Writing prompt – Die Waldfrau

Die Waldfrau by Meret Oppenheim_1939This deliciously creepy painting is by the Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor Meret Oppenheim. She painted it in 1939, when she was just 26 years old, Meret titled it Die Waldfrau, which translates as The Forest Woman.

As someone who occasionally feels like she might be part tree, I particularly like the ambiguity of this scene. As sinister as the woman, with her long green tail, appears, the child looks utterly unafraid.

What happens next?

Find more of Meret’s evocative artwork in the book Meret Oppenheim: Works in Dialogue from Max Ernst to Mona Hatoum.

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

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Book review – Meret Oppenheim: Works in Dialogue

Meret Oppenheim_Rintgenaufnahme des Schndels M.O._1964Has any book ever had a more intriguing title? In fact, the full title is Meret Oppenheim: Works in Dialogue from Max Ernst to Mona Hatoum. When I received this book to review, I admit, I knew little about the German-born Swiss painter and sculptor Meret Oppenheim, despite having been a fan of the surrealists since my teens. Reading this book I discovered that she was something of a phenomenon in her lifetime, managing to stand out amidst the extrovert eccentricity of the male-dominated Surrealist art scene.

This glorious book acts as a retrospective of the artist’s work, in the context of the time in which she created it, with insights into her influences and inspirations. Through the book’s editors art historian Guido Comis and museum director Maria Guiseppina Di Monte, we encounter Meret’s peers, friends and acquaintances, with accounts packed with absorbing titbits from her intriguing life. While her affiliations evidently impacted enormously on her creativity, she clearly helped to mould much of their output just as powerfully.

Handschuhe (Paar) by Meret Oppenheim, 1985

Handschuhe (Paar) by Meret Oppenheim, 1985

My favourite chapter in the book is written by Bice Cunger, which opens with a splendid sentence from Meret: “Men are a species as bizarre as women and, like then, caricatures of what they could be.” it’s a perfect example of the wry observation and light-hearted wisdom that infuses Meret’s work, reflecting her outlook and candour. While many of her paintings resemble scenes from the darker examples of fairytales, she never looses her focus on the absurdities of real life.

Vogel mit Parasit by Meret Oppenheim_1939

Vogel mit Parasit by Meret Oppenheim, 1939

It’s an extraordinary read, especially accompanied by lustrous photography of Meret’s unsettling yet appealing creations. There’s a stunning finesse to her sculptures, so that they’re at once elegant and discomfiting – a duality I find irresistible.

Das Paar by Meret Oppenheim, 1956, from a private collection

Das Paar by Meret Oppenheim, 1956, from a private collection

Published to accompany an exhibition at the Museo d’rate della Swizzeria Italiana, the tome humbly describes itself as a catalogue. In fact, it is a beautifully put together coffee table book worthy of treating as a work of art in its own right, yet packaged in such a way that you can draw it into your arms to shape and stimulate your own creative meanderings, just as Meret’s mind and spirit shaped and stimulated generations of artists, thinkers and innovators. Quite frankly, a fabulous last-minute Christmas present or New Year’s gift to yourself.

Meret Oppenheim: Works in Dialogue from Max Ernst to Mona Hatoum is published by Skira.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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Writing prompt – escape

Bournemouth fire escape by Judy DarleyA fire escape creates the perfect set for a moment of reflection or conflict in a story, whether you’re hanging over a creepy alleyway or hotel car park, or looking up at the stars.

Something about all those different levels overlooked by different windows and different lives, plus the perils of height and exposure add up to a scene rife with intensity. What could your character reveal or discover on a fire escape’s stage?

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

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Prints perfect

ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol exhibition2To celebrate the opening of London’s Fashion and Textile Museum’s Artist Textiles Picasso to Warhol exhibition at New Lanark, the 18th century cotton-spinning Mill Village is inviting entries for a special design competition.

The winning design will be transformed into a unique ‘New Lanark’ textile print.

Entries must be received by 11.59pm GMT on Sunday 11th February 2018.

ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol exhibition

Draw inspiration from New Lanark’s social history and industrial heritage, textile production, architecture, natural surroundings or the Falls of Clyde, or feast your eyes on the ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol touring exhibition, which traces the history of 20th century art in textiles. With highlights include prints of work by Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, you really can let your imagination take control!

ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol exhibition

Your textile print should be an all over repeat pattern that embodies the theme of ‘Living and Working at New Lanark’. For more ideas, view content at www.newlanark.org , www.instagram.com/NewLanark and www.facebook.com/NewLanark

The competition is open to the general public, design students and existing designers. You’re encouraged to be as creative as possible, while keeping in mind the commercial viability of the design and its appeal to New Lanark visitors including international tourists, visitors from elsewhere in Scotland and the local community.

