Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Solo show in Chichester
You won't be surprised that the title of my upcoming exhibition refers to my current project (or should that be obsession?) .... Cut Paper Places.
It's on in December at the lovely little Lobby Gallery in the Oxmarket Arts Centre just off East Street in the town centre and I'm hoping to have about a dozen writer's houses hanging plus a few small monoprint collages.
There will be a local Sussex emphasis and I am hoping for a blizzard-free fortnight. My last show at this venue was blessed by a mixture of weather that ranged from beautiful winter sunshine to a near Arctic storm which hit on the day I had to pack up and take the remaining paintings up to London. The train journey took the best part of 4 hours.
Anyway, with the publicity at the Oxmarket grinding into motion, it's time to really get cracking. While my Sissinghurst tower continues to languish up at the printer, I am getting on with a house which stands at the end of East Street in Chichester itself, a stone's throw away from the gallery: Number 11, Eastgate.
A distinctly shabby-looking terraced brick building, with a jumble of ugly tacky shops below, sweet papers and discarded crisp packets littering the entrance last time I was there, hideous neon Nails and Hair signs hanging in the upper windows, this poor neglected house perhaps dreams of former days when it ushered in the beginning of the miracle that was Keats's Living Year, the incredible 12 months which started with the Eve of St Agnes and ended with To Autumn.
A plain, honest sort of building, with no pretensions to grandeur apart from the pedimented entrance which is now smothered beneath layer upon layer of paint, it belonged to the parents of the poet's friend and sometime Hampstead neighbour Charles Wentworth Dilke and during his few days stay, which took place in February 1818 shortly after the death of his brother Tom and his meeting and falling in love with Fanny Brawne, he composed the first lines of The Eve of St Agnes.
The poem was heavily influenced by what he saw about him - the medieval buildings and especially the magnificent cathedral and its stained glass.
My stained glass sky is less medieval than modern. It is a passing tribute to the cathedral's wonderful Chagall window. Only mine's blue rather than red, of course. And wouldn't have been there in 1818!
And I am trying to tidy up the building and restore it to what it may have looked like when owned by Mr and Mrs Dilke (now interred and no doubt spinning in the cathedral cloisters at the thought of a Nail Salon in their front parlour).
Still a long way to go on this one ...