Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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Coming to

I’m in my socks on a quiet street in the old section of town, pulling goutweed out of the garden.  It’s early on an idyllic spring morning, full of bees and growth, flowers and a gentle cool breeze.  A starling, harsh and insistent, comments on my weeding.  I explain that in the ecosystem of my tiny garden many things grow, and that the manifest destiny that is Goutweed’s nature would change all of it into a monoculture. This is why I must, however reluctantly (I’m not feeling reluctant at all, not even shocked that this is so), do my best to kill or maim Goutweed.  I tell him I prefer his sweet starling voice to this rasp.

my lawn.

my lawn.

Muttering about invasive plants and the more tender, solitary ones I seek to protect, I feel myself ease into the beginning of this three-day inner working space.

The mornings early articles were about artists – Kahlo, O’Keefe, Yayoi Kusama – specifically, their struggle to give artistic voice to the particular forms of madness they’d discovered in themselves.  Our relationship with others; our relationship with our own minds – maybe the greatest challenge in being human?

I found myself writing about strict ordering of colour, the music and the muscle of line, the often oppressive heaviness of form.  This was somehow inside of thoughts about the utter sanctity of solitude, the necessity of it.  It’s here I build fortitude, here where I can examine and own my relationship with crow-darkness; my internal, eternal desires (lust even?); my old, creakingly reliable rigidity.

Scratching the surface, but then this is day one of three.


The goutweed surrenders to my will, stem by stem, and as I stoop mutter pull I hear the sound a badly injured animal would make if I were in the bush.  It’s coming from a largish man in spring coat and backpack. He’s standing at the end of the street, not five houses away.

He and I are the only ones visible. I instinctively give him space, content in my goutweed campaign, not looking, but listening. He moans again.  Mutters (to himself),  You shouldn’t have done that.  It wasn’t right and it’s not okay.  You’re not okay, you need help.  You need to get some help.

I know he knows I’m listening.  In fact, he called me to listen, with his moans.

I think to myself that this is a shared moment of something unnameable but infinite.  I think that every human everywhere works this way, all the time, every day.  We do our best to make friends with our madness.


My talkative neighbour has seen me – as I hear the creak of his side door I hear myself too, muttering not now not now…  But there he is, coffee in hand, ready to chat.

Startled by the interruption we run with our minds, the largish man and I, to seek solitude again, where the fragile thought-threads can be followed, observed, even understood a little.

You just missed me!  I say to coffee-cup-neighbor.  Too bad!  I need to go in now and get back to my work.  He says ya sure that’s ok. Inside, I can feel the door as I close it.


I feel happiness.


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In Christmas

It’s the 18th of December, one week before Christmas day.  I’ve rehearsed and planned and delivered and engaged, I’ve painted and written and talked and sang and posted, I’ve cooked and sorted and laundered and cared-for and now all of a sudden on the eve of my first day off in what feels like centuries I’m hearing the call that maybe only dogs can hear, that no other human around me seems to acknowledge but nevertheless has got my full attention in this moment…

…. stop.

Not sure why this image. Something to do with Christmas I think.

This feels correct to the moment just previous to the moment I turned off my Christmas engines.

Basil Johnson once said to me, “Simple, and good – that’s all you need.”  We’d been talking about art, and what makes it resonate with human culture in the short, medium and long term.  As I remember, I’d been talkative and keen then – about socioeconomic indicators of health and growth, artists in the workplace and some utopian ideas around the political value of the arts as a generator of individual authenticity.  In 2004 I was Cultural Capitals Coordinator for my town of 22,000, doing my best to imagine and then somehow impossibly manifest a bridge between national and local, micrososm and macrocosm, embracing all issues visible and audible under the sun. I’d been given my rein, was impossibly curious, – a single artist-mom on the eve of a lifelong marriage that would only last a decade. I was provocative, insistent and intense, flailing.

“What kind of painting do you do?”, he asked, in a pause I’d left open.

again, no articulate explanation for this choice

My answer was long and exhausting.  He listened and gave me two words in exchange.

I heard them enough through all that noise in my head to swallow them whole and keep them alive in my belly.  They sing to me now.


I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

The planet, the politics, the migrations of people and animals; conviction, passion, intensity, art and music; friendship, hurt, joy and the passage of time….  our response can be simple.  And good.

It’s a choice, to live and work that way.



I choose therefore to fill my tomorrow with simple rituals.  Instead of a phone, a computer, a list of errands, I will make a breakfast, a burning, a giving-away, a silence.  I will listen to what lies under all the Christmas noise.

This is good.  Thanks, Basil.  I can feel you smiling.

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If if if, say the Bells of Cardiff

The soft November morning spills sun across these paintings that were born two days ago.  I awoke today into the same magic I felt as a child on Christmas:  bees, bells, and frequencies, all over my studio walls, all transforming into their new place in paint before my eyes.

You owe me five farthings,  Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend

photo from 3 weeks ago by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend

How can the world be less than benevolent, when this is so?  Time for listening and responding, for empathy and awareness – there is time for these things, and plenty more for acceptance and then, collaboration.

When will you pay me?  Say the bells of Old Bailey.


After a year of building income so I can spend serious time in the studio I am so grateful to be here.  Images of Robbin’s bees drinking water over prints from my feet resonate and make sense in this place.  Image, symbol, thought and intuition can swim freely in this room, and then speak, when there’s time to listen.  And now there is.

When I grow rich,  Say the bells of Shoreditch.


In five and a half weeks I will paint ten paintings – to show at Open Studio day on December 5, then to hang on the Bean Cellar walls until Feb 2016.  I’m hoping that somewhere in that time (at the Bean) we will gather to sing and celebrate Leonard Cohen, whose songs have been singing these paintings awake.

