Night Garden

Night Garden

Every trip to Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, opens my eyes to more beauty. Yesterday, I brought back this painting, Night Garden, and placed it on the wall by the garage door so I would see it regularly when entering and leaving the house. Alas, I caught the reflection from the window in the photo, but the night flowers and their colouring make up for any lapses in my amateur photography.

The painting is neither signed nor dated, so this night artist will have to remain anonymous for now. My friend Geoff Slater framed the painting but my photo does not do justice to the beauty and skill of the frame. My apologies. Alas, I must live with my inadequacies, but at least I am aware of them!

I spent a wonderful day in Kingbrae / KIRA, incidentally, chatting over a glass of wine with some exceptional local visual artists who are spending four weeks (June and July) in day residencies and working out of the artists’ studios at KIRA. Geoff Slater, the Director of Art at KIRA, led the conversations and I joined in, as did Alana, Ann, Simone, Stephanie, and Simone’s visiting friend, Renate. When artists gather at KIRA to discuss their art, the conversation is wide ranging and varies from the intensely personal to universal theories of creativity. Visiting KIRA is an experience like no other and one that I delight in every time I visit.

An Angel at Jarea

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An Angel at Jarea

An angel moves through the room
in the silences between our chatter.
He fills the interstices of speech
with the wonder of feathers
enlightened by rainbows.

Tranquil his footsteps
as we sense his presence.
He places his hand on an arm,
his arm around our shoulders,
and now, commanding silence,
a finger on his lips.

We sit here
scared by our intimate inadequacies,
scarred by the fierceness of our thoughts
as we sense the vacuum
of his soon-to-be absence.

Comment: The video reading of my poem follows. Ruby Allan, one of the five artists invited to participate in the first cohort at KIRA (2017) would always say, when a silence fell on the group, that ‘an angel is moving through the room’. This poem is dedicated to her, and to my friend, Geoff Slater, whose house and gallery we were visiting when the happenings depicted in this poem took place in June, 2017. Several years ago now, but I remember it like yesterday: a magic moment that I have tried to preserve in words. I could never have captured these moments in my verbal snapshots without the assistance of my friends. Thank you all so much.

 

KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat

 

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KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat

The 2019 KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat will take place from October 6-12 at KIRA (picture and details below) just outside Kingsbrae Gardens in the beautiful New Brunswick town of St. Andrews. More information is available from kira@kingsbraegarden.com 

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The KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat, aka The Art of Writing, is unique in that it concentrates on Creativity: how we channel it, how we express it, and how it changes us. Geoff Slater (artist and line painter) and Roger Moore (award winning teacher, poet, and short story writer) concentrate on different forms of creativity with, in addition to the free time at the retreat, workshops on drawing and painting (Geoff) and poetry and prose (Roger). The morning talks and the evening readings allow each individual to explore themselves and their creativity in a unique setting.

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Attendance is limited to five residents. This allows us to offer one on one time with each of the instructors if and when it is needed.

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Holly Hobby Hocks

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Holly Hocks

So, I go to St. Andrews for one day to see Angelica, Geoff, Gwynn, Heather, Kalina, Karen, Lucinda, Mitchell, Pierre, and William, and look what happens to my hollyhocks while I am at KIRA. I guess it has something to do with the proximity of the Kingsbrae Garden: my hollyhocks got jealous and wanted me back.

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They were all so pleased to see me. Radiant and smiling, laughter all over their little faces. Little? Hey, they are growing every day, from saucers to side or sandwich plates and all too soon they will be as large as dinner plates.

Hopefully, they will last. My beloved says these hot summer days will quickly diminish them. I hope not. Alas, the foxgloves have gone already. Heavy raindrops battered their flowers and away they went. No winter gloves now for the little foxes. They will have cold paws.

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The sunflower buttons are awaiting their day in the sun. Prepping, not preening, they will soon unfold and follow the sun’s circuit with their faces. We certainly hope so. Meanwhile, consider the hollyhocks, they neither spin, nor do they weave, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

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Gardens

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Commentary:

How can I write about gardens without beginning with my own garden? Last year’s single stem hollyhock has this year turned into a hollyhock ‘bush’ with ten separate flowering stalks. Yesterday, only one flower adorned the plant, today some seven to ten blossoms have appeared. I am amazed by the presence of so much beauty. Never before have hollyhocks graced our garden. Now I can do nothing but give thanks.

But there are other gardens. Kingsbrae Gardens for example have been mentioned  on this blog before, and I have written a book about them. Many of you will have seen the video we made. If not, the video One Small Corner can be seen by clicking on the link, as can the gardens and the book.

