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I am often asked how my paintings come about. "Many different ways," I answer "but this is how You Brought Me the Moon But (You) did not Stay developed."

You Brought Me the Moon But (You) did not Stay channels an intimate conversation between Wolfram and me. I started with the old CD Walkman that I had used in the arts residency in Umbria in 2004 and selected only one CD disc, Kiri Te Kanawa’s 50th birthday Concert from March 10th, 1994.

With the ear buds securely in my ears, the Walkman cranked up and tucked into the front of my tee shirt I settled in a chair with a drawing pen and my bound leather note pad. The music flowed through my brain. I tried to concentrate on the landscape outside the windows. My brain would not let me. My hand began transcribing the stream of conscious thoughts that tumbled forth. As I listened tears fell. My mind kept going to Wolfram and his wonderful smile. The landscape faded out of focus. It was only Wolfram’s smile I could see. Nothing else.

I had no intention in engaging in a dialogue with Wolfram when I decided to join the 2017 Toni Onley Project, the Island Mountain Arts’ Centre residency. It was a last minute decision to come to Wells as an invited guest artist. I thought I would use the Toni Onley replica watercolour wooden paint box that I had and would do only 24 small plein air watercolours using Toni Onley’s muted, but clear colours. I also thought that I should bring twelve 24” by 36” canvases so that I could then start to merge Toni Onley’s colours with my colours on canvas. In my mind’s eye I envisioned connecting with Toni Onley’s psyche using the forests around the small community of Wells, an interior community with a population of 250 members made up of visual artists, actors, musicians and miners. It was not to be.

My hand swiftly moved across the pages of my bound notebook. And Kiri’s voice filled my soul as Wolfram became so real standing in front of me.   Oscar Hammerstein's song, You 'll  Never Walk Alone, resonated in my very being. Wolfram became the song, the song his voice. And I answered. 

With Wolfram’s presence funneled through Hammerstein’s lyrics and my responses recorded, I closed my notebook and left the residency’s building. I needed fresh air. 

I began to walk around the small village, my feet feeling the soft mud of the unpaved streets.  I do not know how long I walked.  I just walked and walked and walked, thinking all the time of Wolfram and our life together.  We would have had fifty Christmases together if he had not been cruelly cut down in the prime of his life.  The refrain that kept running through my brain was “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark.”  Wolfram the protector, Wolfram the provider, Wolfram the glue that kept and supported his family with every ounce of his being.  I began to hum these words. My right hand moved to the rhythm of the words, the very words Wolfram would have said to me throughout our time together.

From this long walk, the music in my brain and the rhythm beginning in my body I knew that I had a new work, a new series.  I did not know where or when the series would end.  But it was there.   I count the lines in the lyrics.   Twelve.   I had twelve canvases!

I went back to the residency studio and began to assemble my canvases and acrylic paints.   On the top of each canvas I wrote Hammerstein’s / Wolfram’s words.  At the bottom of the canvas I wrote my response.  I then started to paint, beginning with the golden colour in the middle.   My hand moved intensely and passionately about each canvas.  Transparent and opaque colours layered.  For nine days, painting ten to twelve hours a day with only short breaks for lunch, dinners or lectures I only painted and listened to Kiri’s CD.  Nothing else.  It was important for me to record the shifting and changing colours. I could see Wolfram’s smiling face.  He was with me, encouraging me.  “Keep going,” he kept telling me.  And I did.

 Splashing, slashing, dripping paint. All the while listening to “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.”  I moved back and forth between the canvases.

And then, the most curious thing happened.  I was working on the twelfth canvas. The Walkman slipped out of my tee shirt and crashed to the floor.  The case opened. A spring flipped out.

Gathering up the damaged Walkman and the spring I went next door to a fellow artist, Bob, who was not only a fine artist but also a scientist, and asked if he could help me repair the Walkman.  I placed the Walkman on the table.  The spring fell out of my hand.  It landed somewhere on the floor.  Neither Bob, nor other nearby artists or I could find the spring.  The Walkman could not be used again.  It was as if Wolfram was telling me you are finished for now. 

The first three canvases, were exhibited in the group exhibition. 

After the exhibition and critiques I packed up and started the journey home.  But I am not finished I thought, as I meandered along the highway on the two day treck back to Kamloops. 

Once  home I tightly installed the twelve canvases on a large wall.  After a week of studying and gazing at the work I knew there was a new layer in the paintings.  I gathered oil paint, a pallet and a pallet knife and then climbed the  step ladder.  With music from Kiri’s CD playing in the background I began to apply oil paint to the canvases.  Again Wolfram was with me. 

Over the remainder of the summer months, when I needed to hear those words “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark,” I'd get out the step ladder, the oil paint, the pallet and pallet knife, move the furniture and begin to hum.  Then I would climb the step ladder.  I would become lost in memories and thought. 

Is this series finished?  I am not sure..  At times I believe so but I have yet to sign my name in red in the right hand corner.  When that occurs, well, when that occurs I may be finished.  But I could be ready to start the second part to You Brought Me the Moon but (You) did not Stay


Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 at 2:23PM
That is an elegant poem!
Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 at 2:25PM
Thank you Michael