Saturday, 10 September 2016

Reading, observing, drawing and writing....

I feel that I'm so lucky in being able to spend a number of weeks in quiet solitude together with my wife on the east coast. It has given me a chance to read J.A.Bakers The Peregrine, originally published in 1967 by Collins, London.

Baker writes on the first page, as he is setting the scene and introducing his works: "one part of England is superficially so much like another". That is so true when comparing the geography of the East coast of Essex, where Baker originally wrote the notes towards his book "The Peregrine" to where I am now, some 300 miles or so, north. The similarities of geography are not so much topographical, but perhaps a visceral. Coastal boundaries in England generally make you feel, feel different. The sense of loneliness, solitude and peace wash over you in harmony with the lapping of the sea. Again Baker writes "there is always a sense of loss, a feeling of being forgotten. There is nothing else here; all is, no ancient monuments, no hills like green clouds." Whilst that is true for parts of Essex, it is also true if one is to visualise the north-east coast here.

Without reading and repeating too much of Baker's book, The Peregrine, what I am beginning to take away already is that the sense of attachment that he has with the landscape. I feel the same way too, whenever I am able to cut myself off from the humdrum of the cities, and the rat race of society. We all search for this idea of utopia, this otherworldliness, where in fact we ourselves are a stranger. By wandering through the countryside and establishing an almost umbilical connection with it, it feeds our senses in a primal way and refreshes our ideas and concepts of what is important in life and what is not.
[Photo] Cherry Blossom in May, captured whilst waiting for a bus...

The time of day, the minute by minute state of the weather, but also the seasons and the changing years all have a part play in how we observe and perceive what is around us. We can only truly engage in a relationship with the deeper qualities of life, if we try to do this in solitude and isolation.

This is why this book is so important to me already.

Baker talks about life and death in an almost matter-of-fact and graphic way. However, he does not deliberate on the gory aspects through a sense of spectatorship or in response to what Guy Debord was writing at the same time in the 1960s about "The Society of the Spectacle". Far from it, Baker is merely observing, but doing so at such an extreme engagement with reality. He is able to articulate being entirely in the moment. His imagination is so tightly entwined with the subjects that he is following (in this case the 'falcon' Peregrine, i.e. the female of the species: and the 'tiercel' Peregrine, that is the smaller male of the pair). As his book progresses, and the transference of his imagination becomes so vivid, it seems that he is able to see through the eyes of the Falcon and Tiercel. The view of the rolling countryside and sea is articulated as though he is observing it from 300 feet, he is able to negotiate the twists and turns, the trees and rocks and obstacles with such perfect prose.

When I look towards writing about art and my own achievements, I do hope that some of the poeticism and a gravitas of the language that Baker so easily dances with, will come out and be unveiled not only in my commentary but also the physical objects, drawings and paintings that I make.

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