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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Transformative Moment

This is by way of being my contribution to Steven's meme A Transformative Moment, at which blog, if you care to pop over (later, of course, after you have read mine) you can catch up with the other responses. I did begin by thinking that I should break away from art and poetry and all that jazz on this occasion, be less boring and come up with something less predictably me. However, having excluded all those moments which are either too personal or too much involving others, those involving mainly close family others - those, in other words, that I am not prepared to air in public - and having considered carefully all those that remained - or as many of those that remained as I could recall - I found myself forced to the conclusion that one moment towered above all the others. A longish moment as moments go, to be sure, but whose measuring? And - would you believe - a moment to do with art. And worse than that, one on which I have blogged before, though not in these terms. All the same, wrapping up any discussion there might have been on the topic: I am boring. Q.E.D.

As a small boy I had a lot of ill health and spent a lot of time in bed. In the main I kept myself occupied by drawing and painting. Mostly this would consist of copying from books or magazines, sometimes getting members of the family to pose for me, and occasionally - though, looking back, surprisingly infrequently - drawings distilled from my various fantasies. There was some contact with art work in reproduction, though this was almost completely Victorian art.

I also made my first unsatisfying attempts to write verse. Jingles mostly. Rhyming, of course. None of it worth a grow's kneecap, except that it helped to keep me sane.

When I was well enough to do so I would wander anywhere there were plants or trees to be seen: the garden, the common, other boys' gardens. Trips to the seaside were occasions of intense delight in all the flora and fauna of beach and rock pools.

Another aspect of life that was important to me at the time was church. Perhaps because it spoke of a reality beyond the one that I was finding frustrating. At a very early age I became an altar boy - possibly, had I not had such a dreadful voice, I would have joined the choir, but that was an impossibility.

And then, at some point, I was taken to The Tate Gallery. I say "taken", though I can't remember who took me. I can't recall, either, how old I was. I am sure, though, that I was too young to have been allowed to take myself. What I do remember is seeing the Samuel Palmers, The William Blakes and the Graham Sutherlands. Obviously there were others. They were a revelation. I was, in modern parlance, gob smacked.

I don't remember all the individual works I saw, but I remember their affect upon me.

I remember the Blakes particularly because there was poetry and painting locked in each other's arms and enhancing each other. Almost neither poetry nor painting, but some new art form I had never before encountered.

I remember the Sutherlands particularly because there I was seeing clearly expressed what I had sensed fleetingly in my mooching about on common and foreshore: that the shape and texture of something like a moss-covered stone can give intimations, not only of everyday reality, but of another reality that is mysterious but is not quite mystical in the churchy sense.

I remember the Palmers particularly because they seemed to speak directly to something inside me. It was to do with a third type of reality, an inner one.

I do believe now that the experience was the first step on a what would be a long road to Wallace Stevens's position: to thinking that in many ways and for many people - including at the moment myself - poetry has replaced formal religion.

The images below, in order, are of paintings by Samuel Palmer, Graham Sutherland and William Blake.


gleaner said...

Wow, I really like this Dave and I think these moments of discovery as children are very special and not to be forgotten. Thank you.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you Dave - now I now who is hosting it - I have put one on my post but I could not for the life of me remember who started it.
It is interesting how you remember back to your childhood and chose a pivotal moment from then. It reminded me of the first time I hear Beethoven's Missa Solemnis - that first chord and subsequent fading to one voice still makes me shiver when i think of it. I enjoyed your choice tremendously.

Karen said...

Thanks for the peek into your past, Dave. I love the Tate - to me, a faraway pleasure - and can only imagine living where it could become part of my self as this experience has made it for you.

I've just put down a most unsatisfying book, Burning Bright, by Tracy Chevalier. I had high hopes of this book by the author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, mostly because of the genius of Blake, but I felt that this was thinly plotted and had poor character development. I think I expected more because it was about Blake, one of the most fascinating poet/artists who ever lived.

I can understand how seeing his work would have been transformative to a child (the mysteries of Experience?).

Rachel Fox said...

Maybe religion has always been about poetry.
It's an interesting meme this...at this rate I'm not going to get anything done today at all but reading posts!

ladytruth said...

"be less boring"
Your blog on art and poetry could never be boring, Dave! I learn something new everytime I come over :)

Shadow said...

what a great read. blake and art combined, i'd love to have see that...

Totalfeckineejit said...

