Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winifred Nicholson



My recent reading of Kathleen Raine's biography reminded me of her friend, Winifred Nicholson, with whom she would visit their beloved Scotland: one to write, one to paint, as here.

This painting manges to unfold many of her recurring themes - a landscape seen from the portal of door or eye of window; a simple jar or pot of wild flowers iridescent with singing colour and a humorous look at an aspect of the animal kingdom: here the 'cheeky chicks' who give the painting its name.

Nicholson was a Christian Scientist and her works radiates a sense of the goodness of creation: everything is a part of an abiding wholeness. Her delight in colour and exploration of prisms, light breaking in differentiation yet unified, is symptomatic of her seeing multiplicity in unity.

I will always remember her retrospective at the Tate Gallery. You stepped into a gallery infused by colour - exploring its many facets woven within the particularities of the world - it was a prayerful celebration of giftedness, that everything is made in the divine image.

Kathleen too came to the world as divine gift - even if the vision was not always as present - she was more aware that Winifred that such seeing was imperilled by ways of thought turned materialistic, that drained that material of spiritual life. Her's was not a simple abiding faith, more intellectual conviction buoyed by evidences.

The Wilderness

I came too late to the hills: they were swept bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech with power of oracle or invocation,

The great ash long dead by a roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed away.

A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor
Crying out after those great presences who were not there,
Long lost in the forgetfulness of the forgotten.

Only the archaic forms themselves could tell!
In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in air,
Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark pool.

Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain.
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.


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