“… A lovely quality of beginning at the end and ending at the beginning, perfect in the magical light of the end of the year … such glad tidings yesterday with the wonderful launch of your book at Kettle’s Yard. Helen and Jim were vividly portrayed, and through your entrancing stories and drawings it was as if we were meeting them in person. We were taken out on a tide of Alfred Wallis’s watery fishes, bobbed around the bright lighthouse (briefly diving underwater with Tony!) and a wave of inspiration carried us back to walk along the elemental sea shore. It was exhilarating! I loved the story of the island postmaster sending back extraordinary packages to ‘Copper Kettle’ … It was a memorable afternoon!”
Rosanna Gardner (Painter in mixed media)
“I savoured the lines one by one, and sometimes read each line twice while I thought it through. It’s an extraordinary book, painfully open and truthful. But gentle. The only near similar work (for me) is Kathleen Raine’s autobiography which was more angsty but equally vivid and real.
“A born writer as well as artist. It’s lovely. The writing that really makes me pause for thought are your own insights into the mind-set of an artist and how art can be enjoyed and perceived, maybe influenced by what Jim said and wrote, but it is your voice and you are making all these links, backwards and forwards. It’s very unusual to read a book by an artist that manages to give an accurate impression of the creative process. It does this and is free, timeless, fresh and delightful.
“I was very moved at what you wrote about your grandmother Helen, in a way it’s the tenderest part of the book, how you felt you had not seen much of her towards the end but yet you still feel so close, even now. There is something open, refreshing, and direct in a gentle way … it works. And I love the structure. It is like a climbing tree with all sorts of things hanging from the branches.”
Christopher Williams (Kettles Yard Friend)
“It made me laugh and cry. It touched base with my own feelings of childhood and motherhood. I found it very healing.”
Rosalind Sellers (Pastor and participant in “Restorative Practices” and The Clewer Initiative)
“Fascinating fragments of family history, stories of Jim and Helen (and many others), insights and artworks.”
Andrew Nairne (Director of Kettles Yard)
From a letter written by Helen Mahaffy to her brother:
“Hi Gerry … Such an intimate piece. It resonated on a deeply personal level to some memories I had especially of my dad. Memories of childhood holidays and the freedom and space of play and exploration as kids. I found myself going back and back again to the reading and thoughts that flowed for me and as I was inspired by the words and images.
“My curiosity was ignited – I was immediately drawn in visually. I must admit I shuffled through the book; excited by the colour and drawings, paintings and pictures with the rawness and confidence and honesty of child drawings … to the eclectic mix of adult raw engagement with life and relationships, art and beauty. This was part of my pattern as I had different readings at different times.
“I love the multiple voices that are captured within chapters 2 & 3 and the very full pictures with the words and paintings that bring different people to life. Jack (Clemo) and Lionel became very real, and the loss and depth of experience.
“I felt moved to smiles with the descriptions of warm summers, and sadness at times that connected me to changes and a sense of loss and places and moments …of life itself; the fragility of ageing and death and the sadness of changes such as the gentle moving letters from son to mother-in-law during this period. It spoke of loss of precious places and people and transition and change, in a way that connected to very human themes, and resonated with my lived experiences. I suddenly felt a surge of emotion and was struck by how much I miss dad for example, and a set of memories came close to me at different times of reading Jane’s work. I felt close to my own memories of dad as a younger man and also an increasingly fragile dad in his poorer health.
“There is a living flow in the way the pieces are written that captures a movement. And a sense of being by the sea and in rock pools and the heat and haze of the sun, that invited me alongside Jane as a child visiting Stephen and Gwynedd as their characters grow fuller in the writing. The capturing of moments of sheer wonder as the seal popped up and dived, and the being in relation to others in these moments bring a life and fullness to all those parts of special experience … the more regular happenings like eating together and also the wonder-full happenings. It uniquely combines the world through the eyes of the child and a different awareness as time passes and life changes. People playing important parts within the picture come to life in the stories and deep sensitivity of the adults around her in their relationships.
“The family letters offer other rich dimensions to the whole; the special sense of receiving thoughts of warmth, and the warmth and humanity of knowing how much you are holding someone or are being held in mind by letters. What a great act of love they are (I thought).
“The weaving in of the very personal letters alongside the drawings of Jim and Helen embraces the awareness and gentle frailty of age and growing older and death. Jim and Helen, what a complementary partnership.
“I got a sense of the depth of personal meaning that Kettle’s Yard represented for Jim not just as a project but more a place of living in art and relationships – encouraging, inviting and welcoming us to personally and relationally connect and live with art. It connected me to my own visceral and sensate being as I walked into Kettle’s Yard and felt a rush of joy and life and intimacy with each piece/painting and work of art, pebble and plant. How special a place this is – it was quite a spiritual experience for me. I also felt liberated not to be directed by titles or words or directions of where to start or end and that placed me closer to the whole (sorry it is hard to put into words that capture it more fully).
“Through magical stories told and snapshots of moments and experiences, Jane has created for me connections to her parents and family and intimate relationships lived and loved. It is a loving, living piece.”
