Residency Ghosts

This week I wanted time at home to process what I am experiencing at the Chapel.  Due to the impracticality of transporting flat soggy large scale watercolours in a mini, I find I cannot paint in the Chapel.  It has been suggested that I leave the work to dry in situ, but with filming and other events taking place in the building, not to mention the inevitable paw prints of Target, the estate dog, that too is not an option.  So home it is.

A couple of weeks ago I sat silently in the Chapel for half an hour, listening to and absorbing the building, its history, its occupants, the conversations witnessed.  Other than meditating, the conscious mind was not aware of anything.  No ghosts, nothing.  Many years ago in Chicago, I encountered what I believe was a ghost.  I had no such feeling here.

Working with the unconscious requires a certain amount of faith in the process.  As the hotel owner in the Marigold Hotel said ‘It will be alright in the.  If it isn’t alright then it isn’t the end.’

My process requires many layers of paint, applied over many days or weeks.  I have no specific image in mind but respond intuitively to the mark making in front of me, allowing the unconscious to influence direction.  I work on 5 or 6 paintings at a time, each at various stages of development.  In this way I am neither precious nor bored, just curious, and often disappointed.  I rarely abandon, reworking until the work speaks to me or is repurposed.

During such a session this week this image appeared.


This is still a work in progress but I have titled it Conversations with Ghosts.  They were present in the Chapel all the time, I just couldn’t see them consciously!

Residency Day 15

I had planned to produce a charcoal drawing of each station, but the creative process is never a straight line.

Listening to John Tavener’s Lamentations, I started with a standard dominant hand (right) drawing.


Dissatisfied, I drew it again with my left hand.

F211B68C-2709-493A-8DBA-A3DFC7A863F0Normally the left hand produces a less controlled image, but not this time.


I was seeking a more abstracted image, but still not right.  By this time I was feeling nauseous, a combination of the air in the Chapel and kneeling on the floor looking up and down repeatedly.

Outside the air is fresh, with a faint smell of the sea, and the sun offers much needed warmth.  I reflect on the image I am trying to create.  I am reminded of the work of Edward Burra, a Rye watercolourist who died in Hastings in 1976.  I saw The Watcher, 1937, a painting about the Spanish civil war.  (I don’t seem to be able to download an image), at the Pallant House Exhibition Conscience and Conflict in 2015.  I am also reminded of the work of Kashmir Malevich, an influential Russian painter who died in 1935.

I return to the first station, inspired by those that went before.


Not perfect, but close enough for now.  I move on to the second station.

The nausea returns.  I work on, I want to ensure I am heading in the right direction.



Residency Day 14

I have been reflecting on the number 14 recently.  Fourteenth blog, (what would have been) my fourteenth wedding anniversary this week,  14 stations of the cross, as I understand the relief images that adorn the walls of the Chapel are known.

What is special about this number?  In the Bible the number has a double meaning.   It refers to the value of the name David, according to ancient Jewish numerology.  It also references the number 7, which according to ancient Jewish numerology, represents spiritual perfection. 14 would imply double that virtue.  By contrast, the Chinese consider the number unlucky, translated as ‘guaranteed death’.  In numerology it means change and transformation, but my personal favourite, from Angel meanings is that it heralds improvement.

The stations of the cross seem to be drawing me in like a magnet, not from a religious perspective, but as a foundation for exploring unexplored avenues within painting.  The subject is compelling.  Sir John Tavener wrote Lamentations, even David Bowie claimed his song, Station to Station, was based on that subject.

My thoughts are to create contemporary ‘icons’.  During my MA I became aware of a Japanese style of painting called Nihonga, using mineral paints on a surface called Washi, a strong, translucent surface made from the mulberry tree.  For the last couple of weeks I have been researching possible paints.  These are watercolours from Daniel Smith.  I am interested in the natural texture, the unpredictability.  I have selected colours to reflect the essence of the Chapel.




I will also be experimenting with gold leaf.  All new to me and very exciting.


Residency Day 13

More reflection, this time accompanied by John Tavener’s music.  This week I was determined to study the damaged Jesus sculpture in detail.

The legs have been damaged by the leaking roof, but the result is more emotional than perfect legs would be.3E2E1823-4424-42E9-86B3-C7021D6E3F1F

Charcoal on paper 65 x 50cms


Charcoal on paper 65 x 50 cms

Below, Charcoal on paper 45 x 120 cms.


