Where we live is very important to us. Where we grow up shapes us for the rest of our lives, for good or bad. When I have an anxiety dream its often about moving house. I put this down to the fact that during my childhood we moved many times; Hereford, Newcastle, Whitley Bay and Gloucester. I had been to 9 difference schools by the time I was 11. I carried on moving for my education, first to Cardiff, then to Peckham and Greenwich in London and finally Swansea.
The house where I spent my teenage years in Gloucester no longer exists. It was knocked down several years ago. It was built in 1976 and was gone 30 years later. I find that odd. I have been past the spot where it used to stand and I find its absence unsettling. I think that’s why I love the solid Edwardian terraces of Brynmill, these houses have been here for over a century. The grand mock Tudor houses of the Uplands, built in the inter-war years of the 20th century will last and will, hopefully, last another century.
David Fry bought a painting of mine, “Proud House”, a while back. Imagine my surprise and delight when he contact me to tell me that it had brought back many childhood memories for him and it inspired him to write a poignant poem about it. I thought I’d share it with you.
WHAT I SEE – A Proud House
Join palette with oils tincture and powder to display
The artist draws down with sight and prodigious emotion
As alchemist hails a canvas sharp lined spare skilled too
An affectionate depiction smoothed fine in occult lotion.
What do I see in authentic rendition so germane
A rare gift in practiced thought and summit won
Is this an ethos for other endeavours by artists told?
No…mesmerised true in a story book I am held by this one.
Maybe I glimpsed what was intuition a fable in the making
To bind a time and way to a journeyman’s remembered sight
But mostly I am filled with a bitter sweet regret
From childhood certainty in family life to lonely night.
A house transcends all purpose and design
And paint surpasses in hindsight the record of focussed light
Imbued with lives lived rich and sheltered in wallpaper defined
Something raised above all description a distillation bright.
School friends gone their paths fade in narrow winded days
Histories will reveal life travels worn their purpose long set
Hope boxed my laughter hard with glass at times half full
But the proud house survives still and is well met.
I am taking a break from my Gower walk until mid-June to work as an exam invigilator for the university.
15 thoughts on “Proud Poetry – a Swansea painting”
What an interesting phrase “anxiety dream,” I have had recurring dreams over many years about a house — my grandmother’s house in rural North Carolina. Like your teenage house it no longer exists except in dreams but it was built in the mid-19th century. There was a room that I slept in as a child and my dreams focus round that room. It changes in the dreams and some of the manifestations have been quite extraordinary! The actual building was a plain but yet very beautiful old farmhouse. I have come to understand the dreams as manifesting different changes in my life. Somehow that house is me perhaps because I loved the house so much. So it’s the place my mind goes whenever I need to take stock of life.
Now I think I understand your beautiful paintings even better, and I see a way in which they are also lovely and captured dreams.
I say anxiety dreams because in the dreams I usually I am having to move house because I have lost the I house I currently live in and I am homeless, so I am moving into a small rented place and cannot fit all my stuff in. Buying this place was such a big deal to me and when I am worried it comes out in my dreams. Funny, when I was a student in Cardiff I must have moved about 7 times but that didn’t bother me because “home” was back with my parents. It has become this house now.
Oh, Emma, that is so sad. Certainly your paintings of houses now betray no anxieties. Perhaps they are restorative. Anxiety dream is an apt term. In the dreams I had of my grandmother’s house, in the ones where the upper story was coming apart, I was not sad. So the events of the dream seemed disturbing but the dream tone was not anxious. On the flip side I have had dreams sometimes where the content seemed innocuous but the tone was scary. I figure that the dream tone is the more accurate measure of the emotional meaning at least …. Your paintings, so beautiful, so rich in color and expression if they have any anxieties inside them must have it very carefully hidden — as in Bonnard.
Yes, I agree the tone is important. I am not happy in these dreams, quite the opposite. At first I am confused and then I am thinking how did this terrible thing happen? I hadn’t realised that painting homes/houses in the community had a deeper significance for me until I wrote about David’s poem. I suppose I was inspired by the loss of family homes around me, replaced by unloved student houses. Obviously, it has a deeper significance, now I think about it!!
You can travel through the significance in your sleeping dreams and in your painting dreams and sort it out. Maybe you’ll sort it out without even knowing you’ve done it. Certainly the paintings are filled with beauty. The paintings find harmony.
I love your painting of the house looking down on the observer. I have just shared the unsettled feeling of a house being built and destroyed in such a short space of time. Where did all the events that took place there go? I know that is a ridiculous question, but that is the emotional response.
I visit a school now as an adult professional that I briefly attended as an adolescent. We had a family bereavement at that time, and I feel there is an echo of myself as I was then, and that I’m going to meet my past self. It is a very odd feeling, and difficult to shake off.
It is lovely you painting inspired someone in a different art form.
I do love the unexpected directions reading blogs takes us in. X
Ah yes. Blogs go in all sorts of directions. the destruction of my old home makes me feel almost like it dreamt it, in a wierd way!
I’ve moved a lot too and currently don’t really have a “home”, just a house that keeps me comfortable. Love the painting.
Are you good at keeping the clutter down? Since I moved here I have filled the place with books and paintings!
I find this incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, David.
Ik hou ook niet van verhuizen
I am glad I am not alone, Marylou!
When my brother,nephew and I returned to our birthplace Swansea last year we went to the home we grew up in in Torrington road, Gendros. How lucky were we that the current owner cane out and after we told her why we were there took us through the house. And it turned out she bought the house from my parents and remembered our dad’s name. She has been living there since 1971 when we emigrated to Australia. Thanks for your lovely post Emma.
What a great story and what a lovely lady to give you a mini tour of your old family home!!