It’s the stage where the new work leaves my (lockdown) studio and goes to the brilliant framing artist – the very one I’ve so wanted to work with – for the next stage of their becoming. I am excited about this. When I see them next, 4-5 weeks from now they’ll be beautifully framed and ready for hanging in the pop-up show. So glad they are going into the hands of someone I trust, as I do Jonathan.

I’ve not signed them yet. When I do, it’ll be a silent, internal boom of a moment – Tuesday morning as the sun rises.

from my walk today in Hamilton

After Tuesday there’ll be one more piece to come back for finishing. Made from the photographs of each I send for framing, which are torn from a larger whole. I’ll put these back together, like a puzzle – a metaphor for us, as we re-emerge into a world forever changed by pandemic. Changed, but still connected.

It’s more than that, too. Also a metaphor for the workers at the factory who fired and gilded this beautiful porcelain with steady hands (or not) as World War II raged around them, as their jewish co-workers, managers and shareholders disappeared into work camps and death marches. These people also emerged into a world forever changed, when Hitler and the Third Reich was defeated. The factory where they worked in Poschetzau (now Božičany – see note at the end of this post), was permanently closed in 1945, then razed to the ground.

How this coffee set, made so lovingly by these people between 1938 and 1945 ended up in my Hamilton Apartment is a wonder. The paintings I’ve made, about beauty, fragility and connection across time, despite long isolations and lockdowns, are dedicated to them, and to the three Jewish families who’d founded, managed and worked at the factory since 1890.

I have great respect for these pieces. Beauty and function in the midst of adversity and ugliness is an act of defiance.

Three ‘puzzle’ pieces that need to work together for the reconstruction piece.
Keys to my old house; x’s & o’s, a stamp from The Republic of Chad, a food sticker from Canada. Air and sunlight.

Timing for the show is now in the hands of a team of us. Website designers, framers, printers – so many moving parts to get a pop-up show framed, hung and photographed, artist talks videoed and edited, press kits out, show ebooklet designed and written, photos of the work priced, input and a good online store built on a website (this one) which will be gutted and completely renovated…

…by Saturday June 19. The last day of spring, 2021. Cross your fingers and send love please – there’s a lot of prep.

the originals are holographic, depending on the angle of light

I’ll preview the show to my newsletter folks, one week ahead of the launch. If you’d like to be on that list, please write and tell me so, at keira@keiramcarthur.ca. You’ll be in good company – there’s no one on my list I wouldn’t be honoured and happy to share a meal with – and who knows? That may happen too. I send newsletters quarterly, and for special events like this one.

The Spring Pop Up show will feature sixteen Conversation Pieces, including 4 limited edition print releases (editions of 3 or 4, haven’t decided yet) from the upcoming fall launch. Sizes of work for sale vary from 8×10 to 20×16 (inches). They’ll be hung in my apartment (since public spaces are closed). The whole project is a response to lockdown, so that just makes sense to me (and it will make me clean up).

If there’s time to make it so, I’ll be offering limited edition prints of larger canvas pieces in my catalogue at the same time. We shall see what can be done.

underdrawing of ‘Cup, 2 saucers’ – second-to-last piece, finished today.

Božičany, (which was Poschetzau when this coffee set was made), is a village [population 593 in 2011] in Karlovy Vary District in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. As a result of the 1919 Paris Accords the village (then population 1000+) became part of Germany, but was in Bohemia during WW I. It is surrounded by deposits of the white clay (kaolin) used in fine porcelain china. I very much want to go there.

5am mid February, 1.25 hours from the Canadian-US border. Early early pre-dawn sky looks like a dull ultramarine red, slightly warmer and washed out along the eastern horizon. At the corresponding time in the evening – post sunset, the sky is deep intense indigo, flecked with the one or two stars strong enough to shine through the light and air polluted atmosphere. Three hours north of here is a window that looks onto the eastern sky resplendent with a firmament as old as time.

We’ll be testing the new fire alarm today and tomorrow. An amazing opportunity to showcase your work! $25 for each piece entered, online exhibition begins in a month. I can tell none of you are healers. Shall I drive to California? Scotland calls still; Skara Brae in spring 2022, then perhaps another space in the highlands for a month – I’d like to see the part that is being reforested. Our ancestors require us to heal the trauma they could not, which is partly why things can feel heavy at times. Lockdown is lifted but we’re still in the red zone, mutated virus is here.

I pick things up, unaware, as I suspect most people do. Visible things like dust, or the hair of a dog on a black coat, but also emotional things, psychological. As though we walk every day through a field of unclaimed, un anchored emotions and gather them like seeds on our clothes. Ah, burrs, drat. Which we then pull off and leave on the ground. They become compost – or if the conditions are right, put down roots in the spring. What happens with the unclaimed emotions we pick up I wonder. Washed off in the shower and down the drain.

Sam the Plumber looks like a tall, bookish PhD student, soft spoken and gentle. I suspect he has a quirky nervous half-smile, though I’ll never know because it’s hidden behind his blue and white printed mask. The bathroom is small and so he will need to move the toilet to get to the tub drain he’s been hired to fix. It’s just what it is, he says.

I leave him to it and go to work in my studio – the first day since lockdown kept us home again almost a month ago. Why do I feel nervous? Why did this lockdown feel more like three months than 3.5 weeks? I bring commission work home from the studio but can’t see it properly in the smaller space. It’s just what it is.

Instead I start a new project that I can continue at home, should lockdown be required again. This project is a conversation over tea, with people I know and others I don’t. A connectedness despite and also because of the isolation.

The central images are drawings of an old Czechoslovakian tea set that somehow traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and ended up, via a rural auction house, in my kitchen. Six saucers, five cups, a creamer, sugar bowl, a very elegant tea pot, and a matching tray to carry it all to table. So loved and well used that the gilding has worn off in places. I have a collection of stamps and chinese cookie fortunes that may also make their way into each of the 22 (or more) pieces, which will be available for purchase after the show has gone public.

still in progress, this photo is taken in the morning sunlight. Every piece changes with the available light, I’m quite enchanted with them.

The grounds for these drawings are torn from a large sheet of printing paper onto which I’ve spilled and scratched out all the emotional and psychological impressions I’ve gathered each day, consciously or not. OIl pastel, silver ink, fluorescent chalk, acrylic paint, pencil crayon. The grounds are holographic, designed to shift and change with the light, just like our world does at the moment. Illusion and insight.

This week I begin to gather the accompanying conversations from people I know and don’t know. If you are interested in knowing more about this, and being part of these conversations, please let me know at keira@keiramcarthur.ca.

Your story and impressions, your insights and curiosities in these rather pivotal moments of right now are important for others to hear, I believe, since we are in this together. If you want to share and would prefer to remain anonymous, that is not a problem. Everyone who shares gets a preview before the project ‘drops’ this spring.

The ‘talking wall’ opposite my desk, where I watch for adjustments that need to be made with each piece. Also thinking about framing options.

it’s 5am again, and this pre-dawn sky is full of snowflakes. It’s the day after Sam the Plumber arrived and fixed the problem with the tub. I’ve been up since 3:30am after tossing around for eight hours, sorting through the stray unanchored stuff I picked up in the previous twelve. Some of it quite shocking, with guillotines and incarcerated women from the French Revolution (A book), first degree face burns and time-space loops (a briefly glimpsed TV series). The painting that was patiently awaiting my return to the studio…

Are they kelpies?

I shall soak these off in the tub and listen, with gratitude to Sam, as they spiral down the drain he fixed with his gentle half-smile.