Monthly Archives: July 2014

Therese Oulton. Surfaces not Underneaths. 2009.


Surfaces, not Underneaths. 2009.


I came across the work of Therese Oulton recently when looking for a post WW2 British female painter, she was born in 1953 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, studied at St. Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art having begun her studies as a student of anthropology. Oulton lives in London, she did spend a year in Vienna, in 1987 she was nominated for the Turner Prize. Oulton was not keen to join any group and I do not think she would want to be categorised as one of the YBAs, the young British painters, to quote her she wrote ‘I lead an extremely isolated existence.’ It is said that not many women choose to paint landscapes, perhaps not, although I like to paint landscapes, Oulton has been described as a ‘Neo-Expressionist’  known for her abstract work, also landscapes – in a fairly abstract way.

On discussing Surfaces, not Underneaths Germaine Greer writes, ‘Not many women use landscapes as subjects but for Oulton they are an inspiration and rescue painting from male domination’  she added   ‘Oulton makes us believe her reverence has extended to every single, irreplaceable pebble on the beach, she shows a familiar landscape, yet strange, the opposite of conceptual, as though she is shaking out the map of memory til it becomes a dynamic interweaving of sacred grass such as spinifex (an Australian grass) on rocks’ – an extract from an article in the Guardian in 2009, the method echoes the way Australian aborigine women paint.

This painting is painted with oils on aluminium I think, this means that the oil remains on the surface and is not absorbed as with canvas, colours are applied smoothly and can be blended, once the paint dries another coat can be laid on top. The final work will be lightly varnished to prevent scratching. We see the view from above, not directly above but as though we are gliding at an angle to the ground, as if ‘we hang in space’. It is easy to imagine the scene going beyond the frame as if into the far distance. I prefer large spaces, empty skies broken up with  white clouds and distant horizons, more than mountainous scenes although I also find them awe inspiring.  Standing on the shore line looking out to sea is one of my favourite occupations. Often I watch people on the beach, they seem to choose to walk along the edge of the solid ground within inches of the lapping waves.  I have stood at the foot of mountains near Delphi, in valleys in the beautiful Lake District and the highlands of Scotland but big skies that we can see in areas like Norfolk give me the most enjoyment. Flying along the shore line of north Devon with one of my sons in his microlite (winged  motor bike) was a thrill, looking down at the sea which looked like liquid mercury, rather similar to Therese Oulton’s depiction in this painting,

I wish I could see the work as an original because prints do not convey the depth of paint, the texture and the correct colouring, it is said that she uses a ‘delicate and virtuoso technique that amounts to contemplative practice’ her paintings are small in size but are crammed with detail. Much of her most recent work uses repeated motifs, rather like film strips, her work is widely collected, galleries in London exhibit her work, I would like to see them one day.

Information provided by wikipedia.




Ford Madox Brown 1821 – 1893.The Pretty Baa Lambs 1851.



Ford Madox Brown was born in Calais, he and his wife did not move to live in England until 1844, his wife died two years later. The painter became closely linked to The  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founded in London in 1848 by James Collinson, William Holman  Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, these artists were a well organised team who promoted their work in a journal they published named The Germ. Five years later the group disbanded and each artist went his own way, by then the group had expanded. Again we see how artists have found news means of expression, they rebelled against the art establishments like the Royal Academy and the public was shocked by their work when they depicted religious figures in every day occupations, Jesus in a carpenter’s workroom for example. They were described as the ‘first British avant garde’  in their case they looked back to earlier art, paintings executed before Raphael, their defiance was a catalyst for change, Ruskin, the art critic gave their work critical acclaim, they courted the nouveau riche who bought their work.

In Pretty Baa Lambs we have another work about motherhood but as the title suggests young animals are also part of the subject matter, Brown’s wife and daughter were his models, we can imagine the mother saying, ‘daughter, look at the pretty baa lambs’ as they gaze down, nearby a young woman gathers something from the grass, he may have dressed the figures in 18th.century clothes in order to hark back to a time before Industrialisation was in full swing, he must have known that Clapham Common, where the scene was mostly painted, would change beyond recognition. He worked in the open air before the Impressionists decided to do so, he also worked in his garden in nearby Stockwell. Using a restricted palette of mainly blue, white and green with an important flash of red, he records for us a memory of a scene reaching into the far distance stretching across fields, I like the big sky, the openness and space created. There is a wistfullness too I think, both his wives had babies who died young. His work often carried a moral message, with William Morris he founded the Hogarth club, he died in 1893 and was given a secular funeral, his second wife had died two years before.

Announcing our autumn weekend retreat in Sussex, UK,Telscombe YH ‘Meaning and the Middle Way’, 7th-9th Nov 2014. Come and meditate, reflect on embodied meaning, walk on the South Downs, and make friends!  Please see this link for more details and to book your place.

Plenty of places still also available on our Summer Retreat in Worcestershire, 16th-23rd August. See this link.

The MWS Podcast 30: What is your understanding of the Middle Way? 2.

Continuing on from last week, this is the second compilation of podcast interviewee’s responses to the above question, they are: Paul Gilbert, Mark Vernon, Jim O’Driscoll, Claire Kelly, Vishvapani Blomfield, Rich Flanagan, Viryanaya, Peter Worley, Don Cupitt and Kristin Neff. If you would like to hear the full interviews, you can find them here.

MWS Podcast 30: What is the Middle Way 1 as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_30_WITMW2

Poetry 35: Tichborne’s Elegy by Chidiock Tichborne


Tichborne wrote this elegy on the eve of his execution. He was one of fourteen convicted in 1586 in the plot to kill Elizabeth 1st of England.

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons