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    You're welcome, Nicholas!

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, A Transcendental Journey

    Thank you!

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    Nicholas Mackey
    Nicholas Mackey commented on the blog post, A Transcendental Journey

    Beautiful writing, Stephen and thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us

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    I appreciate the kind words in your comment and the words of that sermon I referred to in my article re. the value of art in our lives even in extremis still reverberates inside my psyche.

    Ah, but you see the lotus flower tempted me into entering the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition the following year, 2011 - more later.

    Thank you for commenting and, again, I want to thank you from the deep recesses of my being for providing this forum to us writers - may Green Room go on and on and on .......

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, A Transcendental Journey

    Thanks - I think it is my favorite too. Crossing the Threshold.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, A Transcendental Journey

    This is so beautiful, my favourite passage in the book. So pleased you chose to share it with us. Thank you.

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans created a new blog post, A Transcendental Journey

    A Transcendental Journey

    Posted in Blogs on Sunday, 10 September 2017

    Twenty years ago today, I started a journey across country that I'm sure changed my life and helped me become, if not a serious writer, at least serious about writing. The journey continues, and I am grateful for both the mountains and the valleys. Here is a little bit from A Transcendental Journey: We know we're awake because our eyes are open. By late afternoon, I was ready to stretch my legs. Following a particularly long swell of highway, I reached the top of a bluff. Spotting a rest stop across the highway, I pulled across and into the parking lot. Set back a few hundred yards from the edge of the bluff, the building was long and low, mostly one big room, with a massive rectangular information desk in the center manned by several busy aides. Beneath the windows, low slung metal racks brimmed with brochures describing every attraction you could imagine, and many you couldn’t. I strolled outside the building towards the bluff. The grass was tall, not Really Tall, but enough to hide a snake or two. So I kept my head down heading toward the brink. At the edge of the bluff, I looked up. The slope fell sharply away hundreds of yards to where the Missouri River engraved a broad S through the grasslands. Beyond the wide impassive river, the brown flat earth stretched to the curve of the world, melding into a white horizon unguessably distant. But it wasn't the distance that held me to the spot. There are qualities that belong to a place, that inhabit its essence and mark it in the memory. The quality of this bluff was Blue. Blue has many names: azure, sapphire, navy, even cornflower. I have never seen a cornflower, or any blue flower for that matter. But cornflower blue I can picture in my mind: draw a luster from the earth, blend in sunlight, sift in moonlight. What I saw from the bluff was not any blue I could imagine: not azure nor sapphire nor navy nor cornflower. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can't picture it. But I can remember how it felt, dodging my eyes and seeping unfiltered through the pores of my skin: Blueness, essence of Blue, narcotic Blue. Manifest Blue. True Blue. Transcendental Blue. But there were two blues, not one. We see the sky as blue because the blue electromagnetic waves of sunlight are shorter and are scattered more easily by the dust in the atmosphere. But nothing about this blue seemed scattered nor did sunlight seem required. Standing there, I realized that I had never truly seen a blue sky before. A stain had been washed from the stratosphere. Blue shone through. Bodies of water are blue when they reflect the sky. But the Missouri had a different recipe that day, independent of the firmament above. Take a sea, fold it over and over and over like a translucent sheet, then glaze it in a tawny bed of grass. That is Missouri Blue. Go to the Missouri River crossing. Stand on the bluff on a cloudless day. Blue lives there.

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    A graphic mix of subjective and objective experience on a wonderful occasion! And a very poignant account of the Nazi concentration camp incident which shows the urge to communicate through culture even in extremis. It's not the icing on the cake. It's lifeblood. It's who a people are, their identity and morale. No wonder Napoleon and others went for the national treasures!

    So since tasting the lotus flower...? :-)

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    An Irish Photographer at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

