First Snow, November

First snow of the winter, we take a break and make double spirals on the soft wet of the roof, catch fat snowflakes on our faces, delighted again by the magic of change.

Inside, the bells ring on…

This one is becoming about darkness into dawn.  I'm liking the cool into warm and the movement
This one is becoming about darkness into dawn I think. I’m liking the cool into warm.

Metal on bell metal, glass on glass.  These sounds mark our hours, births, weddings, deaths.  They chime at our gatherings when we clink glasses and together bear witness to change.  As Colonials, this is our custom, our culture.

Anyone with heritage that has been touched by Europe and Britain has the sound of church bell embedded in their psyche.  Before sirens we had fire bells, alarm bells, door bells, bells that tolled the hour and the half-hour so the whole community shared an agreement about what time it was, and when they were due in the fields, to the feast, at the mine, at the factory or at Church.

Turns out this one wants to be vertical.  Stormy.
Turns out this one wants to be vertical. Stormy.

While the paint dries, and while I listen for the next thing to be done, I read that the word Bell comes from old Saxon: bellan, to bawl or bellow. The study of bells is called Campanology.  The bells I am painting have origins in early Christianity…

In AD 400, Paulinus of Nola introduced church bells into the Christian Church.[21][22] In AD 604, Pope Sabinianus officially sanctioned their usage.  By the early Middle Ages, church bells became common in Europe.[24] They were first common in northern Europe, reflecting Celtic influence, especially that of Irish missionaries.[24] Before the use of church bells, Greek monasteries would ring a flat metal plate (see semantron) to announce services.[24] The signa and campanae used to announce services before Irish influence may have been flat plates like the semantron rather than bells.[24] The oldest surviving circle of bells in Great Britain is housed in St Lawrence Church, Ipswich.[25] The oldest church bell in the world is one donated by Despot Alexius Slav to the metropolitan church in Melnik, Bulgaria, and dated to 1211-1216. It is now kept at the National Museum of History in Sofia.  (Wikipedia Link Here)

still in progress, but close to finished, this one.  48 x 48 inches, great challenge
still in progress, but close to finished, this one. 48 x 48 inches, great challenge

I am enthralled by these pieces.  Each one speaks differently.  It’s as though I’m learning a language and a history at the same time – Campanology.  This is in part my own history, and the history of this small colonial town.

hmmm.  I wonder what the Ojibway thought when they first heard Owen Sound’s bells.  I can imagine a certain amount of bafflement.

Bell in a soft, sunlit morning breeze.  This one requires a gentler approach...
Bell in a soft, sunlit morning breeze. This one is requiring a gentler approach…

More staring at the latest two.  I’m experimenting with painting six at a time – rotating them as they change.  It’s going well.

Wikipedia continues,

In some liturgical churches, bells are blessed before they are hung.

In the Roman Catholic Church the name Baptism of Bells has been given to the ceremonial blessing of church bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the bell with holy water by the bishop, before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within; a fuming censer is placed under it and the bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.

…demons to flight.  Protect from storms.  Call to prayer.  I ring the bell I’m using for reference, and the shadows retreat…

This just appeared late last night - tiny bells on a string.  The sound of fairies from my childhood
This just appeared late last night – tiny bells on a string. The sound of fairies from my childhood

Works-in-progress, all of these.  They will be different again at midnight tonight, and again at 9am tomorrow.  These paintings need to be finished in three days, and at least two more begun, so I can hang a full ten at The Bean Cellar.

Time to throw another wash on this last one, then rotate again, strengthen that line & soften the other, listen again. The snow is all gone, but there are puddles on the roof.  In an hour I’ll find someone and go play for a bit, then back to paint.

Bell1, 2015, 20" x 24", mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.  This one's done.
Bell1, 2015, 20″ x 24″, mixed media (acrylic) on canvas. This one’s done.

One last Wiki chewable fact:  Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called “changes”.

This is precisely what’s happening in my studio right now, metaphorically speaking.



Leave a Comment

  1. Until we came to Cambridge, we didn’t live in a place that chimed every hour on the hour. I loved it! It not only let those who heard it know what time it was (very practical), but felt as though it was a way in which the entire community was contacted – not just to know the hour, but called together for church, to celebrate special events. I listen for the bell when I’m out walking in the morning. I’m sorry we won’t be able to see the exhibit on the 5th, but another time. Your work is incredible, Kiera – powerful and moving.

    • I agree Mary – The bell at St. George’s Anglican toll the hour here too, which I also find comforting. After the truth and reconciliation report came out the bell rang once for every missing and murdered aboriginal woman, more recently for each person killed in Paris. As you say, the community is ‘tuned’ to that bell, as it is to the Kennedy factory whistle that Carolyn wrote of. I’m sure that whistle was initially a bell – I’ll ask my mom, whose family ran Kennedy’s. Thanks for your kind words about the paintings! Not to worry – they will be up at the Bean Cellar for December and into the new year.

  2. ….and the ‘bell’ at noon hour and 5 o’clock rings on. My granddaughters (6 & 9) have been raised to listen for it. They know that when the 5pm bell rings that it is time to go home. The history lives on in this little city called Owen Sound!


    Sent from my iPad

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