bridge by Mary Corum

Suspension Bridge by Mary Corum

Mary lives in Southville, south of the river, “so some of the views are local to my immediate area, but I also love to capture the wider areas of the city which has so many iconic views which makes Bristol such a great place to live and work. My artwork ventures into Bath too, and London where I am from originally.”

Focusing her attention to detail on a smaller scale, Mary also produces exquisite insect studies.

“The Moths and beetles were a result of a local community project,” she says. “I was keen to draw on the beautiful lines and patterns found in these insects.”

Other influences abound. “My love of Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the inspiration behind my rose repeat, and my fondness for vintage china flying ducks can be seen in many of my works!”

As a qualified art teacher, as well as working artist, Mary feels fortunate to be able to pass on her skills, “watching children and adults alike finding enjoyment in art. I am very lucky to work in a field where I love what I do.”

You can see and purchase Mary’s work at www.marycorum.com, and find her at instagram.com/marydcorum. She also exhibits on Bristol’s art trails and at the following shops and galleries: Glass Designs in Southville, Dolly What Not in The Arcade, Broadmead, Makers on Colston Street and 7th Sea on Cheltenham Road.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – chain

Bike chain by Kevlin HenneyThis week’s writing prompt comes courtesy Kevlin Henney, who posted this photo on Facebook earlier this week, and has given permission to me to repost it here.

To me it serves both as a work of art and a story prompt.

Kevlin’s explanation for the shot was: “Just found lying on the ground on the way to school this morning.”

Who might have lost this chain on their commute? What implications may it have had on the rest of their journey? Who and what might they have encountered as a result of this mishap?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

The Moth Room and Adrift – short stories

Moth wings cr Judy DarleyMy very short story The Moth Room has been published in issue 21 of Gone Lawn, which describes itself as “a web journal of artistic and progressive literature.” What a lovely home for my tale!

Inspired by a visit to the studio of artist Rose McLay, my flash fiction draws strands of Cinderella together with a touch of moonlit iridescence.

Click here for a read.

The opening line is: He follows her home from the ball, trailing in the pitch of her laughter: bright as glass, bleak as snow.

My short story Adrift has been selected as the #StorySunday tale over at Litro magazine’s  marvellous website.

If you’re seeking a small work of fiction to transport you, drop in and read my piece about  a house full of sand…

Read it at http://www.litro.co.uk/2016/05/adrift/

Transcendent havens

Ilfracombe by Cyril Croucher

Ilfracombe by Cyril Croucher

There’s a palpable sense of place in Cyril Croucher’s paintings – not only the marine setting (you can almost smell the whiff of brine in the air and the tang of rust), but your own position low down in scenes that stretch skywards without hesitation.

Cyril calls this “the ‘low tide’ perspective”, and explains that he came to recognise the appeal of this unusual angle while life drawing in St Ives for a short period of time. “I was taking a break from life drawing and took a fresh look at my surroundings, in particular the alternative view of looking back from the sea. I wanted to capture that feeling of the height of harbour walls and houses looking up from sea level.”

This was Cyril’s breakthrough moment, but built on a breadth of experience of already having produced a wide range of art.

“I wanted to become an artist from a very young age – art and sport were the subjects I excelled in and which interested me the most at school,” he says. “I went to art college after leaving school in the 1960s but cut short my time there after my father died and I found I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the work I was producing.”

At this point, Cyril stopped painting entirely. “I did not pick up a brush again until I moved to Cornwall in 1994.”

Godrevy Lighthouse by Cyril Croucher

Godrevy Lighthouse by Cyril Croucher

Cyril swiftly discovered a fascination with “the shapes, the decay and textures found in walls and other structures, in particular the rust bleeding through layers of fading and peeling paintwork.”

Once he found his particular location in the scenes he wanted to capture, “Everything came together quite quickly – rusting fittings, plant growth and the changing light on the granite all helped my work evolve.”

Today, Cyril’s work is instantly recognisable, and undeniably evocative. Whether he is painting Venice or Ilfracombe, the key ingredient is an impression of loftiness, and the passage of time. These are not pristine coastal vistas, but elegantly worked snapshots framing working ports, spindly piers, listing boats and weather-worn cliff-top homes, no doubt with exceptional views. There’s a beauty in the corrosion Cyril depicts, while the elongated proportions give every element a touch of the irreal, suggesting a desire to transcend the clouds.

Elements of Venice - Doorways II by Cyril Croucher

Elements of Venice – Doorways II by Cyril Croucher

“I am surrounded by a huge amount of subject matter in Cornwall but I also source material from other areas of the UK and from Italy, particularly Venice, and Spain,” Cyril says.

