Marly (right) at Ty Isaf, May 2011, with fellow-contributing author to my monograph, Montserrat Prat.
Over at Marly’s The Palace at 2:oo a.m., fellow artist and blogger Marja-Leena asked how Marly and I first met. I left a reply in the comment-box that was rather longer than might be considered quite polite on someone else’s site, but the story is interesting in terms of how deep friendships and ongoing collaborative ventures can sometimes come about in unconventional ways. Here’s what I wrote:
“I recall exactly how the connection happened. Marly left a comment on a blogger’s site. He’d been writing about angels in art, and she left a message saying ‘Look at this artist’s work. You might like it.’ … the artist being me. He replied a bit later that he’d looked but didn’t think much of what he’d seen! Ha ha! Well, you can’t win ‘em all! I tracked (stalked) Marly to her blog, was impressed by what I read there and wrote to her expressing appreciation for her having recommended me, albeit a recommendation that had fallen on unappreciative ears! She later explained that the unappreciative ears belonged to a good guy, but he could be curmudgeonly. Can’t remember his name now.”
(UPDATE: I did a bit of hunting around. This is the page where I first came across Marly, the relevant comments still there, five years on!)
“Marly responded with delight and enthusiasm to my first contact, and it’s fact that anyone thereafter eavesdropping our e-conversations would have thought us both a little insane. I kept the e-mails, every one… and there are hundreds… because we sort of fell upon and devoured each other. I knew immediately that here was absolutely the right person to have as a friend. The truth is, I fell head-over-heels for Marly in those early days of our correspondence, and the intensity of that has never diminished. We don’t write to each other as much as we once did… neither of us would do any work if we’d continued at that pitch… but we do have a sort of psychic connection that often has us sharing moods even when we’re not in contact. In many ways, although quite unlike each other, we’re connected the same way as twins sometimes are. That’s Marly and me, psychic twins! There’s a book… or at least a short story I should think… in that notion.
Marly has a slightly worrying if impressive capacity to get into my head. Over the years of e-mails I’ve shared with her many recollections from my past that anyone else would have forgotten. Marly however, like those savant artists who can look at the most complex buildings and get them straight down on paper with no sketching or corrections, can take the material of all our conversations, and stitch a reality from it more convincing than anything experienced in the day-to-day. When I first read the draft of her chapter for the monograph, scrolling through it I found myself increasingly astonished. She conjured an illusory world… one I never speak about… that captured the creative process of preparing to paint more truthfully than I’d ever have imagined possible. Her evocation of me taking tea with my hero Cocteau in the garden here at Ty Isaf, was the most staggering act of imagination, for although I’d never revealed to anyone that I have interior dialogues with the long-ago dead, Marly somehow divined the fact, and moreover knew who, and where, and how, and then spun all that into literary art. Whenever I pick up the book and read her chapter, it comforts me to know that someone out there in the universe knows how the art is made in my head before ever I get to the easel, and that the knowledge has been captured and set down in a way that is completely truthful. (I don’t want to be misunderstood after I’m gone, though I suppose I will be.)
Every one of us is made up of many aspects, and not everyone sees all parts of what we are. But Marly walked into my head and feeling quite at home there, stayed to chat and pass the time of day. She’s there still. Oh I know that she’s in Cooperstown New York, and I’m in the Ystwyth Valley in West Wales, but we’re nevertheless always simultaneously somewhere else together, in that other reality of gleaming sun and lime-coloured pollen star-falling from the trees, where we walk and talk and keep companionable silences, and to me that’s a great comfort in a changing world. I hope it is for her too. (I know it is!)
Making art for her books is my return of the ball in our ongoing game of tennis. Long may we play!”