Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sadness and The Wolf Bride




Over the first weekend in November, I performed The Wolf Bride on three consecutive nights, during our Brave New Works #25 Festival.  It was nerve wracking, and marvellous, in equal measures.  I know I've done it before, but not quite like this, and not with an art exhibition to go with it.  Possibly trying to wear too many hats, I think, I'm glad I did it all, but I'm not sure I'd do it all again.

But the audiences were wonderful, and my tale seems to touch a nerve every time I tell it, as I not only had previous audience members back to see and hear again, but the comments from people seeing the performance for the first time told me how much this story resonates.  Something is coming through in this tale that touches people deeply, I keep hearing the same phrases over and over again, "you touched my heart..", "...you touched something deep inside me...", "I remembered my own wildness listening to your story..."  Audience members came up and clutched my hand to thank me...I even made blokes cry (not an easy thing in Australia!)  I can't take credit for all this, I think I've only managed to distill something that is coming through me, rather than of me, an old tale that we need to retell again.

I put my little books and prints out on display, and lots of people went home with them as well, I hope they enjoy the broadening of the story that the Wolf Poems bring.

And I found out a few days ago that one of the big paintings on display, the Cailleach Dancing, has bewitched one audience member so much that she has decided the Sharp Old Woman has to come home with her.  I do love it when a painting finds its owner, it whispers a story that they recognise, and they know it belongs to them.

Here are a few pics of the exhibition, and the performances.


More little booklets.  I'm a bit obsessed with books.






Decided to put all the Talesingr's Children into one little book.  I think it's about time for some more stories too.




A set/exhibition design in my Visual Journal.  In the end many of these ideas had to be abandoned simply because...well, sometimes, simple is best.  But, maybe they'll get used for something else one day!


And more thoughts on a simple 'travelling' set idea.


The final page in the Visual Journal.  The final version of 'This is Not a Wolf Poem'.



The Exhibition set up.






Set up for performance.


Yours truly!





And below, a sampler of this year's Brave New Works Festival, filmed by Michael Hemmings.  You can find a little snippet of me just past the 2 minute mark, but it's worth watching the rest.  Quite a show this little town puts on!



*      *      *

But sadness followed a wonderful weekend.  On Wednesday last week, I heard the news that a dear friend had passed away, in Scotland, where she has lived for the last twenty years.  And it dawned on me that SHE was the wild spirit I knew who really did, "disappear outdoors in all weathers and at all hours, because the first snow must be danced in barefoot..." just as my Wolf Bride did.  I didn't realise how much she had influenced my story, and now I will never be able to tell her, and she will never hear it.  Sophia would swim pretty much anywhere she could find water deep enough, no matter what the weather.  She danced barefoot on beaches and paddocks and moors and the machair, and she sang.  She sang anywhere and everywhere there was someone to listen, in folk clubs and pubs, at Celtic Connections and other festivals many times over the years. She was the person who talked me into joining the Gaelic choir she co-founded, way back in 1996 when we met and bonded over W.B. Yeats at uni.  I doubt if I'd be singing in public at all if it wasn't for her.  It is surreal to lose someone you've known for so long, who has been living a long way away for so long...it is as if she is still 'over there', and I can't quite get my head around the idea that she won't be turning up to stay a few days and drink whiskey and talk and sing long into the night.  Here she is, singing with Skeeal, a Manx group she sang with a few years ago.  She had the most glorious, deep, earthy beautiful voice, but could reach soaring heights too.  I still can't believe she's gone.  






Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Song Paintings


As is usual for me, when I'm really getting down to the pointy end of the project and time is running short, I get ideas that I just don't have time for, but they get me motivated and focussed when I'm feeling rather headless-chookish...so I do them anyway.

On Sunday, I had an image in my head of a small canvas with wolf's eyes and ears peering back at me.  With some text, of course, because I'm obsessed with text and words and language.  So now I've done three canvases, which is great, because I do love a 'set', and my work is so eclectic that I get quite irrationally excited when I can maintain an idea/style/media/genre for more than one item!

