Estelle Hudson standing in front of work by Lara Mellon
Why would these Artists be interested in exploring their paintings from a dream perspective? asks Estelle (family counsellor with a deep interest in Jungian Psychology)
“Dreams that come to us in our sleep, are messages from the Unconscious, that part of ourselves over which we have no control and contains a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. The language of our dreams is not the spoken language of everyday but is rich in images and symbols, which when given the time of day, surprise us with the deep meaning and unexpected ways of addressing life’s journey.”
Applying this to the paintings of Strachan, Martin and Mellon, one sees these messages from the Unconscious;
not always in control of what emerges;
containing an intuitive and spontaneous knowledge and wisdom;
a language rich in symbols and images;
an expression of a journey made into colour and tone and medium that deeply satisfies the soul.!
Hudson drew parallels between an apt exhibition title (LOST, FOUND, STOLEN) and the paintings, suggesting a journey into the Past, of forgotten memories. The process has certainly been about accessing the Unconscious… ” memories so deep that it has been like excavating, taking away layers of false perceptions; of childhood understandings, contextual falsehood and traditional indoctrination – and arriving at a place, a new place, a fresh view, a more mature understanding of events and people, ……..that is the story of our lives.”
Each painting becomes narrative, the story of the artist’s life, the telling of which brings about the creative, restorative and transformational journey towards Individuation (Carl Jung’s word for Wholeness). Now this doesnt happen in every painting by every artist, but the manner in which these three artists work makes it their reality.
Hudson makes reference to Carl Jung’s autobiography entitled “Memories, Dreams and Reflections”, which for her perfectly reflect these works of art. She then began to unpack some of these artists paintings recently exhibited at the FAT TUESDAY gallery in Kloof , Durban. And it is her thoughts which I shall share with you now.
You will notice that Estelle Hudson continuously asks questions during her narratively executed talk and it is questions like these which we are to ask from our dreams.
“LARA MELLON ‘S landscapes are such moments: riding her horse across the veldt, alone but not lonely, the freedom of those moments are played out on the canvas. For her the journey and not the destination is important. This body of work has been about her resting, restoration and recovery.
How does solitude and being alone impact your life?
Where else do you experience this freedom and how important is it for you?
Is this the place where she claims her wildness, which in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ words
“means to live a natural life, a place in which the creature has innate integrity and healthy boundaries, …it is a force which funds all females…it personifies a force that women cannot live without” ( Women who run with the Wolves Pg 8.)
Her paintings use the colours of Africa (earth) ; the colour of the spiritual(air, sky). ”
Like all of this body of work, her paintings are small – they demand engagement, a close encounter, encouraging intimacy. In our dreams too, we are required to engage, have a close encounter, to be intimate with the information that the dream is giving us.
This would be a time to remind us of how these three artists work together…close cooperation, sharing of symbols, stealing symbols and images from one another with permission. Trusting one another, a friendship of mutuality, reciprocity and generosity.
JOAN MARTIN’S ghostly trees against a sky of both light and storm remind us of the reality of the opposites. Carl Jung’s statement is relevant:
“It is only when we experience the Opposites of life that Wholeness happens.”
This is repeated again in Lara’s sequential progressive paintings from “dark to light”.
“How we long to achieve the growth the tree fosters in itself, the reach and rootage, the sturdiness and balance between high and low, the way it meets the season, holding its ground.” – Book of Symbols . In myths sometimes people are transformed into trees and if we are to ask in the language of dreams, “ What part of Joan is a tree?” because I
know Joan’s paintings and how often the tree emerges, I identify:
the resin she uses in her paintings has its origin in a tree;
the tree has an animating spirit and she often will house in her trees articles of sentimental and precious worth. “The tree as self can come into existence, centred and contained, around which occur incessant processes of metabolism, multiplying, perishing and self-renewal…(repeating the theme of Lost, Found and Stolen) “the tree is also a cosmos encompassing psychic spheres of refreshment, creativity and initiation transcending space and time.. … Alchemists did not forget that the tree may represent not only a place of awakening to new life, but also of suffering. “ Joan as an art teacher is constantly initiating, creating, challenging to new frontiers her students and her artist friends.
What part of Joan is a tree? Well! I would say what an image, symbol, the tree is of Joan.!
Carolyn Myss says in her book, “ Your biology becomes your biography” and I would say looking at Joan’s paintings of trees and the clarity of the trees physiology, has indeed becomes Joan’s biography.
Joan Martin in front of her trees.
“Observe” by Joan Martin
Beatrice Street by Maggie Strachan
MAGGIE STRACHAN paintings of the Beatrice Street Congregational Church and the children’s hospital express a grief of what is being lost, history not being honoured, neglected, precious pieces of sculpture decaying and being vandalised.
Her paintings bring them back to life, restore the forgotten, and honour the rich purpose they once served.
The Beatrice Street church has the memory of freedom fighters fighting for a place in the South Africa of that day, a journey in which she was personally involved as an activist.
A question to be asked in this dream: Is there a ‘place’ in your life where freedom is found,and even sometimes involves, a fight for the freedom to be……?
Hudson looks at Strachan s painting
One of MAGGIE STRACHAN ‘S most touching paintings is the one of her grandparents and her mother as a child. Grandfather in the Prussian uniform of a soldier who spent time in Turkey (and for those of you who have read the book ‘Birds without Wings’ will understand something of that complex war with Greece, Turkey , Germany ,France and England all of whom were involved in the struggle for survival and power). Grandmother, and their daughter, Maggie’s mother, separated for long periods with its usual fall out of that kind of life. Maggie’s painting of this brings a new understanding of her mother’s identity, a finding of a brave woman, a determined woman, the wild woman that Estes talks about causes her, Maggie, to remember who her mother was and what she was about. A mother re-discovered and a sense of healing follows.
Look carefully and see the woman with the blue umbrella in the background (an image brought to the table by one of the artists to which to associate ) takes a life of its own, suggesting walking away or going exploring,
but not just accepting the status quo. (dream analysis also requires us to associate with all the symbols).
Today we have become Outsider Witnesses to the journey these Artists have made with their paintings, and like the Outsider Witness our role here has been to affirm them and acknowledge this journey. What we need to realise with dreams is that they are not only individual but often have an element which speaks to the whole community. The artists inclusion of us, Jeanette Jilks who opened the exhibition, Ana and myself who have had the privilege to do the walkabouts and you the viewer makes the dreaming of their paintings a communal experience.
We are left with their gift to us and as Rumi says:
“We are the mirror, and the face in the mirror. We are the sweet, cold water, AND
the jar that pours.”
Rumi reminds us that we are continually creating reality and are doing so while we experience what we have created. In other words we are the artists as well as the art, the dreamer and the dream, suggesting that we have the power to modify and change our lives today, while also choosing how we fashion them anew tomorrow.