Great that you were so inspired at an early age and with such life-long rewards of poetry and painting.And such an interesting thought provoking conclusion that poetry is the new religion? I would have listed many things to be religions replacement but poetry would not have sprung to mind.Might make a good future post ,Dave, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Oh and powerful pictures too ,I really like them and the first is so different from the other two.

Michelle said...

"I remember the Blakes particularly because there was poetry and painting locked in each other's arms and enhancing each other. Almost neither poetry nor painting, but some new art form I had never before encountered."

Yes...me too. I love Blake for this painting and this reason. He woke something in me, even though I don't like all of his work or his poetry for that matter, he made me realise painting was poetry and poetry was painting.


Carl said...

Dave... Boring? Never! I always smile when I see you have a new post up.

These images would be enought to start any young person's creative fire.

Barry said...

My first experience of Blake was also at the Tate, although I was much older than you and visiting from Canada. I was taken to the Tate, not because of any personal interest in either art or poetry, but simply because I was in England and a relative thought I should see some the best Britain had to offer. Although I suspect it was my cousin's first (and possibly last) visit to the Tate as well.

I was the last person anyone, myself included, would have suspected to harbour an artistic sensibility.

And then I encountered William Blake and went moving in stunned silence from painting to painting.

The next day I purchased two books about him and a whole new world was revealed to me.

Carl said...


Dave like you I have already blogged about the moment. For me it was the first time I watched my dad work in the otherwoldly red glow of his darkroom. As if by magic making light appear on film and then watching it develop in the trays. I was hooked for life. In fact I miss traditional darkrooms somewhat even the smell of fixer and acetic acid...

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

It seems incredible to me that you would be so affected by these artworks at such a young age. But that would be down to a lack of imagination on my part!

BBC 4 (TV) has been showing a "proper" series on the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and I love learning about the ideas and messages within the paintings in addition to the beauty of the works themselves. It brings so much more to me, this secret language!

Jenn Jilks said...

Transforming, indeed. Powerful thing, art.

My husband was an altar boy in a small town where the Protestants and the Catholics were in fierce competition.

He gave up Catholicism for Lent about 40 years ago!

willow said...

It doesn't surprise me that art had such an impact on you at an early age, Dave.

I love "Q.E.D." and never hear anyone say it in my neck of the woods! Thanks for the smiles.

Golden West said...

Your early childhood sounds so similar that that of Robert Louis Stevenson - he, too, entertained himself with writing and drawing during a long childhood illness. Thanks for such an interesting read.

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Dear Dave, I am able to identify with so many aspects of your "transformative moment." Such be the seekers, those who have a questing heart and soul, wanting to understand life's purpose, reaching out and embracing its offerings. You are in yourself, in your postings, a most transformative influence - expanding perception and this consideration we define as life. Do stop by, your visits are missed. My post, Tuesday, August 18, "In This Hour of Sunset," is offered as my "transformative" hour.

Best always,
Rose Marie


oh, wow, dave - such a story - and one i think which is common to us all - thank you for sharing that moment of yours with us - beautiful!


pardon me, please, dave - maybe the images got out of order the screen - in terms of blake and sutherland?


Linda said...

It is amazing and surprising when you walk into an art gallery, the art you find which tugs at your soul. If you tried to predict it before you entered, you just couldn't. I was spellbound seeing my first Monet, Rubens, Picasso definitely. But that was from years sitting in art class and viewing slides. When art captures you, and you never know when it will, it is a magically transforming experience. Carl is correct about the smile. Me too.

steven said...

hi dave, it's so cool to me to read about your beginnings and to learn how you came to see beyond simply seeing. blake came to me in my twenties. i shied away from him as a teenager because I i was so wise and clever at that time that i figured) it was not a good thing in my view to go back in art or literature beyond the turn of the century. little did i know that i was saving some magic stuff for later when i would be truly able to appreciate it!!! this is a great story. thanks for particpating in today's meme dave. wander ' round. there are some more really fascinating stories out there!! steven

Sid Smith said...

A wonderful post Dave. I really relate to the powerful impact of Blake. When I was a kid those images were all over popular culture: book covers, album sleeves, posters etc.

Discovering his written works was another moment for me; scary and exciting all at the same time.

Titus said...

Pics and Poems, Dave. It says it all. Beautiful post, thanks.

Madame DeFarge said...

Lovely insight into your childhood memories. I remember the first time I went to the Kelvingrove Art Galleries in Glasgow. Made a lasting impression in me.

Eryl Shields said...