I came down with a dreaded 'lergie' on Sunday last week, and it rather knocked me for six for a few days and I didn't do ANYTHING Wolf Bride related, except lie in bed feeling glum and thinking of all the things I SHOULD be doing.  But sometimes it's also the universe telling you that you need to slow down and stop stressing.  So I came up with a few new, but simple, ideas, and also decided on a simpler set design, because I was definitely worrying about whether it would all work, and worrying that I wouldn't know until I set it up on the day.  I also have a new section of narrative that rounds the whole story out better, and a new song, so I'd better get cracking learning those.

Here are two of the new paintings (or rather, drawings on canvas), I'll post a pic of the third one when I've taken a decent photo of it.

Back to the coal face!







Saturday, September 29, 2018

Four Weeks to go!


My brain is in danger of suffering overload at the moment.  As much as I know how good a deadline is for me (because I can happily waffle on with any project ad infinitum), I'm feeling a bit all-over-the-shop right now.  It's because The Wolf Bride project is a thing of many parts, and although Chaos and Procrastination are my middle names, what I'm finding a bit of a challenge, is the lack of a space to spread everything out so I can SEE all the parts at once.  The way I like to work is a kind of orderly chaos, with all the separate parts out and visible, so that I can move between them all and work on whichever takes my fancy at the moment.  So I'd like to be constantly moving between writing poems sitting in this spot, picking up the guitar and playing there, scribbling ideas in my journal at my desk, hanging up sheets in this corner to try out some idea I've just scribbled about in my journal, turning a poem I've just written into a song, painting something large on the easel, going back to my journal...and so on.  But, I live in a shed.  With three other people and a large hairy dog.  And my desk has got art/writing/research stuff all over it...and so has the table I squeezed into the tiny corner I call my studio, so I've spilled over onto the dining table (which is right next to the work table), and I can only do one thing at a time...which is really hard for me because I'm just not that organised that I can schedule, "Right, I'm going to spend this morning writing poems, this afternoon, I'll practice the songs.  On Monday, I'll work on paintings, and I'll spend Tuesday on set ideas."  My brain just does NOT work like that!  Oh, for a studio!  One day!

Anyway, here are some things I've been working on and playing with.  I've also got a new song in the works, and a chunk of new story narrative.  Hmmm, hope I have enough time to learn it all!  Eeek!



I spent most of yesterday wresting with computer and printer (how do they always know you're in a hurry and somewhat stressed?!) to print out some 'Wolf Poem' booklets.  A day and a half and I've got 12 finished!






A rough sketch idea for a third large painting (which I may not have time to do!).  I'm not sure if I like the idea now.


Here is my performance space, in the lovely old Butter Factory Gallery.  The Butter Factory artists are such lovely people, but it is a very dangerous space for me, because I LOVE their work and have found myself buying things that I really can't afford, and have no place to put either!

Goodies in the post!


Just a quick post about some of the lovely things that have turned up in my PO box recently.  We don't have a mail box, we live too far out of town for the Postie, so Hubby brings home parcels every morning after work.  Quite often, they're bike bits (hmmm, ANOTHER package of mysterious bolts and washers and things completely unknown to me!).  But sometimes, they're for me!


Delicious things from Hedgespoken.  I can't help myself, I've followed Rima's blog and loved her stunning work for close to 10 years now, and my first hearing of 'Sometimes a Wild God' a few years ago got me completely hooked on Tom's magical poetry.







I've also been a fan of Karen Davies' work, and her lovely blog, for years too.  I've been coveting her beautiful hare hangers for so long.  But I can't quite afford one at the moment, and time zones being what they are, I'm never awake when she lists new ones and they're always gone by the time I next check.  So I bought a set of hare post cards instead, and a couple of lovely notebooks.  





Serenity Press, a local (well, Perth based) publishing company produced this lovely book by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington.  My favourite story (probably no surprises here) is 'The Singing, Springing Lark', another Beauty and the Beast tale.



