I made images for what I couldn’t express in words.
At Facebook my friend, artist Ian Whadcock, wrote briefly, simply, poignantly:
“A week of witnessing tears in conversation, voices broken with emotion and goodwill sapped by expectation.
Meanwhile, the parallel world of ambivalence, blind ideology and sheer selfishness, looks away in the belief it has nothing to do with them.
On a station platform, the kindest most unexpected words serve as a reminder that we are not alone.”
The assemblages were made from objects that surround me at Ty Isaf. All things that I love and make me happy, and some that have strong associations because they were gifts from good friends. If the assemblages have a European quality to them, it’s because they’re mash-ups of British and European toys. I am, as a person and artist, a European. The two can’t be separated.
The lettering for all four assemblages was originally created for the credit sequence of the 2013 animated film of The Soldier’s Tale I made to accompany a performance with orchestra at The Hay Festival. The tulips are also from the film.
The foil crèche in Europe Forever is Polish, and this type of work is particularly associated with the city of Krakow.
The small wooden buildings, trees and villagers are from the German toy-making region of Erzgebirge, as is the jaunty yellow carriage and horses in Forever Europe. The beautiful and tiny pull-along duck at the bottom of Rejoin, is also from the Erzebirge region, and came from Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop.
The white archways in Forever Europe and Rejoin were constructed from a beautiful boxed-set of vintage German building-blocks, the gift of my friend Mathijs van Soest.
The set had been played with by generations of children in Mathijs’ family, and he gave it to me with the message that he felt sure I’d use it well. I’ve endeavoured not to disappoint him. It’s appeared many times in animations and artworks, and in 2018 it toured the country in the music theatre work, Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes, and afterwards featured in the endpapers of the published edition of Simon Armitage’s text.
The two colourful wooden birds in Forever Europe are made by the artist Tadeush Shultz, whose work I discovered at the online shop specialising in Polish folk art, Frank & Lusia. The wooden birds in Rejoin were also sourced at Frank & Lusia, and are by one of my favourite ‘bird’ folk artists, ‘Zak’.
The toy theatre proscenium in Stronger Together was painted by me. The house between two lions is Ty Isaf, my home.
There are three tigers in the assemblages. One is Indian, a gift from my friend Stephen Weeks in Prague, another is a jigsaw-puzzle tiger given to me by my friends Charles and Mary, and the third is very tiny and you will have to search very hard to find it. It’s based on a famous Staffordshire group called The Death of Munrow, but made for a dolls-house. It was a gift from my friend Angela Beaumont, who knew I would love it because I’d made a print of the Staffordshire group with my friend Dan at Penfold Press.
The assemblages feature a number of lead toys. The two rearing Liberty Horses from Britains’ circus range are favourites of mine. In Rejoin there are two lead horsemen: the soldier on a rocking horse is by the company Wend-al, while the mounted bugler in a red turban I think is by Britains, and was a gift from my friends Sarah and James. There are also figures from Britains’ farm range: a cow, a sheep, lambs and lots of chickens.
The two tinplate cockerels in Europe Forever are Russian.
There are two birds drawn by me: a blue bird in Europe Forever, and small multi-coloured one in Stronger Together and Rejoin, the latter one of three made for the cover-flaps of the soon to be published Charis in the World of Wonders by Marly Youmans.
These are wonderful, dear Clive. My heart goes out to you and all of the UK, even as we’re going through our own nightmare scenario on the other side of the Atlantic. Dark times indeed.
Dearest Thom. However did it get to this benighted state? At which point were we so distracted that we failed to see or act upon the coming storm? Global warming, predatory bankers, dark industries, a wealthy elite clawing away at the support systems of the poor and right-wing political cabals working only for their own benefit. My heart shrivels at what must be faced, borne and survived. If it can be survived.
It looks as though you have been working hard to expel your deeply felt grief, with the result of some more exquisite artworks. Yet there’s optimism in their joyful colours, your natural reaction to sadness is to seek the familiarity of beloved objects, they remind you of what is true and fine about friendship, and about what really matters in life. With my very fondest love from Lizxxx xxx
Important in these dark times to celebrate what really matters, and to share it. Sending love, dear Liz, from the Ystwyth Valley.
This is a very beautiful post about the awfulness of leaving the EU. Thank you.
Thank you, for leaving those kind words.
You’re very welcome.
Thank you for this wonderful tour!
And I do love the Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre. I look at it. I don’t want to cut it. Thank you for that beauty.
And and I love your recent book design, but I haven’t read the poem yet.
Best to you. Thanks for including me on your journey.
Do read the poem. It’s utterly beautiful.
We, in Spain, have a song that says
” Algo se muere en el alma, cuando un amigo se va… no te vayas todavía, no te vayas por favor, que hasta la guitarra mía llora cuando dice adiós ”
This entry of yours, is beautiful. And sad. But in spite of the sadness, the beauty of it gives one hope. Because Europe shall go on being Europe, no matter what politicians say. We have been fighting each other too long, and fighting each other makes us family.
My grandchildren shall go on adoring Peter Pan, and Just William, and Stevenson, and Dickens, and Harry Potter, of course, just as much as we did, and still do, and loving British television series, and British films, and British Art, and I know Velazquez, and Goya, and Dalí, and Don Quijote shall go on being loved in Britain, Brexit or no Brexit.
For some time the bureaucracy shall be a nuisance, but it will relax after a while and we shall be together again.
I do hope and believe it shall be so.
Love from Madrid
Yes, friends always, Maria. We should remember that Stevenson, Dickens, Velasquez, Goya and their like, are creative forces that will be remembered and celebrated for their contributions to the world long after Boris Johnson and his cabal of thugs are forgotten dust.
Clive, when we’re lost for words, your blog posts always manage to express something meaningful. I find these images particularly touching because you use so many children’s toys in the assemblages. It’s the younger generations who will suffer most because of this government’s actions, and it is them who we’ve really let down.
But there’s a defiant hope and optimism in the joyful colour and lively arrangements too, and we so need that at the moment! Thank you so much for this post 😊x
I can’t find words of wisdom in the face of this wretched retreat into isolationism and empty jingoism. But ‘making’ is something I can do even when my heart is heavy. I’m ashamed that my country is led by a moral bankrupt. And though we must live with the consequences of his dark deeds, he has to live with himself, and that’s a hell he can’t escape from.
Clive, you always manage the amazing feat of putting thought and feeling into your art and then express it poignantly and coherently in words. You have summed up my sadness at the sheer divisiveness of Brexit in all senses of the word. I have seen how it has caused ongoing friction, if not outight schism, between relatives and friends and soured conversations and connection with other people.
Thank you for creating something beautiful out of all this.
Wendy, I had to make something, and what got made sprang out of the desire to illustrate how things from many places can come together to create lively and unexpected outcomes. Art can do that. It can lift the spirits.
No evidence that our politicians have developed any knack of lifting the spirits of a broken and divided country. Our PM seem to think that if the word ‘Brexit’ is struck from the lexicon of political language, then that will make things better. He wishes. He may as well have it tattooed across his forehead, because I’m fairly sure it’s the one damned thing he’ll be remembered for.