To remember Graham’s Birthday date today, I’m sharing this painting from my private collection: “Midsummer”.
A Tuesday’s child, Graham was, indeed, “full of grace” – a quality that is exhibited in this dynamic flowing picture. The figure is elemental, dark skinned, dynamically positioned centre stage, with limbs energetically akimbo. The painting seems to embody the elements – the air of moving clouds, the fiery dress, the earth echoing the links of the figure, and the flowing water which the woman has dipped her left foot in. There’s the feeling of the woman emerging from the river, perhaps about to stand up too. As the figure holds herself firmly on the earth with her left arm, she lifts her right hand up to the sky, throwing her head back, and casting her vision upwards. Perhaps, slightly tree-like, she represents the need to have strong roots in the earth, whilst at the same time, reaching up to heaven for inspiration. There’s a sense too of her waving to the world, a wave of joy, of welcome. She has become the embodiment of the earth. And yet, her southern skin belies a more northerly landscape – perhaps coniferous forests on the hills, a temperate weather system, rather than a hot continental one. Midsummer is the peak of growth, the highest point of the sun in the sky: perhaps this figure is at the peak of life, with a sense of expectant possibility as if new life is about to emerge. The colours in the original are soft, subtle, muted, and employ gentle complementary colours : burnt orange against the light green blue of the cloth, a bluey-lavender tinge in the sky with complements the yellow colours of the ground. Line and colour together create the energy in the piece.
The picture incidentally also reminds me of a story which our mother has recounted. When she was pregnant (with me), Dad was working as a Forester on the coniferous hillside across from the rather remote youth hostel in the scottish borders that they lived in. To let Graham know that she was going into labour, and needed assistance, Mum was to hang out a large (red) towel from the window, so that Dad could see it when he was working amongst the trees. I wonder whether that memory is subliminally present in this picture? The figure is calling out, there is a forest on the hill in the background, there’s a cloth (albeit green) spread on the ground, and the woman’s posture could be seen to be reminiscent of giving birth.
(In the event, Elizabeth went into labour when Graham was not out working, but as there was no time for help to arrive, he was treated to a crash course in midwifery. In doing so, he managed to save me from losing oxygen by deftly removing the cord from round my neck that was resulting in a rapidly bluish looking child!)
My thanks and love to Graham, on this, the 83rd anniversary of his birth, for life, and for his painting.