Mizzle and strife and all things nice
[Author: Clare Gee]
It all started with a nose bleed. A scary nosebleed that would not stop. A friend drove me to A&E at the Balfour where it did eventually stop and I went home again and tried to make sure it didn’t happen again.
It was the start of a tumultuous, difficult, heart-breaking 3 years where friendships, family, my work family and painting saw me through. I am still on that road, the one where the nosebleed seemed to be a starting pistol for my world to fall apart, but I am now on the gentler slopes.
Stress, anxiety, depression, bereavement, grief, peri-menopause and chronic fatigue have all, and are all, playing their part. Alongside that incredible friends and family, work colleagues , my fabulous cat and Orkney itself have cared for me, given me space and time, nurtured me and inspired me to keep going.
Painting has been a constant during this time. In July 2017, the day I was signed off work with stress, my partner Rik encouraged me out of the house and encouraged me to paint. He always knew what was good for me. We went to the archaeology excavations at The Cairns in South Rondalsay. He was going anyway – he went every year to make art and interact with the people and the dig, and he thought I may as well give him a lift and do a bit of painting.
That led to a summer of painting trips and a more focussed period of work at YAARP, the Yesnaby Art and Archaeology Research Project, directed by Rik and Dr James Moore. I made work out in the landscape, and work inspired by the landscape back at the house on days I didn’t feel able to go out.
The results are here in this exhibition. The paintings made at, or in response to, The Cairns, Dam of Hoxa, Yesnaby, Grit Ness, Deerness and Graemsay all come from that summer of painting trips and slow healing. These places are important to me for many reasons. A good friend taught me how to find Groatie Buckies at the beach in Deerness and I took Rik back there to paint because it was such a special place.
A good friend shared her beach in Graemsay with me. Dam of Hoxa is on a regular circular walk from home, Yesnaby is the home of YAARP and many wonderful times including a site specific exhibition Rik and Itook part in with two good friends ten years plus ago, Evie is where I fell down the well at the Broch of Gurness as a child.
That focussed engagement with painting, with the landscape, with friends, gave me some strength and succour in the months to come, and whilst a very difficult time, gave me the most wonderful memories of my last summer with Rik before his sudden and shocking death from terminal cancer. I have continued to make work whilst trying to get my head around the fact that he has gone and that he won’t ever make any art work again.
I think he would be pleased to see that I have managed to pull an exhibition together and I see it as a clear bold step in to the future.
I won’t name them all here but my heartfelt thanks go to all my friends, family and colleagues ,and those who supported Rik and me through his illness – personal and professional. It has meant the world and led to this exhibition.
This exhibition is dedicated to Rik Hammond.
Clare Gee, March 2020.