Frida Kahlo’s autobiographical work has been an important key during research of narrative artwork. Her painting of The dream, the bed (1940), I found particularly mesmeric as the artist is also the viewer and death is not a taboo subject as in our culture but is celebrated in Mexico ( Day of the Dead). The vines and flowers I felt alluded to new life, creation and growth. This made me reflect on the Yew leaves fallen from a tree of our ancient culture that I had infused my painting with, except mine I felt was a marker for time.
This portrait was painted by Frida Kahlo after the death of her father and she continued to work on it for over a decade. The inscription commemorates him fighting against Hitler and also suffering from epilepsy. Kahlo painted him in sepia which reflects his role as a photographer and could be read as his artistic influence upon her. This I found interesting because I had created a partner painting for Crow Mother, using a sepia photograph of my father and the idea of the battle, both internal and external with addiction that he struggled with and caused him to lose his life nearly fifty years ago. In some ways, I felt that he was the original wild and damaged creature in ‘Crow Mother’ that mum was trying to save. There was a link. Again across time.
In the process of creating this work I used the only photograph I’d had of him as a child which was a small sepia profile shot of him looking to the left. I always wondered what the other side of his face looked like. As a response to this, I decided to flip the picture and enlarge it in the digital print studio, Salford. I then used it as a source for this painting. That way, as an artist (and a daughter), I had ‘the full picture’.
The Crow helmet that I am still working on links back to the description in the book ‘Crow’ by Boria Sax , of Celtic Warrior, Valerius Corvus, ‘Valerius the Crow’ (p56). The idea of the crow being present at, and a symbol of battle (be it addiction or otherwise) inspired me to develop the crow helmet idea. The family name and my art name – Kilty came originally from Cailte, an Irish warrior from the fianna (war band) of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. This name has changed over time and has been anglicized when my family fled the potato famine. Family history has us believe we are descended from Irish giants and warriors. This is a story passed down through time of our ancestral origins, infusing our present.
I have been working on a canvas that I’ve lately come to call ‘Crow daughter’. Inspired by a dream I had several years ago which I recorded in a journal. In the dream, I was taken up by a huge murder of crows that carried me across a kind of surreal, seething landscape where faces surged out of the earth towards me. The feeling accompanying the dream was one of complete protection by the unlikely feathered allies and a new perspective. The end of the dream had a strange announcement that I had seventeen years left.
Following the Crow Mother portrait based on a childhood memory of Mum nursing a crow when I was younger and releasing it back to the wild, I felt that this was a natural autobiographical development and had the urge to create Crow Daughter as part of this body of work. Where mum protected, nursed and nurtured the crow; this was like a reversal where I was being held, carried, protected by the crows and shown a different dream perspective that seemed to embody the changing passage of time on Earth.
I struggled with the idea of perspective as I was essentially the experiencer of the dream. I decided to change the perspective to that of standing outside of myself as a viewer to reflect time and distance between me and the dream, to give the viewer more range and opportunity for perception of key elements such as the changing face in the Earth and myself carried by crows across the dream landscape. I had no preconceived idea of how this work would evolve and allowed it to develop intuitively. Having attended life drawing classes at Salford School of Art and Media, during which we explored colour theory and discussed classical techniques with the ‘life painting’ tutor (as painting has been the focus this semester), technically, I would now describe this as a high key painting.
After a recent visit with my brother to an ancient yew tree in Beltingham, Northumberland. We discussed time, symbolism, death and the idea of life continuing regardless of process, or as part of the process. I created a tincture with found Yew leaves, to include some of the essence of this great and venerable tree and connection to the moment in time where we contemplated something ancient in a place ( churchyard) that marks the passage of human time and where time seems to stop. This I used in the tree of teardrops above. In some sense I felt I was creating an essence of time.
Does time exist? Is time relative? This was becoming a nonlinear work.
Over the period of this book the Yew tree at Beltingham was growing, regardless of the seething changes of humanity. Although in itself finite, it seemed to embody something of the eternal as it was over a thousand years old and stood on hallowed ground. Manuel de Landa in the above philosophical work, recommended by Jake Chapman, states that “technology won’t be viewed as evolving in a straight line.” (p.73,) I felt this related to how I was beginning to view my creative process too. Time was emerging as a theme.