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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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.

Water, vapour and light

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

I met artist Ruth Ander at Peter Ford’s beautiful Off-Centre Gallery and was immediately drawn to the cool, calm quality of her work. To me they feel full of clean air and miniscule water droplets. In fact, Ruth states on her website that her work is inspired by water, vapour and light. What would be more refreshing after a days of intense family time and over indulgence? Her paintings and prints offer a chance to stand still, breath deep and feel newly alive.

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

“For me it’s an emotional kick,” Ruth says of the urge to begin a new work of art. “Landscape, nature and the sea feed my emotions and inner life, and when the light and weather conspire to create those beautiful effects I just feel I have to express that somehow. I’m lucky that I’ve found a technique whereby I’m able to express that feeling well – though it took a long time to get there! I can create very thin layers of paint that can be equivalents to light and vapour, so now if a view inspires me, I find I will start deconstructing it into how I can convey it, Not sure if that’s a good thing though!”

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

As much as this may detract from Ruth’s own enjoyment of the views she depicts, each artwork provides a moment of peace for the viewer, captured through a process Ruth describes as painted prints, or printed paintings.

“Generally, I make pictures as mono-prints, which means a one-off print, a bit of a contradiction in terms.” She explains. “Basically, I’ll roll ink out onto a flat surface, manipulate it if I want to, then lay paper over it and press onto the back to transfer the ink. It can create wonderful unexpected marks and textures, but of course the downside is that once the ink is taken off the surface onto the paper, it’s gone for good and so can’t be reproduced as a multiple.”

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Recently Ruth has had the chance to use the print facilities at Bower Ashton, one of the University of the West of England’s sites, as part of a scholarship programme. “This has been really exciting for me and allowed me to make etchings and screen prints mixed with my mono-prints to make, if not editions, multiples and variations on a theme.”

Ruth aims to reflect something universal in the scenes she recreates.

“I think light and weather are so fundamental to us as human beings that they’re bound to affect us,” she comments. “Certain landscapes in certain lights have an impact, and I don’t think I’m alone here, or I hope not anyway. Especially living on a wind and rain swept island, where the weather changes so dramatically and often.  It does seem to be a Northern European thing to use the weather as a way to express feelings.”

The opportunity to spend a day making things is deeply pleasing to Ruth.

“Absolutely nothing beats being creative and playing in the studio all day with no restrictions – time or otherwise.  Nothing at all,” she says. “It’s an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling feeling. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I’m very thankful.”

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Ruth’s work is currently stocked by Clifton Fine Art on Perry Row, Bristol and Tincleton Gallery in Dorset, as well as with Tinca Gallery in Portishead and Church House Designs in Congresbury. “Next year I’ll be opening my house for the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail and taking part in Dorset Art Weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more information.”

Find out more at ruthander.co.uk.

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.