Geographies of paintings done and redone. Having walked the long-mediated underground from the Metro station into the glammy Zorlu centre, arriving in Mamon, announced as it is, 250 m then 150m, then 100 only; a grey airless tunnel and I try to remain jolly, focussing on my fellow commuters who with winter’s wet arrival have begun the retreat into their black coats. I randomly open Ruskin while standing in a bookstore. He writes of how iron-oxide is such an important aspect of the land and its countenance, its days and its nights, its light and its shade. I am reminded as I read of these half tones and semiquavers, of roofs and rosy hues of evening hills in Ireland the summer before last, and the in between colours of some of the small paintings I did afterwards. But in July, on the other side of the world, the Karoo on a winter morning throws off the colour of bruised fruit. The varnished-gold sky has traces of rich indigo, pathways of the night. That winter’s day dark olive green shadows bake into the earth, russet and grey. And then wanting to write something on the recent visit to South Africa and the returning to Istanbul, I found suspended in my drafts here another piece on returning from Ireland written a year ago. So here it is, together with the paintings.
Red Road Home 2013
Returned now to Istanbul after some weeks in Ireland, immersing oneself in so different a climate and culture. What remains and how does one speak, write or paint of landscapes that unfurl between land and sky, dropping slow colour across earth and water, running like ink into roads and fields? I return with a wad of drawings stiff with pastels, water colour, crayon, splats of slate grey, teal blue, all the greens. And remembering standing in shallow rock pools looking across a long blonde beach towards the green fields, suddenly electric and moving so that emerging later from a swim in its waters I was compelled to draw, fingers trailing across the sand, long lines of hillside suddenly pitching against a farmstead roof, archaic in simplicity. Attaining sacredness as shapes of barn and house, triangle or rhombus, symbols of human habitation, peaceable and pieced, quietly into the landscape.
But elsewhere churches sharpen their spires upward appearing dark and godless against such a wriggle of field and a roar from the wild sea close-by, deceptive in its apparent emerald blue tranquility. And what of women, the names that are writ in water from my ancestors as they boarded ships from Ireland? What bleak lives, what wrenches, what conflicted existences drove them into perilous journeys to distant shores of England, South Africa, New Zealand? Was it just a sense of adventure, or flailing for a different truth to what was presented in the church homily? Or was it a fall from or against theır positions of lifetime subservience? Reading in the papers of the Magdalene laundries, and discovering Edna O’Brien who bought the pink house down the road from where we stay, and how she was hounded for her lifestyle and her books, for an artist one and the same, in the way of breathing and seeing… and all this must now find its way into the paintings.
Now, in a morning reverie, I take a bus towards my studio, and there is a mist that obscures and a mist that reveals. Is this a kind of limbo that I find myself in now, returning to Istanbul and the Bosphoros, even after anointing myself again in her waters, eating salty fried food close to her shore. What am I to paint?