Residency Day 12

Over the last couple of weeks I have been viewing the work of Bill Viola, first at the RA, where his video installations of life and death are presented alongside some exquisite Michelangelo chalk drawings, and then at St Paul’s Cathedral.  His works are particularly spiritual and I wanted to see how he approached the subject of suffering.  There is an excellent iMagine programme about his work on iPlayer.

I have also been to Dublin as part of the Ulysses reading group, and had the unexpected pleasure of some time in the National Gallery, and in particular in the Jack Yeats room.  I was aware of his work, but seeing in the flesh, I found his work emotional and very moving, particularly the later work.  One of the subjects he often painted was suffering, and I will be returning to his work to explore how he approached this subject.

I spent the first hour of my visit to the Chapel this time, considering the subject of suffering and how I could possibly create a site specific piece that would address this subject.  I would like to create something, possibly involving fabric, that evokes the suffering that Cornelia Connelly endured for her God.  The chain in the centre of the Chapel would be a perfect location.

Whilst considering the possibilities, the reflection of sunlight caught my attention.  Below are some of the beautiful images that were brought to life by the stream of light through the stain glass.

For me these images are the essence of the Chapel, the colours, the shapes, the representation of light.

Residency: Q & A

The Blue Monkey Network at the Towner in Eastbourne is a group of professional/semi professional artists who meet monthly to discuss art. I was interested to hear their experiences of undertaking a residency to understand what else I could be doing or how I could approach this opportunity from a different perspective.

Only one of the artists had relevant experience, which I found really surprising.

Judith, who runs the network, introduced me and I presented a slide show of the Chapel, to enable the group to appreciate the location. I then briefly introduced my work, from work selected for the Royal Institute, through to work I am currently producing from my Residency.

The slide show is available to view, but it wasn’t possible to record the event.

Releasing the Feminine watercolour on paper 58 x 78cms

Father, Son.. watercolour on paper 58 x 78cms

It was suggested that immersion in the building for a prolonged period, say one or two weeks, could produce a different perspective. This wouldn’t have been possible earlier in the year as the cold has prevented spells of longer than 3 hours, but as the weather improves and my diary clears this is a definite possibility.

I am mindful that the building is listed and fragile. I am conscious that I have been afforded privileged access and wish to respect this. Suggestions to paint on site, pin work to the walls, scrape off the decay, leave work around, stay overnight etc, are, for me, impractical and disrespectful to the building. Where an intervention is non-intrusive, and may lead to further revelation, such as leaving paper to absorb the salt in the atmosphere to see what happens, or introducing objects/reintroducing work into the space, is certainly a possibility.

Residency Day 10

Today my visit has two purposes. Firstly, to ensure I have effective internal and external images of the Chapel for my presentation to the Blue Monkey Network artist’s group. Then, following a meeting with Judith, who will be leading the Q & A at the Blue Monkey, I am revisiting the building through the lens of site specific work.

For this exercise I am trying to set aside my practical nature. Can’t is not an option.

During my MA I was exposed to some extraordinary artists, who were able to produce work beyond my wildest imagination. Now is the time to step into their shoes.

I ease myself in gently with thoughts of a torn watercolour descending from the leaking ceiling over Jesus’s damaged leg.

The photo shows the south West corner of the Chapel, where the damaged leg is just visible together with the damaged ceiling.

The symmetry and majesty of the arches is ever present.

I muse over the idea of a knitted sculpture of Jesus, a tangible female thread running through the work. The presence and essence of Cornelia. I am used to knitting from a pattern. I can’t imagine there are many knit your own Jesus patterns around, but, as MPs are fond of saying, all options should remain on the table.

There are a number of tapestries hanging from the columns. A possibility. Again a feminine depiction.

I spot a chain hanging from the ceiling crying out for something, anything.

I chose today to work in silence, to be completely in tune with the visual. Open to whatever catches my attention. There are repeated motifs everywhere.

Detail from one of the smaller alters.

I visualise them as paper cutouts desperate to dance in the stillness.

I find a beautiful pattern in the recess to the left of the main alter.

The ravages of time, gossamer in its delicacy.

I need time for connections to be made, ideas to bubble.

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