New Lanark will work with the overall winner to incorporate the winning pattern into a range of promotional textile items to be sold exclusively within the New Lanark Mill Shop. The winner will also receive a Place on a specialist workshop (‘Couture Inside Out’ OR ‘Fashion Drawing’) at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London (Travel and accommodation NOT included), as well as Remnant Kings fabric vouchers, a framed copy of print and Complimentary passes to ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol exhibition and the New Lanark Visitor Attraction.

To read the T&Cs and enter the competition, click here.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com

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Writing prompt – discards

Christmas tree binbags cr Judy DarleyAt this point in January each year a sorry sight appears as unwanted Christmas trees are hacked up and bagged or simply cast out, ready to be disposed of.

Write a story or poem inspired by the idea of a similar undignified turfing out of a guest previously welcomed in, honoured and celebrated.

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

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Taf and Garden Shed – writing inspired by dementia

Walking to Dylan Thomas' home in Laugharne with Dad 2016 cr Judy Darley

Walking to Dylan Thomas’ home in Laugharne with Dad, November 2016

I’m thrilled that my poem Taf has been published in issue 3 of DNA magazine. I wrote it while visiting Laugharne in South Wales with my mum last summer. It’s a place we’ve often stayed as a family, and this was the first time I’d visited since Dad became too unwell with Alzheimers to travel.

The issue hinges on the theme Locations, so a poem written with such a strong sense of place felt like the right submission. The town, its woods and the tidal estuary are full of reminders that Dylan Thomas lived there for a while, and this time it felt as though Dad’s ghost and Dylan’s were strolling together through every view. It’s a strange thing to grieve a person whose heart still beats.

My poem aims to capture some of that emotional conflict, as well as the beauty of Laugharne. You can read Taf here.

My story Garden Shed has been published by the excellent New Flash Fiction magazine. It’s a deeply personal piece reporting almost verbatim from a dream about my father, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. I woke reeling with the discovery that all this time the man we’ve lost has been out there, safe in the shed, while the poor soul he’s become ambles through an increasingly confusing world.

You can read my story here: http://newflashfiction.com/judy-darley/

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Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

What better way to begin 2017 than with a trip to one of the world’s hottest literary festivals?

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, Jaipur Literature Festival is celebrating eleven years old in 2018, and takes place from 25-28th January. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together over 250 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe.

Speakers and performers taking part include Amy Tan, Anthony Horowitz, Helen Fielding, Julia Donaldson, Kathy Reichs, musician Zakir Hussain, and countless others.

Keen to take part yourself next year? Contact the organisers through the website to find out more.

Bespoke holiday specialists Steppes Travel offer tailor-made visits to Jaipur Literature Festival. Find full details here: www.steppestravel.co.uk/india-group-tour-jaipur-literature-festival/overview

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here. It could be a fabulous start to your literary year.

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Writing prompt – denial

Azores spirits1 by Judy DarleyI’m always intrigued by what people give up and take up in a bid to make themselves supposedly better people at the onset of a new year.

As a starting point for a new work of fiction, create a character with a passion for something unconventional, and then give them a really good reason to give up that indulgence, whatever it may be. What ensues?

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

The magic of a child’s imagination

Selkie and Mermaid stories with Nicola Davies

Southbank Centre’s annual multi-arts Imagine Children’s Festival returns for its seventeenth year from 7th till 18th February 2018. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your creativity loose, with twelve days of storytelling, playing and exploring for children and their families. At its heart, this year’s programme features a specially curated Royal Festival Hall event celebrating the world’s leaders and pioneers who have changed the world, to inspire the next generation of young changemakers.

The line up of activities include Super Hero parties, magical immersive adventures and snail friendships (particularly intrigued by this!) to dancing scientists with flatulence. Elsewhere, Nicola Davies will be sharing Selkie and Mermaid stories (see the beautiful artwork above), and award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson will discuss her much-loved characters including Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker, as well as her latest novel Wave Me Goodbye.

An Afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson Credit James Jordan

An Afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson © James Jordan

Over half of the events are free, making it as inclusive as possible, with the likes of Caroline Bowditch, CBBC’s Ben Shires & Cerrie Burnell, Charlotte Cotterill, Radio 1’s Chris Smith & Greg James, Francesca Simon, Harry Hill, Jacqueline Wilson, James Campbell, Jess Thom, Joseph Coelho, Mitch Johnson, Patrick Monahan, Robin Stevens, Yuval Zommer all counted among the folks hoping to rev up kids’ imaginations.

Find out more and book tickets at the Southbank Centre website or call 0203 879 9555.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley(at)icloud(dot)com.