    Posted in Blogs on Sunday, 03 September 2017

      At the time of the 2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, I wrote the following:   It was an anxiously-awaited letter from a certain auspicious institution that stopped me in my tracks late that Friday morning. I ripped it open with suitable theatrical disdain. It dramatically announced that ‘with over 10,000 entries, the competition was extremely strong’, yes, yes I thought, get on with it, ‘however I am delighted to inform you that your work..........’ the rest of the missive faded away momentarily from view as I tried to take in the magic of what had been written by my correspondent, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw CBE and President of the Royal Academy. I could not believe that a photograph of mine had ‘been selected and hung in the exhibition’ – the Summer Exhibition no less at Burlington House. I was a newbie to all this (on my second attempt) but I was determined to enjoy every moment of it and my wife has observed on several occasions that I have been floating on Cloud 9 since then. Enclosed with the letter was what my father many years ago used to call a ‘stiffy’ – an embossed invitation to the quixotically-named Non-Members’ Varnishing Day. The big day arrived and thankfully a gorgeous summer’s morn beckoned. I journeyed up on the train turning up a little too early at the exalted address in Piccadilly with the unholy zeal of someone who is a reformed latecomer. Only the exhibiting artists are invited – not even significant others are permitted and I find myself surrounded by arty types presumably and larger than life figures standing on plinths disporting themselves in striking poses in the courtyard outside. Since I lead such an inconsequential existence in rural south-east England, I do not recognise a soul but even I begin to take the hint when I see largish medals worn demonstrably by various women and men; that’s what an Academician must be then, I surmise simultaneously discerning the remarkable sculptures of the late Barry Flanagan. It feels like my first day at school with attendant ‘butterflies’ but many others greet each other warmly as long lost friends and display the insouciance of being on familiar territory. A carnival atmosphere is palpable as a steel band is playing and a television crew is going through its paces with smiling media personality, Andrew Graham-Dixon in full flow to camera. While waiting I strike up a conversation with Austin Ruddy, a Yorkshire-based artist (with Irish roots, he proclaimed) and who has been here before. He seems so cool and relaxed, detached even. As I normally have a camera with me, I snap away. We are then gently called to order and led by the ‘great and the good’ of the RA world to an age-old ceremonial of thanksgiving. This is a brief moment where a main London thoroughfare, Piccadilly falls silent for artists as we march proudly to St. James’s Church nearby. The tone for the service and also for the Summer Exhibition is set with an uplifting but warm atmosphere bolstered by a gentle reading from Sir Nicholas as above, some superb choral music and a riveting sermon from Professor Tina Beattie of Roehampton University who forcefully says that art has direct relevance for us today quoting the poignant account of an ill-timed delivery of lipstick to a Nazi concentration camp at the moment of its liberation by the Allies in 1945 and how the former inmates then used this item of make-up to strike an artistic blow against the depravity of their inhuman surroundings. Not one for emotional display, even I felt moved and dare I say it, tearful, at this point. After the service, we all trooped back to the Academy for champagne plus canapés and naturally to see our own work on display. For the record, my photograph with an Irish theme, Four Courts Dublin was eventually located by a member of the Academy staff in the Porter Gallery (Room X) near to the exit high up on the wall. While milling around in one of the galleries where mutual congratulations are being exchanged, the sound of a bell is heard and someone says that a speech is being given. We make a move to the Central Hall where the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Nicholas himself was discoursing on the high number of entrants to the Exhibition and the challenge of choosing the final successful supplicants with this year’s focus on ‘raw’ in mind. Sir Nicholas then introduced a coterie of fellow Academicians who went on to make a number of awards to the winners of various creative categories. I bump into Austin again and as he recalls I have a camera, he requests that I take a picture of his painting in the Small Weston Room. ‘No problem’, I say but as it is quite high up, getting a decent angle on it would be a dilemma. Unperturbed, Austin turns around and sees a fancy bright red step ladder – presumably placed there conveniently and with some forethought to enable us artists