Great stuff. I am reminded of the first time I saw a Ben Nicholson painting and just could not tear myself away from it. I still don't know why I love his work so much, this particular painting was just a collection of beige squares with a bit of white and a tiny bit of duck-egg blue, but it seems to say in oil paint something terribly important. If only I understood the language of paint!

Friko said...

Your moment captured perfectly. Still, I can't really believe that a single moment, a single experience early on in life can shape your path for ever. (That happens in Bible stories to grown men)
I do, however, believe that one of these moments can kindle an interest, a curiosity to explore; an individual can do that too. Were you one of these inspirational teachers? I can well believe it, no flattery.

Thank you for permitting me to copy 'So how should it be' I've copied the revised one, (I think). I shall take it to a meeting on 'art in poetry' - if I can arrange one.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Those paintings are breathtaking! A quite nice post....thank you.

San said...

Paintings do open us to new worlds. Like religion. Like poetry.

Like this blog, Dave.

Adrian LaRoque said...

Very good post this one Dave.

Linda Sue said...

Great post- so much in common really- I spent so much of my childhood by myself- not because of ill health but because there was no body else around.I drew, I worte, I joined the choir at church... Went to the Tate as a young adult and was overwhelmed by the Blake room- have not come down since!

Poetic Artist said...

I enjoy reading about your moment.
I always enjoy your words and stories. Sorry for not commenting , you have so many I thought you might get tired of reading.. Yet I always check in to see what you are saying.

readingsully2 said...

This is the first time I am feeling that I am really understanding you better. It was such a fascinating look into your soul for such a brief moment. Would love to see more of this.

Garnetrose said...

I also enjoyed the peek into your past. Btw...God loved your voice. That is why he gave it to you and I am sure he loves it when you sing. *s*

Cloudia said...

I so enjoyed sharing your youthful becoming discoveries, Dave.

Very nicely and honestly done, friend.

You always introduce me to artists I missed in my provincial existance, so I think you a benefactor and teacher, but isn't the last picture the Blake?

Aloha! Do come visit:

Comfort Spiral

Tabor said...

Your tastes in art are clearly more sophisticated and somber than mine. I guess I like art that doesn't make me think so hard. Your post certainly supports maintaining and arts program in the schools...which is an issue here in America.

Dave King said...

Nope, thank you!

The Weaver of Grass
Thanks for that. You have actually recalled another moment from childhood that had slipped down th e side of my mental armchair. A friedly neighbour introducing me to classical musoc and giving me a recording (2 LPs?) of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The start of my collection.

I read the girl with the pearl earring after seeing a T.V. adaptation, but I have just recently read a rather damning review of Burning Bright, so it seems you are not alone in your thinking.

Very interestin meme - and like you, I don't think I am going to be doing much else!

Nice of you to say so. Thanks.

Quite unique. He developed a whole new printing process, just to pull it off.

I have sort of blogged on it b efore - I think! - when talking about Wallace Stevens, but I'll give it some thought. And what about one from you on the other potential replacements?

I hadn't thought about that, but yes, you are right, it is different.

Yes, I can relate to that. the difficulty with his poetry these dyas, is that when so much is difficult his seems too simple, almost childish. It isn't, of course. Some is Child-like, but there is a depth that does not reveal itself at first. We are used to looking in the other direction, I think.

And they are just a few from the trove that was on offer...

That is a great story - would have made a post in its own right. Thanks.

I can understand that - completely.

No, I think it was maybe unusually young, but then I had had something of an abnormal childhood, rather forced in upon my own imaginative resources. I was maybe more precoious in that way than was good for me. Who knows? (I mis-typed "than was food for me". I think perhaps I should have let it stay.)

Welcome to my blogg. I have to say I do really like the story of your husband giving it up for lent. That is tremendous!

Thanks for that. I haven't used QED for ages - I used to trot it out all the time.

Golden West
Welcome to the blog. I am rather chuffed to be compared to R.L.S. Thanks greatly.

Rose Marie
Many thanks for that. I shall surely stop by.

Gypsy Woman
Really, oh, gosh. I shall have to check that. I did have to shunt them around from the intended order because I couldn't get the images to appear as I had plan ned them. thanks for pointing it out.

Dave King said...

Yes, it's amazing sometimes, seeing a work up close and personal after knowing it only from illustrations.

Blake seems to have ways of getting under the radar and under the skin that other artists can only dream about. Thanks for that.

Welcome. I suppose I was lucky, discovering the viuals and the textual stuff together. Appreciating the written in isolation from the images does seem to cause difficulties.

And thanks for that.

Madame deFarge
I've heard good things about them before. Must try to go one day.

