Yesterday I was invited by friends to visit Kit and Eleyne Williams' gallery.
We step into the garden and cross a paving stone carved with fish and water lilies to meet a one eyed glare and snarling teeth. This woman's profile is intricately carved into the flesh of a pumpkin. We open the door to Kit's studio. Five beautiful oil paintings in lucid colour stretch along the gallery wall. A wonderland of delicately painted women – billowing tulip petal skirts – clasping high heels in windswept motion. Animals appear in oil on canvas metamorphosing into the wooden frame. Oranges ripe by a peach bottomed nude as the artist slumps over his desk. Teacups strung from golden silk hair. A mouse balances on a thread. The thread disappears for a moment beyond the frame – the gap between frames – returning tight between the fingers of the woman in the neighbouring canvas. Seductive and sensual, mysterious and surreal – Mystereal.
Masquerade + Jack the Hare
Kit Williams is well known for his book of paintings, Masquerade, published in 1979, and story of a hare called Jack who loses treasure on his way from the moon to the sun. It is up to the reader to find this treasure by deciphering the clues in the paintings.
“What I must do is to find a way to make people look and look and look again. And if I said, this is art, you know, you must really look at it because it's art, that turns people off. But if I said, there's some sort of puzzle here that you must work out, they would be looking at art through the back door. Kit Williams” - The Man Behind the Masquerade
Eleyne Williams + Narrative Jewellery
We walk down the steps across the patio into Eleyne's studio. Jewels adorn the space. An arrangement of timeless riches. And what is even more alluring for me is the hand written narratives that sit beside each work of art. Poetic words revive the origins and history behind these beads – time travelling through these ancient beads and found objects in glass, silver, brass, bronze, ceramic, wood and stone in all shades and densities. Hares nuzzle, the tail of a whale, a silver bicycle and a Japanese garden with cherry trees become fine necklaces earrings and head-dresses "to enhance the spirit of beauty." Eleyne Williams
“To hold a bead in your hand is to touch hands back through a history warm with humanity's intimate past.” Eleyne Williams
I'm reminded of 'The Hare with the Amber Eyes', when Edmund De Waal talks about his own collection of antique netsuke.
Hare with Loquats
I sketched the Hare with Loquats at the Royal Festival Hall from a flat photograph in 'Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya. I didn't initially have the same connection with this netsuke as I did recently with the Rat with Brass Eyes, the Rabbit with Red Eyes and the Monkey Wearing a Short Gown at the Bristol Museum. I was able to hold those netsuke and view them from all sides which enabled a closer connection to their history and to them. By carving the hare into the wood and re-carving to simplify the marks, by making an impression into the paper and a visit to Kit and Eleyne's enchanting studios, I make a new and deeper connection with this Hare with Loquats.
“Ever present in Japanese folklore, and one of the twelve animals of the zodiac, it comes as no surprise that hares are a common theme in Japanese paintings and decorative arts - Okatomo mainly created birds and animals in ivory, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the anatomy of his subject.” Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya.
The loquat, (Eriobotrya japonica) also known as Japanese plum and Chinese plum, and sometimes as the Japanese medlar, is a small evergreen tree, native to China and Japan. It is cultivated for its yellow, plumlike fruit and as an ornamental plant.