to touch up or varnish our works on this very day – after all, it is Varnishing Day. Austin and I haul the piece of equipment near to his painting and he offers to hold the ladder securely as I mount it; I notice that we have become comrades-in-arms by now. No worries as I leapt up the contraption like a ferret after its prey. Very conveniently the restraining bar at the top is at just the right height to balance my camera on and I take two snaps of Mr Ruddy’s painting. At that moment, a polite kerfuffle beneath me ensues – I guess all such encounters at the RA are conducted with such finesse – where Austin is now locked in an exchange with an official who warns of the dangers associated with our actions and that health and safety is being infringed. As I feel confident about the pictures just taken, I decide to descend the ladder and meekly comply with this jobsworth’s ruling. Just at that moment, a young lady barred my path downwards with false bonhomie, asking mysteriously: “Is that a G9?” while pointing at my camera. Fortunately we photographers are switched on to such exciting developments in our lives and I immediately clicked into ‘techie mode’ recognising her rather impudent inquiry about my equipment. I crisply replied: “No, actually it’s a G10” showing my camera to her as best I could as I endeavoured to evade the steely glare of the gallery apparatchik who was by this time tugging at the step ladder to wrest it from Austin’s grasp lest we use it again. The impetuous camera lady then melted back into the crowd. As an Irishman abroad, I noticed that the fuss with Academy officialdom was amicably concluded in that quintessential English manner but this little vignette of an episode is emblematic of how a modern Britain is seized with a new tyranny: that the infantilising dogma of health and safety abuts awkwardly against certain well-oiled artistic practices of the past. But I digress. Later on, when the throng had departed I walked around undistracted gazing in wonder at the inventiveness and creative skill exhibited. It was truly exciting but let me give you a very brief flavour of what is on show: David Mach and his striking collage, Babel Towers next to his incredible sculpture, Silver Streak (think of King Kong) made entirely of coat hangers; Bill Jacklin’s intriguing inkjet print, Wollman Rink 1; Norman Ackroyd and his enchanting etching on stainless steel, Gallapagos; The Crown of Esfahan: Mosque of the Sun, an entrancing and intricate creation of brass, paper and ink by Sara Shaffei and Ben Cowd. The whimsical but telling message contained in the topical sculpture, Crash Willy by Yinka Shonibare – winner of the coveted Wollaston Prize plus a cheque for £25,000; take note of the vehicle registration, if you can. Irish artists are well represented and indeed triumphant with Elizabeth Magill’s large oil painting with a mysterious feel to it, Blue Hold which earned her the Sunny Dupree Family Award for a woman artist and Paul Murphy’s award-winning Untitled, a c-type photographic print. Other artists on show with Irish connections are: Carey Clarke, Francis Matthews, Terry McAllister Padraig MacMiadhachain, Séan Scully and Hughie O’Donoghue. The Exhibition is on until 22nd August. No doubt there will be rumbustious critics who will lambast this artistic extravaganza with well-chosen bon mots based on entrenched prejudices fossilised sometime in the Kensington or Soho ateliers of the 1950s and who then enter into this post-modern world of wonder and inspiration sometimes verging on the anarchic only to weald an axe of destructive blithering ignorance. But I digress, again. As a photographer, I should confess to a certain bias but Room X did have a number of striking images many of which were produced with the help of a camera rather than a brush, palette knife or chisel, such as Suzanne Moxhay’s Cablecar and Swarm, both archival digital prints with an indefinable eeriness about them. Also, Allen Jones’ Undressed Hatstand, a black and white silver print; Substrate Shadow, an archival digital print by Barton Hargreaves and Nicola Walsh’s Envelopes, a c-type digital print; all these images spectacularly observed the official remit of ‘raw’ for the Summer Exhibition. I was further heartened when chatting to Sir Nicholas Grimshaw towards the end of Varnishing Day when he voiced strong support for the photographic element of this event. This positive attitude should send out a welcoming signal to photographers that their images are now being taken seriously by the arts world; the Royal Academy has accepted photographs at the Summer Exhibition since 2006. As a newbie, this magical day was coming to an end and I savoured it to the last knowing that for a very brief moment I had been privileged to play a small part in this world-class artistic occasion. It may never happen again but now that the lotus flower of the Summer Exhibition has been tasted ............... ©Nicholas Mackey 2010  

