Good Fortune

We are all hostages to fortune, but sometimes coincidences, opportunities, chance encounters, or well-timed propitious events come along to energise and enthuse and offer a promise of something good. Such a situation arose for me recently and I feel creative and excited for whatever this good fortune may reveal. Of course there is the “why did I not do this earlier?” cry, but in fact my stars were not aligned, my ducks were not swimming in a row, the gods were not smiling or my Muse was not feeling benevolent, so now all is well and thus begins new adventures with intersilient. My musings on this were sparked by the most amazing gift from a talented ceramicist, Jenny Chan, whose life has taken off in wonderful and brilliant ways in the past year. In my hand she placed a ceramic version of a Good Fortune Cookie, which will last forever as a reminder of the way life can unexpectedly turn for the good.

She is generously sharing her excitement, and although it will require a great change for her in moving to another part of the country, it is the gift of a new beginning. I have admired Jenny’s dedication and determination to gain recognition for her ceramics with her beautiful range of Divas, plaques and her humourous and satirical An Apple A Day series that touch people to the core. Jenny is embarking on a new direction in Sheffield to join the Starter Studio at Yorkshire Artspace after recently completing the Crafts Council’s Hothouse programme. May Good Fortune follow you Jenny.

When considering how to start this blog the opportunity to write about the artists Anthony Frost and Sir Terry Frost seemed like an omen. (see previous blogpost) Having written my Art History MA dissertation on the portfolio Eleven Poems by Federico García Lorca Illustrated with Eleven Etchings by Terry Frost 1989, the opportunity to review Anthony Frost’s Analogue Sounds together with Terry Frost’s work at the Zimmer Stewart Gallery in Arundel as the first blogpost seemed providential. Researching for the dissertation had brought me together with the Frost family, who are the most generous and warm people whom I now consider to be my friends.

Even my encounter with Terry Frost’s work was auspicious as it was through researching the poet W.H. Auden for my English degree that I came across Terry Frost’s response to an Auden poem in the painting Madrigal 1949 in his home town Leamington Spa, in the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.

Madrigal is essentially an abstract work, however, a narrative supplied by the poem travels through the image, where a coal miner is finishing work and returning home. Terry was enthusiastic about the poetic link with his wife Kath, also known as Kate by her family, and the progress of the miner from underground to the surface. Terry said ‘I pushed in the warmth when he came up from the mine to meet Kate. It was pretty obvious he wasn’t coming out of the bloody mine for a cup of tea’. ¹

O lurcher-loving collier, black as night,
Follow your love across the smokeless hill;
Your lamp is out, the cages are all still;
Course for heart and do not miss,
For Sunday soon is past and, Kate, fly not so fast,
For Monday comes when none may kiss:
Be marble to his soot, and to his black be white.

Madrigal from Twelve Songs by W H Auden

The ground is thickly painted with sombre colours rising up to the centre pennant of white and beyond is the impression of a skyline and slag heaps surrounding the mine. W.H. Auden, had written the poem, albeit un-credited, for a film production Coal Face 1935 edited by William Coldstream for the General Post Office Film Unit, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti with music by Benjamin Britten. Catch this historic film clip about 11 minutes in from the start and you’ll find the words of the poem sung!

Madrigal was Terry Frost’s first abstract work of note and cemented the transition from figuration to abstraction.  After displaying it on loan from the artist in the 1996 exhibition Terry Frost: an exhibition of paintings, prints and designs, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, now own this seminal work.

A contemporary Leamington artist, Bryan B. Kelly asked me recently if I would be interested in promoting his art and advising him on the future. I had been working with Bryan on an informal basis with his website, social media, and curating his exhibition The Red House at Floor One, Rugby Art Gallery & Museum in December 2018, so was delighted at his suggestion. It was just the push I needed to strike out for myself and include Bryan on the journey. Bryan’s out of the blue suggestion was the galvanising force and was certainly fortuitous timing.

This suggestion followed a wonderful experience working with a group of community volunteers putting together an exhibition Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ based on the poem “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot in collaboration with the Mead at Warwick Arts Centre where I work, and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry. As part of this I instigated an Open Competition with Leamington Studio Artists, Response to “The Waste Land” and curated the resulting exhibition at East Lodge, the LSA gallery space. Like Jenny Chan I have a debt to LSA and enjoy writing for their journal, volunteering in the gallery and keeping up with art both locally, nationally and maybe internationally. Everything seems to be coming together and may remain so with Good Fortune!

¹Chris Stephens, Terry Frost, (London: Tate Publishing Ltd, 2004), p. 17.

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