Thursday, 3 March 2016

Dedham seen from Langham

Dedham seen from Langham -  by Yves Bonnefoy 
Translation by David Saunders


Dedham seen from Langham. The summer is dark 
Where the clouds gather.
You could believe
That all this, hedges, distant villages,

River, is going to end. That the earth is not 
Even the eternity of the beasts, the trees, 
And that the sound of bells, that left
This church tower, vanishes

Merely a sound among earthly sounds,
As the hope we sometimes have
To have seen signs on stones
Falls, as soon as we see better these untidy lines, 

These marks, these starts of the naked thing.

But you knew how to mix with your colour 

A kind of sand that from the sky
Collects the sparkle in the matter.
There where it was chance that spoke

In the crumbling, in the dense clouds, 
You have vanquished,
From an opening of music,
The form that closed in all life.

You listen to the sound of bees of bright things, 
The swelling sometimes, this absolute
That vibrates in the meadow among the shadows, 

And you let it live in you, and you are calmed 
Thus to be no longer in haste or fear.

Oh painter,
As a hand presses a bunch of grapes, divine hand,
The wine depends on you; the light must not be this claw that tears 

All form, all hope, but a joy
Even in the blackened cups of the feast day.
Landscape painter, thanks to you
The sky is held still over the world
Like the angel above Agar when she went,
Empty-hearted, into the maze of the stone.

And plenitude is in the sound,
When you want it, of the stream that in the grass 

Has gathered the murmur of the bells,
And eternity is given in the scent
Of the simplest flower ! It's as if
The earth really wanted what the mind dreams.

And the little girl who comes in a dream
To play in Langham's meadow, and sometimes 

Looks at this Dedham from afar, and wonders
If it isn't over there that she should live,
Picks for nothing the flower that she breathes 

Then tosses and forgets it; but they are not rippled 
In the eternal summer,
The waters of this life nor of this death.


From when I first knew you I have trusted you, 

Because you have your eyes open whilst dreaming 
And you risk your thought in the image
As one dips one's hand in water, you take the fruit 

Of colour, of form broken,
You place these realities among things said.

I honour your days, that are just the earthly task, freed 

From the haste that dazzles them. Just the road
But slower over there in the dust.
Just the summit
Of mountains from here but freed,
An instant, of space. Just the blue
Of water taken from the well in the green of the grass 

But for the conjunction, the transformation
And the plant that rises from another world,
Palms, bunches of fruit still held,
In the agreement of two tones, our unique life.
You paint, it is five o'clock in the eternity
Of the summer's day. And the flame
That burned through the world is detached
From things and dreams, transmuted.
We could say that only a mist remained
On the glass divide.

The star of your painting is more
Than the immensity that fills the worlds in vain. 

It guides things towards their true place,
There it illuminates their other sides,
When the hand from outside tears the image, 

Smears the image with blood,
It knows how to gather the timorous flock
To huddle in the night, on the bare ground.

And sometimes,
In the misty mirror of the last hour,
It knows how to release, we say, as a hand
Wipes the pane that the rain has made glisten, 

Some simple shapes, some signs
That shine from beyond words, indecipherable
In the stillness of memory.
Forms re-drawn, recoloured
To the horizon that closes language,
It is as if the lightning that struck
Suspended, in the same instant, almost eternal,
Its gesture of a drawn sword, as if surprised 

Rediscovered the country of its childhood, 
Traveling its roads; and, pensive, touched
The forgotten objects, the clothes
In the old cupboards, the two or three
Mysterious playthings of its first
Divine elation. She, death,
She defeats the time that the world travels,
Shows the wall that the sunset lights,
And brings around the house towards the bower 

As a gift, oh joy here, in the brief hour,
The fruits, the voices, the reflections, the rumours, 

The light wine just in the light.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


I find David Saunders' sequence of six canvases entitled Black Transformation painted in 1973-4 similarly convincing, and I am surprised by the dates as the piece appears contemporary enough to have been painted this year.

I am interested also by other works from the same era: as well as the wonderful 1977 Rational Concepts portfolio of prints (7 English artists: Norman Dilworth, Anthony Hill, Malcolm Hughes, Peter Lowe, Kenneth Martin, Jeffrey Steele, Gillian Wise) there's a delightful pastel colour study by Jean Spencer and two of Peter Lowe's reliefs from 1968 in perspex mounted on wood, both 23 x 23 cm: Permutation of 4 Groups of 2 and Permutation of 4 Groups of 3, in which rational order and faktura combine to produce objects of staggering beauty.

The influence of these artists on Katrina Blannin and Andrew Bick is self evident. Bick's OGVDS-GW #2, directly quotes a work of Gillian Wise, and Blannin clearly follows a systems approach in her paintings. The wonderful paintings by Maria Lalic here Bohemian Green Landscape Painting and Sevres Blue Landscape Painting, both constructed by placing two landscape oriented canvases one above the other creating a “real” horizon line, also have visual similarities to the Jean Spencer study.

Andrew Parkinson
Saturation Point, July 2014

Installation view, 'Conversations around Marlow Moss', &Model, Leeds