catriona’s jug

I’ve written before on the Artlog about Catriona Urquhart. Catriona provided the poetic text for my breakthrough exhibition in 2001, The Mare’s Tale, and before that she’d written the short story Palmyra Jones as a birthday present for Peter, published in a tiny edition by The Old Stile Press and the first book that I illustrated for them. But although we were collaborators, more than anything else we were bosom buddies, delighting in each others company. We shared passions for music, antique furniture, ceramics, second-hand books and poetry. She was also a fantastic plantswoman, the driving force behind the sunken-garden that Peter and I created at our cottage overlooking Cardigan Bay. The plants that she and her partner Ian sourced and brought to us populate it to this day. Toward the end when she was undergoing chemotherapy, we sat outside the cottage as she tugged loosened hair from her scalp and together we bound it into gleaming parcels to push into the hedges for the birds to gather and weave into their nests. I was sitting at the top of the garden in her chair on May Day morning in 2005 when news came of her death. If ever a person died on an appropriate date, it was Catriona on May 1st. She would have thought it an auspicious day to shake off the cares of this world.

Catriona and I had admired this handsome earthenware jug that we spotted in a Montrose antique shop window one Sunday. It was so entirely like her to sneak back when the shop was open in order to purchase the jug as her Christmas gift to me that year. The painting of it was done while she was still around to enjoy seeing that it was being put to good use. Catriona always had an unerring eye for an object that would make a still-life subject for me, and as a consequence there are a few paintings that bear her name in their titles. The setting, as some may recognise, is Tretower.

This is the first of  the images we’ve had transferred from transparencies to digital, and so I have a handsome little cache of new images of old paintings to post here over the next few months.

4 thoughts on “catriona’s jug

  1. Pingback: remembering catriona | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

    • It never started out as anything other than a straightforward… if there is ever such a thing as ‘straightforward’… still-life. It was all about the jug, capturing its likeness, summoning it as a presence. Glossy glaze, raised slip-trailing like chocolate icing on a fancy cake and the dark interior, perfect for keeping water cool. The landscape to my eyes looks entirely a stage-set behind it, far more so than in the painting Journey’s End, where somehow object and landscape are from the same world. With Catriona’s Jug I feel that we’re moments away from the backcloth rolling up, the illusion shattered, to reveal another scene behind it. Or maybe nothing. A void. Whatever the merits or the failings of the painting, it was sold long before she died, and it’s only since May 2005 that I’ve regarded it… or rather its image as I don’t know where the painting is… in a melancholic way, though I can recall that it always embodied a sober mood. There is after all a great tradition of still-life as memento mori, one I’d clearly tapped into it at this stage of my painting career. But see the same vessel in THIS painting, done some years after Catriona’s death, and the object has shaken off the sadness which seems to hover only in the original work set at Tretower. Of course I live with the actual jug every day, as I do with many things I associate with Catriona, and they don’t make me sad at all. Just happy that I knew her and that our friendship enriched my my life beyond measure.

      • Mmm, that is a good contrast with the earlier painting. And that description sounds exactly right–done in her lifetime, with the backdrop about to be rolled up and taken away.

        And from everything you’ve said about her, here and there, no doubt she would be glad to know that you find joy in her things and her memory.

        [Wrestling expedition today: the capstone meet, and he won all three matches, yay! G’night.]

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