The energy in this piece has been intoxicating for us. The richness of forms and colour has inspired an intense response to the legend of this sea dragon.
We had prepared a very complex surface of watercolour, charcoal and ink in this case and unusually for us, decided very early on that we would paint Ryōjin, as a follow on to the tale of Tamatori. I began to work into the dragon’s head and neck which in turn, gave Stephen the opportunity to unleash his powerful marks in ink around the body of the creature. We alternated several times, as is our norm, to adjust and respond to each other’s marks.
Again we have aimed to build complexity into the completed work; seeking the ambiguous, the surreal perhaps whilst maintaining the importance of the narrative. We want to be gripped, surprised and always inspired. We are both a little braver as a result of working this way too.
Ryojin will be showing at Ashdown Gallery in June 2018, as part of our ‘solo’ exhibition.
This piece is the largest work on paper that we have worked on to date. It’s 120x100cm; a thrilling scale, full of potential for gripping mark making and contrasts of bold gestures and detailed intricacy.
We have been totally immersed in responding emerging images in this piece and feel that the resulting painting is highly complex and can be read in a variety of ways.
The subject matter appeared half way through the process, as we identified the Japanese legend of Princess Tamatori and the Ryōjin (sea dragon) in the marks.
The narrative developed in response to the tale of the princess’s heroic recovery of a treasured pearl stolen by the dragon king, Ryōjin during a storm on its way to Japan in the inlet of Fusazaki. She vowed to help recover the stolen pearl that belonged to her family and after many failed attempts she was finally successful when the dragon and grotesque creatures guarding it were lulled to sleep by music. Upon reclaiming the treasure, she came under attack by the awakening sea creatures. She cut open her breast to place the pearl inside for safekeeping and escaped in the water clouded by her own blood. She died from the resulting wound but is revered for her selfless act of sacrifice for her husband Fuhito and their son.
A woodblock depicting the legend of Tamatori by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
This painting forms part of a series of work inspired by our recent trip to Japan and our deep interest in classical mythology. These will be exhibited in June 2018 at Ashdown Gallery.
Stephen and I have just got back from an amazing adventure in Japan; exploring the bonkers lights of Tokyo, the spiritual traditions of Kyoto and the most astounding city of Hiroshima. It was a trip I have always dreamt of making and we were so lucky to be able to take the family too. It was incredible.
We have returned, needless to say subtlety different, having viewed the world through a new lens. Life seems a bit chaotic back here, but marvellously individual of course. It’s taken a while for us to adjust.
We have wanted to explore Japanese imagery in our collaborative work since returning… so here’s a bit of progress..
These are the very early stages of a very large format piece. This will be a project that will evolve over the next few weeks and months and we will post how it progresses……
The excitement of creating new work is always a thrill, but Stephen and I feel that this recent body of work is really beginning to embed a language that we have developed over the last few years of collaboration. It’s intoxicating to us to explore each others marks and to respond to new interpretations of the imagery as each piece evolves.
We are currently enjoying laying down some classic drawing over textured marks and then the process of analytical deconstruction begins. We view the image from all angles, with a totally open mind. The subject is undetermined at this stage and we are lead largely by the emerging themes that we tease out and give greater form to. We work in to the image in turn, in the main, but on larger pieces, it’s possible to work in tandem.
This process requires a certain deconstruction of ourselves too, in that we have to be completely embracing of alteration, deconstruction and even total destruction of our original marks; trusting that the the reviewed image will be stronger for it. It just doesn’t work otherwise. As the themes become apparent, we discuss their potential strengths, but we do not hinder each other by being precious over particular areas. Complete freedom is essential and present always; there lies the magic for us.
It is within the last stages of the work quite often that a subject becomes apparent. Identifying a narrative is a very special moment; it intensifies the image, it provides often a deeper meaning, a contrasting interpretation perhaps, it just joins the dots.
We are bursting with ideas, so back to the brush!
Lorna and Stephen x
Izanami and the Birth of an Island (On the left) and
Watercolour, pencil and ink on St Cuthberts Mill Bockingford paper (iPad image)
Back then the potency of life had hit my young heart all at once. Art, love, her, music, energy, spirit all expressed, but never together until the potency of now engaged the whole. Now is the longest second of them all.
Sometimes I catch the now amidst my second chance on canvas, in wood and amongst some words, at other times it’s unheard. Unseen and intangible, like our own echo come back to me.
Stephen Kirin, October 2017
Our collaborative show continues at Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row East Sussex, together with a sizeable collection of our individual paintings and sculpture. For us, this is such an poignant moment in both our artistic careers and as a significant marker in our deep love for one another.
Spending every single moment together now is astounding to us. We share everything, not least our creativity of course. Working in tandem in the studio is a gift that has jettisoned the solitude we felt when apart. We work intensely and often in complete silence, unless a little Brian Eno is called for and we break to crit each other’s progress. We now have a solid working practice that benefits from our deep knowledge, love and respect for each other. We are two sides of the same head.
There is no doubt that putting this exhibition together has crystallised this intensity. Producing such a visceral body of work has been extraordinary and we are both deeply moved by the experience. It is always thrilling to see a body of work presented in one space; to see how each piece complements another, but it feels even more special to us somehow, as we present our entire creative processes for display. We are just taking a moment to reflect on where we are at present and have our hearts and minds open to the next step in our journey together.
Our deepest thanks to Juliet Townsend at Ashdown, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with and has presented the exhibition with so much care and sensitivity; we are simply delighted with the resulting show. It was a joy meet so many people at the preview too and to have the opportunity to discuss our working processes and inspirations. We are thrilled to that several collaborative pieces are now off to new homes, where we sincerely hope they will be treasured and enjoyed.
We feel so inspired to see where our brushes takes us next.
Much love Lorna and Stephen xx
“Wow! Looks absolutely stunning in the photos.. Can only imagine how it is in real life! I love the way your individual styles and pieces blend so seamlessly, complementing and accentuating each other. It really is like two minds working as one in different heads, two souls souring together from different hearts! Again Wow!”
The lightening showed your back
For a moment and charged the black blinked away.
The thunder woke a question
Moving a static held shoulder in reply.
I rained for a while, as daylight filled the sky.
Returning to the same place each year to paint against a backdrop of changing faces and presences, is mirrored by the stasis of a protected place. But of course it changes gradually as well, like the lines on a face or my face in a self portrait. These dips into that place each Summer are dips into a rendering of where I am, even whilst painting brick, stone and render. I painted there with the hope of children, with thoughts of both parents departure from a life, during breakup and amidst love and hope the day before my wedding whilst nevertheless saying goodbye to my mother. Now I paint there again with a smile on my face.