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    Virginia M Macasaet

    The Wind, The Moon and The Night

    Posted in Blogs on Sunday, 03 September 2017

    I remember mom on her birthday. Bright as the moon and graceful as the wind blowing. She stood tall on dark nights.   Elegant as ever no matter the chaos and adversity. She took it all in with dignity. Her inner beauty remains iconic.   In my sleep, I wish her a happy birthday in heaven. I know she continues to look down upon me. If not for her, I would not have survived the ghost of deceit.

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    Monika Schott

    It feels so long ago, Katherine, when it first began. So much has emerged and already created impact l could never imagine.

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    Monika Schott

    Absolutely, Rosy, especially when their contribution has been quiet and unassuming and has made such great impact.

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    Ken Hartke

    Mashugana?

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    Katherine Gregor

    That's a very interesting point of view and experience. I was brought up in Catholic countries (Italy and France) and had my run-ins with Catholic priests and nuns when I was a child and teenager. I remember a priest practically spitting at me with disgust when I tried to walk into a church with a sleeveless but in no way revealing or low-cut top in the summer. I snappped back at him, "God made my shoulders! Are you saying He was wrong?"

    I must say that In Rome, I've encountered far fewer Catholic bigots than here in England. There's a historical reason for this. Catholics in England weren't even allowed to worship in public till sometime in the 19th century (Rosy will know the date). Oppression can encourage zeal. In Rome, people have witnessed first-hand the corruption of the Church for centuries, so – barring a few very old ladies who attand morning and evening prayers – there is a certain amount of healthy cynicism about religion. I've written before about this Roman joke: the Vatican car numberplate carries the letters SCV (stato Città del Vaticano = State City of the Vatican) but actually stands for "Se Cristo vedesse!" (= if Christ could only see!)

    I have, however, encountered intense judgementalism and Mediaeval intolerance when at a very Evangelical Protestant college at my university at Durham, back in the late 80s-early90s. I remember feeling almost threatened by it.

    Having said all that, I do believe that both Catholicism and Protestantism have made invaluable contributions to the Western world. For one thing, thing of all the art the Catholic Church paid for!

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    Katherine Gregor

    Thank you, Rosy. I'd forgotten all about Lammas Day.

    If I remember correctly, one of the points the books made (it was a Saturday Gurdaian article review) was that Protestantism had less of a sense of community and put more emphasis on the individual. Also, it discouraged confession which, as we know, can be (if not abused) wonderful as form of release. After all, what can be more of a relief than someone forgiving you your sins? As you know, I often go to Norwich Cathedral. But I also sometimes go to the Catholic Cathedral. The atmosphere is very, very different. Apart from being much more multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, the Catholic Cathedral has a far wider age range in its congregation. I confess I love evensong at the Anglican Cathedral but find Sunday services too, too respectable and pillar-of-the-community. But I'm digressing...

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    Ken Hartke

    Katia -- The few times I've visited "western" countries without a strong Protestant history I've felt a certain freedom of spirit that doesn't exist in the USA. They have other issues, perhaps, but there were fewer of those Lilliputian bindings holding everyone in place. There was generally a looming presence of the church...like every 50 yards in some towns...but there wasn't quite the same suppression of expression or rampant judgmentalism.

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    That's better than anything I thought of!

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    Rosy Cole

    I forgot to say that August 1 was historically the time of Thanksgiving for the wheat harvest and was known as Lammastide, or Lammas Day. In Gaelic:Lughnasa This was when there would be feasting and dancing. I believe that's how the original August Bank Holiday evolved. All the rituals celebrating the turning of the natural year were marked in diaries and calendars even when I was young, as were the phases of the moon, an understanding of which was essential to successful planting and reaping. These days were remembered in church as well as the workaday world and continued long after Britain became Protestant. However, I do take your point about early Protestantism and have long believed that, for all the man-made distortions of Catholicism, ordinary life in Britain was never so richly organised, nor its citizens fulfilled, as in the decades prior to the Reformation. There was such a common sense of priority.

    Increasing urbanisation and consumerism have well and truly severed us from our roots. There are children living (not just in inner cities) but in the South Downs of England who have no idea that vegetables are grown in soil and are amazed at how planting can multiply a yield.

    With all your moves, I don't wonder the article went missing, but I do hope you happen upon it sometime.

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    Rosy Cole

    You've flummoxed Google, Steve, which I know is your very particular skill. However, here goes:

    Last evening in Yoknapatawpha, there I spied a flying saucer

    or again:

    My tale 's of Yoknapatawpha the place made famous by its author

    Keep us posted on your progress! :-)

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Latest Comments

Sue Glasco A Full August
15 September 2017
Thanks, Rosy. The funny thing about me and sports is that although I have spent many many hours of ...
Stephen Evans A Transcendental Journey
11 September 2017
Thank you!
Nicholas Mackey A Transcendental Journey
10 September 2017
Beautiful writing, Stephen and thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us
Nicholas Mackey An Irish Photographer at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
10 September 2017
I appreciate the kind words in your comment and the words of that sermon I referred to in my article...

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Twenty years ago today, I started a journey across country that I'm sure changed my life and helped me become, if not a serious writer, at least serio...
  At the time of the 2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, I wrote the following:   It was an anxiously-awaited letter from a certain ausp...
I remember mom on her birthday. Bright as the moon and graceful as the wind blowing. She stood tall on dark nights.   Elegant as ever no matter th...
I love Bank Holiday Mondays.  Even though I now work from home, so weekends and Bank Holidays are of little consequence to my timetable, I nevertheles...