The grace of the ordinary
I’ve spent 30 years working as a Group Analyst.
I’ve grown to like ideas about mess and “difficulty” that emphasise what I believe to be an inherent paradox in all our lives. H.A.Williams says it very well: “Error can be the mediator of truth.”
I think that hints at my approach to painting, now my full-time occupation. I like to find out as I go. I take risks. I make lots of “mistakes”. I watch and wait until the next idea comes.
As a Group Analyst, its been a privilege to witness the journeys people make towards recognising the beauty of their own ordinary grace, qualities which had previously been hidden and overlooked, masked by what they saw as their “problems”.
Although I am not conscious of these themes as I paint, I am sure that they are there. In the words which follow I offer some thoughts on what informs my painting.
I walk the Suffolk fields around our home. Rain seeps, distant horizons dissolve, tractor tracks fill with water. Sweeping curves pick me up in their movement and rhythm.
Newly turned furrows: deep, dark, textured, monumental. Sticky clay, cut and heaved by massive ploughs, transformed into a great serpentine creature, twisting and writhing over vast areas.
I have fallen in love with ewes, cows and piglets. Their rounded, weighty forms. Their substantial flesh and impossibly bulging bodies feel sturdy and resilient. Beautiful elegant ankles, great sagging bellies and craggy haunches present paradox: beauty in unrefined forms. I celebrate their creamy udders and woolly warmth, images of uncomplicated, unselfconscious fecundity, and protection from the cold.
At the coast I am drawn to boats beached on the shoreline. Worn, stranded, vulnerable objects. But they persist. I also see in them something about intimacy: close, alongside yet apart, in conversation or comfortably solitary.
In all my work there has been something about loving, honouring and celebrating the significance in what may appear ordinary and unremarkable. What really matters to us, and in us, is not always obvious. It can be overlooked.
Ruth McCabe, with the help of friends.