I will get on shortly, and post an update on where I am with 'The Wolf Bride'.  I'm starting to get panicky!  I've realised that essentially I have 4 weeks before I have to be ready, and I've got soooooo much still to do!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

This is not a Wolf Poem...


Last week, I went along to a local writing group meeting, catching up with old friends and meeting some new.  I brought some 'wolf poems' along to read, but then wasn't sure if they would make sense to anyone who hadn't seen 'The Wolf Bride' and I didn't want to spend ten minutes explaining.  So I pulled another poem out, nothing to do with wolves at all, and said, "I'll read this one, this is not a wolf poem."  And another wonderful writer present, Renee Pettit-Schipp, thought that was the title!  And we had a chuckle, and Renee said she still wanted to hear the poem called "This Is Not a Wolf Poem", because it was a great title.  So it's been on my mind the last few days, and early yesterday morning (about 2:30am, as it usual!), words started to come.  Of course, it IS a wolf poem.  This time it's the girl speaking...oh dear, is that now going to be the next part...it never ends!  It's still not quite there yet, but I like where it's going.


This is Not a Wolf Poem

This is not a wolf poem.
For there are no words that I can bring to heel
To make you hear
The pulsing of his heart
Beneath my ear 
As we lie skin to skin.

I have no spelling skill
To fetch the smell of him,
Mouth bloodied with a winter kill
Each hair on his back frost-kissed in white
Breath hanging in cloud
Each silent footfall
Falling soft,
Into this small closed space
As you sit
Book balanced on knee, half-empty
Cup at your side.

I have no consummate tricks of the tongue
That you might lie back
And rest your head upon
His warm and gently undulating flank,
As eyes and thoughts drift lazily up
To seek blue nothingness between
New green-gold leaves in Spring.

This is not a wolf poem.
For I can no more easily conjure him,
Captured and pinned
To white page with sharp, black marks,
Than I can sing an ocean
In a line of wet, blue ink.

© Christina Cairns 2018



There are a few lines I'm still not happy with, so more tinkering will ensue.

There are also new pictures and experiments, but time is flying on fast and I've got to get everything sorted because I've got less than a month and a half before this happens!  And I'm squeezing in a new song and a new bit of story, so I have to learn that off by heart as well.


I took the drawing I posted last time, and turned it into a pen and ink painting.



Then I thought it might be an interesting experiment to add the text of the poem to it.


Then I thought this might be a nice style to use for illustrations for a little 'Wolf Poems' book.  I made a book a few months ago, in a very different style with only one illustration, but I don't think that style sat well with the rest of the 'project'.  I think this works better.  Just need to do a whole bunch more now!


Some poem editing, and drawing ideas.  I think quite a few of the Wolf Poems need to be edited and reworked before I make the book.


Another illustration...without text.



And with text.


Playing with paper stock ideas.  I think a heavy off-white will suit best, somewhere between the top two.


Simple, very rough, set ideas.  But I don't know if this will work, and I'm not sure where/how much space I will have in the venue yet, so all a bit up in the air at the moment.


Thought it might be interesting to show the paper cut-out, without the light, to show how it's constructed.  Again, very rough idea, using old cardboard.  


Working on the large visual journal which I will have on display.  I'd got to the point where I was feeling more and more restricted and was over-thinking far too much, so a couple days ago, I decided I needed to have a few pages of just pure play.


And then that very afternoon, my biggest munchkin (who recently turned 17...how did that happen!?), who is also my 'wolf bride' model, came home with a self portrait scribbled in the corner of her History homework (I think the teachers are well used to my girls drawing on EVERYTHING they do), and it's an almost perfect fit!  How amazing!


School holidays are coming up, so it will be very crowded in the shed all day, everyday, so I imagine there will be lots of cries of, "Mum!  Can you move your STUFF please, I've got homework!"  So I may not get a whole lot of painting/drawing done.........



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