The River of Life is Timeless

July 17 2017
“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” 
― David Brower

An Artist's Journey Down the River Nene.

Northamptonshire is  beautiful, green and abundant with life. It has many villages and towns and a rich diversity of wildlife. However the scenery we usually see as we drive along the roads is often one that involves traffic, and the busy rush of the rat race. The charm of places that we live in, can be completely missed or forgotten about as we are channelled along the highways.

This summer, I rediscovered the river which is right at the heart of this county. It has a different, slower and more gentle existence that passes right beneath and besides our manic roads. The Nene river in May this year was hot and serenely tranquil, it was like being in a completely different place - another world.

A New Project based on the River

I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars. — (Edward Abbey)

Last year, I decided that it was time to really experience the river which has always been a presence in my life growing up in Northamptonshire. The river has special kind of immutability, much like the sea because it is always there and it constantly flows to the ocean. Its meandering course is a reminder of the natural world; but it also reminds me of fishing with my father or feeding the ducks as a child.

Boarding a narrow boat at Gayton, we peacefully travelled through the Nene valley visiting Northampton, Wellingborough, Irthlingborough, Thrapston and then Oundle. Then, I rented a canoe and paddled as far as Warmington. Drawing and taking photographs was a great way to record what I saw as it allows you truly to soak up the atmosphere.

Below are some of drawings I made whilst cruising along the river...

The River - A different experience

Life on the water slows everything down, but in a good way. The sights, sounds and smells all become magnified and encourage you to look and feel. The softly lapping ripples on the banks, a passing duck or the swaying of willows on the surface of the water are very present. These things remind you that you are present - you can actually be here, right now. Meanwhile, the world above rushes on by - bliss!

The River of Life is timeless.
It is not unchanging, but it is timeless,
and it changes in its own time.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Summer Evening by Jamie Poole

Canoe Through Fotheringhay

One the highlights of my trip along the river was seeing the Church at Fotheringhay as I paddled past in a canoe. The building sits majestically near the river bank and makes a great subject for the first in a series of paintings based on this trip.

In the foreground of the painting is a swan drifting downstream, whilst the words from the poem ,'Summer Evening' by John Clare are weave through the picture, enhancing the sense of abundance in the environment.

Summer Evening

The frog half fearful jumps across the path,
And little mouse that leaves its hole at eve
Nimbles with timid dread beneath the swath;
My rustling steps awhile their joys deceive,
Till past, and then the cricket sings more strong,
And grasshoppers in merry moods still wear
The short night weary with their fretting song.
Up from behind the molehill jumps the hare,
Cheat of his chosen bed, and from the bank
The yellowhammer flutters in short fears
From off its nest hid in the grasses rank,
And drops again when no more noise it hears.
Thus nature's human link and endless thrall,
Proud man, still seems the enemy of all.
<!-- .KonaBody -->   John Clare

This is the first in a series of paintings based on this inspiring cruise down the River Nene.

Ten facts you may not know about the Nene River and Northamptonshire.

  • The River Nene was once a tributary of the River Rhine when England was part of the European continental land mass.

  • Ten thousand years ago the Nene River was a torrent  of melt water. This came from the ice sheet that once covered much of the north of the UK. The water ground down the soft limestone and left behind a fertile valley.

  • Northampton was built at the confluence  of the two sources of the river. The southern source emerges beneath the shadow of an iron age hillfort, a mile west of Badby Village at Arbury Hill. The Northern source of the river Nene is at Naseby to the west of the village.

  • The River Nene is the tenth longest river in the UK.

  • The Nene Way footpath starts at Badby and follows the river for 67 miles and end at Wansford on the Cambridgeshire boarder. Cambridgeshire.

  • Covering more than 41,000 hectares, the impressive Nene Valley commands an area three times bigger than the Great Fens and is a haven for many different types of wildlife.

  • The Nene Valley is internationally renowned for its variety of over-wintering water birds including curlew, lapwing, widgeon and gadwall, the Nene Valley is also home to kingfishers, red kites, otters and grass snakes.

  • . The Battle of Northampton was fought on the 10th July 1460, near the River Nene in Northampton. It was a major battle of the War of Roses and took place not far from Delapre Abbey.

  • Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury used Hardwater Mill near Wollaston, as a hiding place after escaping Northampton castle in 1164.

This is one of the posts I made to record my journey along the river.

David Hockney Exhibition 2017

June 06 2017

The Life of the Artist Woven into his Work.

At the end of May, I managed to get myself a ticket to visit David Hockney's exhibition at the Tate Britain art gallery. These days, art shows seem to have a super cult following and often tickets are hard to come by. So I was excited to visit this show, which is a major retrospective of his life's work.

Nichols Canyon, 1980. By David Hockney

"I Like To Live in the Now" David Hockney

Hockney's art and life go hand in hand. When you see his work you are seeing a snapshot of his life and at the exhibition you can really get a sense of the journey that he has taken over the last 60 years. 

When you hear the name Hockney you might think about his polaroid  montages, vivid landscapes or portraits. But you might also think about his blond hair, stylish hat and jacket, round glasses and artistic lifestyle. Both his art and lifestyle are beautifully woven together like the brushstrokes in his paintings. All these things have continuously drawn me back to his work over the years.

The Twelve Very New Painting by David Hockney.

"Its All About Looking"  - David Hockney

At the start of my own art career whilst at University, Hockney was one of my strongest influences. I loved the series of work he did called 'Very New Paintings', which show curved shapes and patterns looping around each other like surrealist landscapes. This work came out of his involvement with the theatre, and it inspired me to make make printed fabrics that I upholstered onto two sofa's.

Way back to my school days David Hockney has been there, and he has kept inspiring me since, with his new ideas, optimistic and vibrant colour pallets and innovations. For me he is the kind of inspiration that makes you want more and makes me want to paint. Pictured below is - Pearblossom Hwy, 11 - 18th April 1986, #2, which I remember being on the wall at our school.

Pear Blossom Highway by David Hockney

'Drawing makes you see things clearer, 
and clearer and clearer still, until your eyes ache.' 

David Hockney
Hockney's enduring message is that art is about looking at the world around you. Recently, I went on trip down the river Nene in Northamptonshire in a canal boat,  and along the way made photographs and produced drawings. As soon as I picked up the pencil and started to look, make marks on paper, I was in the moment and happy.

Stopping to look, really look, puts you in the present and helps you to appreciate everything around you. So, I am totally in agreement with David Hockney - looking is a great way to connect with yourself and your surroundings.

The Yorkshire Wolds - A Bigger Picture.

In one of the rooms at the exhibition, on each of the four walls is one of the most innovative ideas to come out of Hockney's work in recent years. Nine cameras, mounted on a frame are synchronised, to film the changing seasons in the Yorkshire Wolds.

Each camera captures a different part of the landscape and when combined encourage you to look in a different way at the scene before you. On each wall in the gallery, the screens show a different season of the same place. The beauty of nature beams out the movies and the detail, combined with movement is like gentle music for your eyes. 

Looking at the World through Hockney's Eyes.

Visiting this show was a wonderful experience, because David Hockney encapsulates for me, everything an artist should be. An artist views the world with awe and delight and wants everybody else to see what he or she is experiencing. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Right, I am off to make my next series of work based on the Nene River in Northamptonshire! 


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