That said, welcome to another set of gardens. Click on the link, and you will be able to discover them and visit them for yourself. Come along, play the game. You know you want to!

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KIRA

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Commentary:

This is the new advertisement for the KIRA (Kingsbrae International Resdencies for Artists) Fall Session (October 6/12, 2019). Geoff Slater and I will be again facilitating a week of creative workshops, including drawing and painting (Geoff) and writing (Roger, both poetry and prose). These will take place in the KIRA Residence, just beside Kingsbrae Gardens. Residential enrollment is limited to five people. Just send us an e-mail if you are interested in attending this workshop. If you click on the KIRA link in the first line (above), be sure to watch the opening video. Pictures speak louder than words and the video will help you to understand what Creativity at KIRA is all about.

 

 

Vision

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Vision

Vision
appears from nowhere
holds you in its hands
molds you like putty
play dough or plasticine
till you bend to its will

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is it a conundrum
like chicken or egg
the final product
laid out in all its details
or is it a process
step by step along the way
sometimes even the artist
cannot really say
yet shaping happens

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maybe it happens each day
in a different way
a power descending
an angel entering
a vacant mind as if it were
an empty room
Lorca’s duende
alive and well
and living in St. Andrews

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Comment: The above verses express, in part, a conversation on the origins of inspiration and vision held around the dinner table at the KIRA residence in St. Andrews on 9 June 2019. Those who participated in the dinner discussion … de sobremesa, as they say in Spain, over the table top … included (clockwise round the table) Chuck, Masha, Heather, Susan, Geoff, Andrea, Roger, Evelyn, Perri, Faye, and Mel. If I have forgotten anyone, or placed them in the wrong seating order, please forgive me. I am growing old and my memory is not what it was. However, the arrival of inspiration, how we greet the artistic vision, what it means to each of us, whether it arrives in totality or in fragments, glimpses or a full vision, this varies for each one of us. More on this tomorrow when I write about Lorca’s duende, the dark earth power that takes over performance artists when they perform, filling them with fire and fury, then leaving them empty, drained of all essence, ripe for the old rag-and-bone man and his cart. The paintings, incidentally, are by my line-painting friend, Geoff Slater, who is also a muralist, indoor and out, and the photos are courtesy of Mary Jones, the much-beloved former Executive Secretary at KIRA.

Fisher King

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King-Fisher-King

King-fisher, wounded wing, Fisher-King
ruling a shallow lake, water-logged,
beaver-gnawed trees, trunks and branches

rotting under water, green growth bearded
upon them, lily-padded the pond,
transformed year after year, to meadows, silt

gathering, filling in smaller channels,
only the mainstream flickers, flows beneath
freckled sunshine. Change hides in plain sight.

All things wither, perish. Cherish this changing,
these modified moods, sun and cloud, the land
recovering, coming back to fertility.

Swift the flight of the swallow’s low dip,
mottled the osprey, aloft in her nest.
King-fisher flying, return of the King.

Early Bird

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This is the first painting I ever did on canvas. Kingsbrae held their painting session for children in June 2017, and I joined in with the five and six year olds. It was such wonderful fun. They slapped the paint onto the canvas with unbounded joy. It was hard not to be joyful with them. Many of them expressed curiosity about my painting: “What is it?” then later “What are they saying to each other?” The conversation between bird and worm (or whatever it is) was of incredible importance to them. I thought of it as my “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet” moment. Now that’s confidence for you.

My strange accent, slowly developing as mid-Atlantic Welsh, with a touch of West Country English and a dab of Upper Canadian and a touch of New Brunswick also fascinated them. “Where are you from?” “Fredericton.” “No. Where are you really from?” “Island View, New Brunswick.” “No. Where were you from before that?” The questions continued until they had ascertained that indeed, I was not a Canadian, a real Canadian, even though I was in Toronto in 1967 to see the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. 1967: that’s 51 years ago, and I still support the Maple Leafs and I still have my strange overseas accent. “You’re weird,” they told me. “I’ve been in Canada a lot longer than you,” I told them. “Where did you grow up?” They asked. I silenced them with my answer: “I don’t think I have yet.”

Happy paint-splashers, we dabbed on and on in alternating mirth and silence. Some left the table and walked away. Geoff collected our paintings and left them to dry. Later that day, we hung this painting on the wall in the KIRA dining room. It sat there for several days and nobody noticed it. Alas, a hawk-eyed young lady finally spotted it the first night she came over for dinner and “What is that?” she asked, pointing at my painting. Bold and italics combined cannot reproduce the scorn and disdain rolled up in the single word: that. I remember the butler in a country house in Somerset removing with a pair of tongs the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker from the weekend newspapers left on the doorstep. He, too, was very disdainful.