I am agreat fan of Benn Nicholson. That, too, came about from visiting The Tate, though much later.

You're right about that, I think. This, of course, as more tan amoment (I interpreted that very loosely), more like a whole morning. Alos, it did not change thing irrevocably, like a conversion, but it did impart an impetus, gave a push in a certain direction.

Welcome to my blog and my thanks for taking the time out to comment. Much appreciated.

Many thanks for that. N ot sure about "like the blog", but agree with the others.

Thanks Adrian.

Linda Sue
Don't come down - stay right where you are! And thanks.

Poetic Artist
No, I don't get tired, though I sometimes get behind with the repies! Thanks again.

Welcome to my blog and many thanks for the kind comment. I was once told that Albert Schweitzer, when he was told that he'd played a wrong note on the organ, said "God doesn't hear the wrong notes!". That worried me, that he wouldn't be hearing anything from me.

Absolutely right. I re-sequenced the pictures to overcome the way Blogger was showing them, thought I'd corrected the script, but hadn't. Sorry about that. Now put right.

It's a bit of an issue here, too. Not that anyone thinks we shouldn't do it, but simply that government requirements in the "important" subject don't leave time for it.

readingsully2 said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog, Dave. You missed two poems I have done. I was sure you would hit those.:)

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

How true! When one has the transcendant experience that poetry and art bring - they surpass by far what mere doctrine and belief can bring.

I loved the brief glimpse into your childhood and while it was a sad thing for you to be so sick - the time alone was clearly a gift in terms of being able to explore your talents and inclinations.

Thank you.

Dave King said...

I shall catch up anon.

Welcome to my blog and very many tanks for stopping by to comment.

Jeanne said...

When I was 12, my aunt and uncle took me to visit the National Gallery in Washington, DC. As it happened, there was a Da Vinci on special display, but that's not what stuck with me. I was gob smacked, in your words, by Monet's Cathedrale de Rouen.

I remember feeling like I was actually drinking through my eyes....

Dave King said...

Thanks for that. I can so easily see that happening. I do know the Monet, though unfortunately only from reproductions. Art does sneak upon you and take you unawares.

Mariana Soffer said...

hi dave,
Intersting story you told, at some point of course I felt identified, I think we all have things in commons.
The part It interested me the most was when you discovered those famous artists like blake, that opened your world.
For me it was poe and his poetry, he made me felt In a way I did not knew it could happen in me, a funny think about that is that he is the reason why I learned english, I wanted to read his poetry without loosing any aspect of it, and gladly I did, and now I have this extra skill.
The other two where, let me think, well in painting francis bacon was the one that also changed and inspired me in many ways. And they I am in between too the dadaist movement, for their revolutionary thoughts, and how they rebeliously showed to the world that things where not what they thought. The last one is artificial intelligence, but that is too long for this post.

Hope you like that I share my experiences with yours.
Take care M

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think its interesting how these kinds of moments can stay with you as you get older, and particularly how the atmosphere of an artwork can linger for years.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, thank you for your comment on my poem and the competition. I think I will certainly treasure your advice.

I enjoyed this latest post of yours, in particular your experience encountering Blake, the expression "poetry and painting locked in each other's arms" fits perfectly.

lakeviewer said...

You have allowed yourself a bit of reverie that exposed your early influences. What a revealing thing memory is!

Dave King said...

Speaking poetry I had a similar experience to you, but through the writings of Ezra Pound. You are right, we all have bits in common.

Crafty Green Poet
In some cases the ripples seem to get bigger as you age.

Thanks for that. I wish you success with your competitions.

It certainly can be - but deceiving at times maybe!

Jim Murdoch said...

The first art to have an effect on me was comic book art. I had no idea when I was buying the stuff in the sixties that I was looking at work by the great Jack Kirby, but I knew it was different from the other stuff. Kirby was at his peak then, doing four, possibly five, titles a month, I can still see individual panels in my head from then. It wasn't until the eighties that I took an interest in comics again and by then we had a whole batch of new artists who took the comics to a whole other level but the one who stood out for me was Bill Sienkiewicz; his covers especially were astounding. As for my love of painting, that kinda crept up on me. There was no aha moment I'm afraid.

Dave King said...

I have only just recently got interested in comic book art. I don't remember anything noteworthy from my childhood. I recall having Radio Fun and Film Fun, and at an early age (I think, though no idea how early) taking myself to the newsagent, stopping them both and ordering Punch instead.

Art Durkee said...

My response to your thoughts here:

A Transformative Moment