Helen Mahaffey (Teacher)
“A magical, mystical, mysterious exploration of an eternal journey full of enigmas, joy, love, sexuality, spirituality and fun. It is eclectic and lovingly put together, with a wealth of painting, poetry, prose, letters and sketches with no set chronology: a sense of the timeless.
“You can pick it up at just about any page and enjoy the section on its own, as well as being an integral part of the whole.
“A nostalgic portrayal of a childhood world, after the second world war, often a paradise lost but also eternally retrieved through art, memory and imagination: the spirit of Yorkshire, Cornwall, Surrey and France.
“Conversations with the inner child, what happened to the child, the relationship with the adult. I loved uncovering the mystery of the inner child in the picture and the mysterious, dream-like relationship with the Alfred Wallace painting; the revelations of the painting of the boats at Saltash bridge and the serpent ascending Jacob’s ladder. The sense of past, present and the future unified in ‘now’; the child sub personalities and alter egos all being part of a wonderful whole.
“This book by his granddaughter has Jim Ede’s gift of ‘spiritual spacing’. The sadness, upset and the politics of his loss. His revealing reflections ‘between two memories’. His thoughts on the war and the incredible trip through Arizona give a great overview of the natural history of the earth, history of man, inevitability and impact of war (loved his musings on earthquakes and war, finishing with the view of an island and the depths revealed beneath. Brilliant).
“The relationship with Kettles Yard and its own relationship with others: complexity, simplicity, the politics and the emotion. The different perspectives of the child, of Jim, of guests (“each newcomer should feel like the first”) and curators. The harmonic dissonances and the paradox of the storage in south London.
“Themes of life and death; deep family relationships: “couples should live back to back” … with Helen’s view of old love and new as you grow older.
“The woman beacon behind, within and in front of Jim at Kettles Yard. The theme of mystical, matriarchal mother and womanhood balances the masculine world: a continuing flow of the feminine force across family, humanity and time. The men similarly, are sculpted; the letters from Lionel are honest and insightful, with tasty sketches.
“Peter – a unique individual, farming, birthing lambs, playing violin, mixing Buddha, Beethoven, Bach, Eliot and Christ.
“A rich eclectic array of characters imaginary and real: Vera Moore, Oliver Reed, Picasso, Stephen and Gwynedd, Molly and her friends, Jung in his study, Alfred Wallis’s letters to Jim, Jim and Mary’s letters to each other. The letters are a treasure trove, lovingly collected, kept and chosen, like Jim collecting and choosing for Kettles Yard. Art history and art work, gems of poetry and musical musings, are interwoven into the fabric of the book.”
CONTINUED, AFTER FINISHING READING THE BOOK:
“Your work can be taken at so many levels; it’s deeply personal, autobiographical, nostalgic and philosophic; it’s an often intense psychological exploration of your relationship with family and friends; it’s a hugely creative odyssey and contribution to the world of art; it’s powerfully connected to the Divine source, full of mystical treasures, whilst at the same time being fully grounded in love, joy, sexuality, spirituality, fun and ultimately peace.
“I continue to love the timeless ‘spiritual spacing’ in the book, with no set chronology; a delicious menu of painting, sketches, poetry, prose, philosophy, and sketches. You can pick it up at any page and enjoy the section on its own, as well as being an integral part of the whole.
A few more comments:
- I loved especially the women in your book. Helen emerges and develops.. What a woman! The woman beacon behind, within and in front of Jim at Kettles Yard. The theme of mystical, matriarchal, mother and woman-hood, balancing magically the masculine world continues throughout. As author and midwife of the book you continue to be ‘the womb of light’, ‘Force of life’. The beautiful pencil drawings of Helen and Marisa juxtaposed on two pages near the end, point to the continuing flow of this feminine force across family, humanity and time.
- There are intriguing glimpses of your mother, sister and daughter, although as a reader I was curious to know more. Your own deep state of being comes out in artistic forms which are multifarious and colourful.
- The men similarly are beautifully sculpted. The chapter on Lionel, who we glimpse earlier, is fascinating, honest and shows your deep soul connection. I would be curious to see your letters back to him on the theme of ‘body as seat of soul.’
- The deep exploration of Jim continues; and the sense of ‘Jimishness’, that has now become ‘Jackishness’ bring new perspectives. The reflections ‘Between two memories’ are beautiful, meditative and revealing.
- Loved the chapter on reckless fruit, Discovery and Sketches of the 60s (there is a whole book and exhibition here); very atmospheric darkness, light, rain, street-lights, cinema, Yardbirds, Do Wa Widdy, slow dance and cellars.
- I savoured the paintings, drawings, portraits, landscapes and mystical doodles, as well as the photos chosen.
- Similarly enjoyed how you interweave art history and art works (as well as gems of poetry and musical musings) in to the fabric of the book. Magdalene and Jesus, Botticelli’s Madonna, Alfred Wallace’s fishes … are good examples.
- Am still reflecting on the sketch based on Botticelli’s Athene and Centaur brought together in serenity at the end. Full of rich meaning.
“Jane, just some reflections. The journey in to your worlds has been like visiting the Kettle’s Yard of your spirit. It is indeed a lighthouse for seafarers on our spiritual journeys.”
With Love, Gerry Mahaffy