THE WOLF & THE MOON : A LOVE STORY oil on aluminium 77x102cm 2018
Cancer is as vast and complex an experience as I have ever encountered but I am making some connections that seem worth sharing.
I should make clear that I am not expecting this cancer to kill me, the prognosis is very good, however, having the disease means you have to face the thoughts!
MOONDOG oil on canvas 2007 Collection of Ms Natalie Shaw
REMEMBERING MY FATHER oil on canvas, 77x77cm, 2003
At three years old, my son Joe, then an only child, considered the notion that he would one day grow up. After some careful questioning and reflection, he concluded that if he were to grow up to be the Daddy, then Daddy would grow down to be the boy. If he was to countenance change, some things had to remain constant!
Our world begins in sensation and interaction, from the mirroring of expression to the discovery of our physical edges. As we learn the vastness and complexity of the world, we engage with imaginative reasoning to make it a place we can understand. We posit theories that connect the known with the unknown; a creative engagement that is rooted in our wonder at the world around us.
It seems to me that preserving our capacity for wonder is one of Life’s crucial tasks, we have to fight the cynicism and disinterest that seeps into our ‘grown up’ state. My own route to self-preservation lies in making images. As some of you know, I am currently undergoing treatment for cancer. I began this painting THE WOLF & THE MOON - A LOVE STORY (just a snap shot so please allow for picture quality), before my cancer diagnosis, and have been working on it during my recovery from surgery and preparation for chemo. It became significant when a yellow girl and a black dog arrived beneath the wolf’s bed beside a pool of dripping, pink moonlight. They were spontaneous additions, not featured in early drawings. I was happy to remove them if they didn’t fit. However, they didn’t just fit, they completed the painting, making it more than I had planned.
The weird thing about imaginative work is that the connections and meanings you find are curiously hard to hold on to. I had, for example, forgotten that the trio of girl, dog and moon have appeared in my work several times before. How could I forget this, when their arrival in this painting felt so meaningful? Perhaps we have to let go of old significances to learn new ones?
Whatever the case, this re-encounter with my familiar icons made me feel as complete as the picture, and I had my first panic-free thought about sickness and death and this is it: the world will shift to accommodate my absence. It’s not a bitter thought, I could not feel better loved or supported, nor is it a frightened thought, it's just the way it is. Apart from anything else, what other choice does the world have? This revelation was accompanied by a feeling of such naive, wondering surprise that I was reminded of Joe's reasoning about growing up. Seems like there is always something new to learn.
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