When will that be?  Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,  Says the great bell of Bow.

ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I'm photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. 'All the bells that still can ring...'

ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I’m photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. ‘All the bells that still can ring…’

These paintings are full of sound – clanging, pealing, ringing, dinging…. offset now, thanks to Robbin, by a soft, comforting buzz from the bees.

I’m looking forward very much to sharing this marvelous space with visitors and fellow artists on December 5, and to singing & hanging at the Bean again, where I’ve had many art shows over the years.  It’s important to me to put these pieces in a place where people go to do everyday things – eating, talking, laughing, crying, debating, drinking coffee. I do all of that in this studio while the paintings come to life – along with my fellow collectivists who visit.

But before Studio Tour and art show/ live music happen, I exult in the privilege of working with these paintings as they come into full voice.


Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

almost done

almost finished

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!


‘The Bells of Rhymney’ is a song first recorded by folk singer Pete Seeger, then The Byrds, using words (published 1938) written by Welsh poet Idris Davies after a mining disaster that occurred in 1926.  Quoted in the blog is the nursery rhyme that Davies used as his template, also a (rather chilling) children’s game known as ‘Oranges and Lemons’, which I played as a child.  I quoted Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ two weeks ago, and

three strong bell poems make a show.

Reference & for the Record:

Bells of Rhymney:

Is there hope for the future?
Say the brown bells of Merther
Who made the mine open?
Say the black bells of Rhonda
And who killed the miner?
Say the grim bells of Lina

Who aband’ us in court?
Say the bells of Newport
All will be well if-if-if-if-if,
Say the green bells of Cardiff
Why so worried, sister why?
Say the silver bells of Whye
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney

And here, for the record is Cohen’s Anthem, from his 1992  album ‘The Future’:
(I will thread parts of this through the next post….)

The birds they sang At the break of day

Start again, I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what Has passed away

Or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will Be fought again

The holy dove, She will be caught again

Bought and sold And bought again

The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs, The signs were sent

The birth betrayed, The marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood, Of every government

Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more With that lawless crowd

While the killers in high places Say their prayers out loud.

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up A thundercloud

And they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

You can add up the parts But you won’t have the sum

You can strike up the march, There is no drum

Every heart, every heart To love will come

But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in


The Call of Water

I’m thinking about water.


Water falls – either river or rain – speak a whole spectrum of the Language of Wet, from soft drip & trickle to pounding slam-hard powerful.  I’ve come to believe that all are profoundly healing in the long run – even Tsunami, Hurricane, Cyclone.  Sometimes tragically so, painfully so – but real healing is like that.


There are ponds, pools, tiny lakes and great lakes, oceans of deep and old – ever renewing collectors of water.  There are aquifers deep and ancient, vast and secret reservoirs of …. memory?

Memory that cools, grounds, sinks and dissolves into something the stars might sing.


I’m thinking about water, and how it feels like a physical and emotional home to me.  It is at root a promise of renewal – immerse, let go of air for a moment, alter the pull of gravity, of time; extend the reach and timbre of sound so you feel … lifted, suspended, embraced.  Resonant.  Dissolved, for a moment.

To rise again into the mantle of gravity, air, task, focal point, verbal articulation, but cleaner, clearer.

Georgian Bay, from the eastern shore at the mouth of Owen Sound

Georgian Bay, from the eastern shore at the mouth of Owen Sound

Water stands, too, in those places where the amphibians go and humans do not, where toxicity is dissolved.  I think of wetlands as precious, timeless places.  Perhaps Chronos lives there, listening.


The sound of water falling – rhythmic & repetitive, whether it’s a drip or a roar – is the soundtrack of our days.

There’s an idea that water is a collector of Story – from us, from flora and fauna, from sky and sun.  Horrific stories- catastrophic, miraculous, impossible – but also mundane, incidental, apparently unimportant.

I’m going to paint this.  We live in times of deep and profound change, all over the planet.  No culture, country, community or person can avoid being confronted by this, and by the deep fears we all experience, collectively and privately, in reaction.


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Name the moment

Not sure I can do it justice tonight.  There’s a cool change I’m trying to put my finger on….

Vichert's Mackie, Katie's recommended Tascam, the shrouded MK4.  windhorse prayerflags for mom....

Vichert’s Mackie, Katie’s recommended Tascam, the shrouded MK4. windhorse prayerflags for mom….

and a river rock I got in Manhattan in 2009….

back of my cello case...

back of my cello case…

I’m not really verbal.  What’s rich for me resides in the resonance and richness of what is visual and tactile and aural – so these blogs (and any writing task) are a challenge – to bring what is into what can be broadcast to more than what I see & get.  But every so often something happens – an internal agreement to stretch the moment I’m in,  when I think I should try to, I don’t know – share?

I’ve been working on some art pieces about what we now call ‘selfies’.  Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing, all this time?  trying to articulate something I … know about what I am?

beside and behind me, to my right. Like a speaking horn

beside and behind me, to my right. Like a speaking horn

I don’t seek them, but I see them – the selfies on the internet are vulnerable, mostly.  Open to … something.

What is that?  Do we all crave this, but only some (increasingly more) publish it?

And even after all this I’ve not come close to describing for you the real moment I’m in.  Perhaps this is my vulnerability, and this post is a selfie.  Open, and honest and incomplete and full of imperfections.  Begging for criticism… or acceptance.

hand with fish

hand with fish

I know people who cannot talk from who they are.  People who are so divided and hurt that nothing comes out straight, and mostly what comes out is painful, distorted and destructive.  I’ve been in that place too – or my own version.

From this simple but rich rich place I am in, I send you my best, imperfect love.  All of it.  Always.

I think about you all the time.

I think about you all the time.

We turn into Spring together.