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T.S. Eliot's – Four Quartets: A Pictorial Meditation
During 2008 my work took a new and unexpected turn – or perhaps returned in some measure to the themes and style of the more distant past. I began a large series of paintings based upon the poems Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot.
The last section of Eliot's poems was read at our wedding, and in the New Year (for some reason) I reread it, and became motivated then to read the entire collection. Although a large part of his work is very abstract and philosophical, there are also many vividly visual images, which excited my imagination. The idea of a series of pictorial meditations on Eliot began to take shape. The concrete form of this came into view following a visit to Castle Howard, in North Yorkshire (where a large part of the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited was filmed). I realised that many of Eliot's images seemed to come alive in that context - especially the rose garden, the "door we never opened", and the pool "filled with water out of sunlight". The numerous classical statues which are scattered around the gardens and grounds resonated with his many references to "gods".
I refer to these pictures as meditations on the poetry of T.S. Eliot, rather than as "illustrations" of his poems. They are not intended to work like Shepherd's delightful accompaniment to A.A. Milne's Pooh stories. Neither are they a kind of graphic novel. I am not trying to do for Eliot what Posy Simmonds has done for Flaubert! They are my personal responses to visual ideas set in motion by Eliot's words, and not attempts to depict in any way what the poet himself might have had in mind when he wrote. In fact, they constitute a synthesis of three strands of inspiration - Eliot's poems, elements drawn from my own memory, and the experience of recalling or re-interpreting these in the context of the grounds of Castle Howard.
This exercise is not as arbitrary as it might at first seem. Eliot's Four Quartets deals centrally with the themes of time and memory, as does Waugh's novel. A visit to Castle Howard, as to any "stately home", is a stimulus to us to reflect upon the past. The poetry and the setting are recruited, on this occasion, as "midwives" to the imaginative realisation of elements of personal memory, which perhaps otherwise would remain artistically unavailable and unexplored.
The support of the Castle Howard estate in this project is warmly acknowledged.
Items in this series are currently not for sale, although high quality giclee prints are available on request (price £75+p&p.) A fully-illustrated catalogue is also available at £5.00. Please click on the image for additional information.