I have always drawn on myth in my work. In the early days, I used mythical archetypes to tell my own story – to work through and come to new understandings about myself and also what it meant to me to be a woman. Myth helped me to link the personal with the collective and to share my story in a way that might be more universally meaningful.
As my own spiritual and creative journey progress, however, I find myself looking increasingly outwards – at the world around me – in order to explore my relationship with it and to understand myself in relation to the rest of the world. (My starting point is a more fluid one that encompasses both internal and external worlds). This has changed the way I engage with storytelling and traditional narrative. The world we live in today is a more global one than the world of the early myth-makers and nothing is as contained, or absolute. In my current work, I find myself subverting traditional ideas of what stories, art, poetry, or a finished painting ought to be like.
My paintings are like painted “tapestries” – but where the characters and stories are more like a patchwork quilt – they have no clear connection, or meaning, and their only real connection is me, the artist, and my own experiences and memories. The paintings have an uncontained feel and are unfinished-looking – reflecting the fact that we can never accurately imitate “real life” in art and even in “real life” things do not stand still, do not wait to be finished, but keep moving. Life is a multiplicity of present moments that can never be captured – and the desire to contain, capture the essence of, or make sense and meaning out of the infinity of happenings in the world at any one time does not seem truthful to me.
In my paintings, I try to express this multiplicity of meanings and events in the world and the fact that it is often impossible for us to make a kind of unified sense out of them all in the way that traditional myths or even contemporary narratives may try to do. The act of creating, or extracting, meaning and unifying threads from things may feel good, but is, ultimately, a construction that threatens to take me away from truthful experience as I understand and know it. In this way, my paintings may be seen as contemporary myths – a new way of telling stories in order to understand the world around me as it is now.
In this particular painting – Silent Cacophony – I draw on a traditional myth – that of Cadair Idris – the Chair of Idris. This is a mountain in Wales where the story goes that those who dare to sleep on its slopes overnight will awake either a madman or a poet.
There is so much truth in this story – about the way that in nature we may connect with our true selves and also that, faced with nature – or life and its rawness (perhaps death) – we must either become poets, or go mad… That poetry allows us to live. But even in this one small town in a short space of time there were many other stories with very different meanings and outcomes, and this painting attempts to reflect that constant movement. Meaning never stands still and something very different is always happening somewhere – maybe just down the mountain.