I also remember the tone of an Old Etonian, well he said he was an Old Etonian and had a rasping, high-pitched nasality that made him sound the part. This jolly goof fellow summed me up at a dinner party one night in Toronto when I first came to Canada: “Oh, you’re Welsh.” The grate of his voice was the scrape of a stick removing a dog turd from a shoe. “No,” I said. “Irish, actually.” I used my broadest Welsh accent. “My family is Irish Catholic not Capel Cymraig / Welsh Chapel. Moore is an Irish name. Llewellyn ad Jones are Welsh names. I am not called Llewellyn or Jones.”

And this reminds me of my father, standing in the elevator in a posh hotel in Bordeaux, when three Irishmen walked in. They scanned him for a moment, and then one said, in the broadest of Southern Irish brogues: “T’is the map of Ireland written all over your face.” “Yes,” says my father in his thick, Welsh accent, “I am Irish. But I was born in England.” And that brings me back to my painting. Is it the early bird that catches the worm or the late worm that gets caught by the bird? And which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Ah, the beauty of children. They accept, often without judgement and often without speculation and I love their readiness to befriend the growing child within the old man as he ages. They may not hold doctorates in philosophy, but by golly they are true philosophers in their finest moments. And then of course, they go to school to learn how to behave … and may the good Lord have mercy on them.

The Painting Lesson

The Painting Lesson
KIRA 

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Geoff is teaching the participants in the creative retreat how to paint a cone flower. He plucked several on the way to the workshop and placed a couple in a cup of water so we could study them in close up. Mine are on the table just to my left hand. The golf cart outside is the main means of transport when it is time to move me from place to place. It’s so much easier to sit in comfort rather than to pick my way carefully over slightly uneven grass. Geoff has shown me how to paint the background to my flower. Alas, my background is nothing like his background. I often wonder if this is because I went to school in England, while he went to school in Canada. Certainly our backgrounds are very different. Geoff took the Golf Cart keys from Mad Max. Hence the drive over to Studio #1, where I wrote for a month in June 2017 was very smooth. Mad Max is very kind and gentle. Until he gets behind the wheel of a golf cart. Then he earns his nick-name: Mad Max. My plastic chair is about to collapse and land me on the floor. But I don’t yet know that. It will happen about three minutes after this photo was taken, but the camera had gone by then. Fortunately. Or the next picture would show my rear end raised into the air in all its glory with my little legs kicking.

 

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This next photo shows my painting with my lovely cone flower painted in. My cone flower does not resemble Geoff’s cone flower, nor does it look like the real thing that sits on the desk in front of me. I hope you can see my  cone flower in the painting, but if you can’t, don’t worry. My best advice is search for something that doesn’t look like a cone flower and you will find mine. We are not sure what happens when I paint. Whereas all the obedient students have only one large realistic flower in their painting, my painting sprouts flowers as if by magic. They just appear, like dandelions. They are everywhere and in all colors. It’s quite the bouquet, really, though that is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be a cone flower. Geoff says I have a unique and powerful style of my own. I think this is instructor-speak for “Roger, you can’t paint for love or money and, as a painter, you are as dumb and stubborn and inflexible as a knot in a lump of wood, but shucks, I’m not a negative person, so I’ll call your messy message unique.” Thanks, Geoff. It’s nice to be unique. Much better than being an abject failure. When Clare saw my painting, she thought my eye-sight was going, so she made an appointment for me to see the optician, or whatever he’s called, next week. Or the week after. I couldn’t make out the date. Her hand-writing is so blurred. Maybe her hand-writing is unique, too. Either that or she also needs an eye-appointment.

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This is the final product. Geoff says it is very strong and demonstrates the strength of my personality. I think it looks like a cross between a Tangled Garden, a nightmare bristling on the facade of one of Monet’s Cathedrals, a Van Gogh flowery sky, and a walk in the park with Picasso when he was trying to relearn how to paint as a very young child would paint. The other participants say they like the energy of my brush strokes. Brush strokes, a lovely idea. I hold the brush like a carving knife and, pretending the canvas is a lump of recalcitrant cheddar cheese or a fierce Shropshire Blue, I attack it with my bristle sword, hacking it into colorful lumps that can be whatever the viewer thinks they might be. Speaking of cheese, this painting is the sort of dream that comes in the night to haunt me when I have eaten too much cheese. The slashing of the nightmare with the paintbrush sword brings a moment of release and a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation when canvas and cheese are cheerfully hacked and the contents of their souls released into a heaven-haven of paint. Ah soul: I think you can see one or two souls flitting through my tangled garden. I’ll tell you a secret, though: I don’t know how they got there. I thought I was painting butterflies at the time.