Mumbles Lifeboat Station by Cyril Croucher

Mumbles Lifeboat Station by Cyril Croucher

You can find more of Cyril’s work on the website of the Wren Gallery, “where I normally have an annual solo exhibition, but I have also shown at various group exhibitions nationwide including the RA Summer Exhibition.”

Find out more at www.wrenfineart.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – storm

Tintagel storm cr Judy DarleyThere’s a moment on the coast when you can see a storm approaching, and know there’s nothing you can do to prevent the collision between land and air and sea.

You’re aware you should be taking shelter, but something holds you in place, transfixed by the sheer rawness of what’s powering across the sea your way. You’re standing on the last vestige of civilisation, watching the wild wind and rain charge relentlessly towards you.

What happens next?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

The precarious nature of being

Rosie McLay studioEntering Rosie McLay’s studio at The Island is like gaining admittance to a secret cave. Light floods from on high as rain tumults against windows set into the eaves, while every other surface jostles with art. Breasts cast in copper, resin and coal extend like stalactites from the walls, and etchings of gigantic wasps, octopi tentacles plus a hedgehog who might just savage you, leer from shadowy corners. Mirrors are reverse etched with paint scratched away to reveal negative sketches, proving that Rosie has a view of the world that is entirely her own.

Hedgehog print by Rosie McLay

Hedgehog print by Rosie McLay

It’s not entirely surprising when you consider Rosie’s upbringing. “I come from a family of creatives,” she says. “Dad is a joiner, making bespoke designer furniture, so I was always around the smell of sawdust and stacks of wood waiting to be transformed into other things. Mum was a photographer and film maker as well as doing embroidery and other things. She was always finding old things and turning them into new things.”

Rosie McLayIt was through this that Rosie’s own early artistic explorations began. “We were all encouraged to see the potential in everything, patch things up and reinvent them.”

Rosie graduated with a BA in Drawing and Applied Arts from UWE in 2014. While still on the course she began running makers’ fairs and has been creating and selling her work ever since.

A love of materials has been key to the direction her art has taken. “I love working with copper, but part of that is the machines. I love using those big Victorian presses.” Rosie is a member of Spike Print Studio, an open access organisation that offers technical support and courses, as well as allowing use of a varied selection of presses and other equipment.

Her most recent fascination is with glass. “It feels so clean and fragile. Working with it is quite spontaneous – you apply the paint and cast a blade and needles across it to etch away the layers you don’t want.”

The slipperiness of the surface is part of the attraction. “It feels so clean, far more so that drawing a pencil nib across rough paper. Working on glass makes me calm.”

If she wants to let out a more vigorous emotion, she says, she’ll turn to woodcuts or copper, “carving, shaping or puncturing holes.”

Wasp sculpture by Rosie McLay

Wasp sculpture by Rosie McLay

The fragility of glass is also appealing. “Glass is slightly dangerous – I like the sense that it can shatter. There’s an element of unpredictability. The material has a say in how the final piece will look.”

Rosie’s approach means that even the mistakes are welcomed, and even encouraged. She points out a beautiful etching on the wall that seems blotched with light. “I think I was a bit careless when preparing it, so it’s got my fingerprints on it and I smudged it with the heel of my hand. When it came out of the press, I thought, well, that’s a day’s work wasted, but now I can see that those marks make it a really interesting piece.”

Breast series by Rosie McLay

Breast series by Rosie McLay

For her latest exhibition, Rosie is toying with the idea of inviting viewer to touch her creations. “Despite the ‘do not touch’ signs at my previous exhibitions, my casts ended up with loads of finger marks all over them, most notably my copper breast where the marks became darkly tarnished over the days. All the fingerprints were in exactly the same place, everyone touched the breast in the same way. It’s as though it’s instinctive.”

Copper breast by Rosie McLay

Copper breast by Rosie McLay

The current exhibition, Body, Material, Change, focuses on Rosie’s thoughts about decay and regeneration – how all of us eventually die, and our bodies break down, often with assistance from the woodland creatures and insects she loves to draw.

Heart etching by Rosie McLay

Heart etching by Rosie McLay

“I want to explore our relationship to our bodies,” she says. “I find it very strange that I don’t really know what my organs look like. A lot of the time, we’re very separate to our bodies – it’s as though it’s just a vessel, a vehicle to take us through life.”

She adds with a grin: “I find it a miracle that I even exist. Every part of us is a mass of clever calculations and gungy stuff. I want to appreciate that more. It feels like a miracle to even be born.”

Rosie will be exhibiting at The Station, Silver Street, Bristol BS1 2AG, from 7-28th May. The gallery will be open from 11-8pm Mon-Sat. Find details at www.thestationbristol.org.uk.

Find Rosie at www.RosieMcLay.com, RosieMcLay on Twitter and Rosie McLay Art on Facebook.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.