I have long admired the work of Polish-born artist Lydia Bauman. Her studio is in Lincoln - not far from where I live. Recovering from a virus contracted on a plane from Venice a few years ago, I had some time on my hands and wrote this poem about one of Lydia's prints, Hillside In Galicia, which was a get-well present from my wife. I wrote this before I had ever visited Galicia. Now I've been there I find it amazing how accurately Lydia has captured that special greenness of the fields, the indigo of the hills and the pinkish-purple of the trees.
Hillside In Galicia
Galicia: independent, Celtic-proud,
deeply rural, depopulated,
mainly untouched by package tourism,
unfrequented by medallion man,
mountains, rivers and rias, centuries-old
pilgrim trails, deep ancient roots.
Lessons of perspective, of photography,
once learnt, can be shelved, then reapplied
in a new way, freed from the realistic
or conceptual yoke, from the tender bonds
of art history: Claude Lorraine, Van Gogh
and Braque - absorbed, not brushed aside.
Vibrant swathes of colour, rough flat planes,
organic textures, scratchy surfaces.
Light pulses from within, from a pure essence
of apple-green fields, rainwashed and layered
beneath indigo hills glistening with rain...
And the white house - I'm glad it's there -
a lonely icon of the human, of settlement
and cultivation, in this glowing landscape,
animating and humanizing it, suggesting
a strong hope for us under glowering skies.
Plumb upper centre, its grey pitched roof
merges with a cleft in grey hills beyond...
A progression of fields, an array of trees.
Abstract, but not abstract like Nash.
Transfigurative, but not like Spencer.
Uncanny, but not uncanny like Friedrich.
Not symbolic or gravely mystical like Palmer.
But secretive, understated. Unsettling. And familiar.
A mediated, meditated, reflecting
and reflected inner land, or outer
inscape, or the borderland between,
evoking the Celtic sabbat of Beltane
when the border's most transparent,
the veil between worlds the thinnest.
Fluidity of shape and colour and form -
and feeling. Yes! Pure feeling above all!
Emotion is what draws you to this painting,
the way you feel it, ordinary yet numinous,
as shafts of light plumb your own deep self,
illuminating what you already knew...