This year we moved house and studios, so most of our paintings and prints have been wrapped up and stored away for months. We’ve gradually been sorting them out again as we’ve made new studio spaces and opened our new town-centre studio/gallery in Worthing. It’s been an interesting experience to see older work again. I’d expected to feel pleased to meet familiar friends again, but I often found myself revisiting ideas behind the work, subjects and themes that are still current for me. One example is this etching, based on the Merry Maidens stone circle near to Lamorna in Cornwall. The story is of local girls who were on the moors here on a Sunday and they heard pipers playing, so danced to the tunes and were turned into stone! I’ve been attracted to this circle for a long time and visit it most years, usually in winter and when it’s freezing, but often bright. The circle has a special atmosphere on these moors, with distant views and nearby pipers also turned to stone. I’ve made many drawings, sometimes struggling in wind and rain, which have led to making prints and paintings whenever I found more to explore in the ideas.
When I unwrapped this painting I’d made some years ago, I remembered that I had always felt not quite right about it. I thought the pink and yellow too ice-creamy and the ovals not working at all as a suggestion of mushroom circles. I wanted to connect the images of dancing maidens to the stones more directly and build in more of a feeling of the contrast of movement and stone. I reworked it using layering over the original painting, an approach that I wouldn’t have tried at that time. I found that my more recent approach of building up images in layers and adding fragments of imagery in the layers gave me a new way to consider this subject and offers the viewer more opportunities to engage and interpret.
After a recent visit to Cornwall in November, I feel reconnected with these ideas, so I’m starting a new woodcut. I’m doing this in the studio/gallery and will still be working on it on Saturday and probably next week. I’m not sure at the moment where this first plate will take me – I might make second or third plates to print over or under it or make layers in other ways. I might find that I want to cut the plate up to use the elements separately – I don’t know yet and I don’t know when I will know. This is a lovely stage to be at in a project, because the development of the work will show me directions to take and it will develop as we negotiate with each other.
They say Henry Moore only had one idea – to knock a hole through a piece of stone. He then kept revisiting and reworking.