To develop a body of work in which a reader can lose themself.
Meaning, to blend creative writing and creative non-fiction writing. To blend in a way that ebbs, flows tidally, elementally, and carries readers on pages of shared journeys.
Below is an excerpt of a piece prepared for the Foundling Museum's Finding Family exhibition.
We are what we do: A reflection on Charles Brookings’ A Flagship, Wearing the Flag of a Vice Admiral of the Red, Before the Wind off the English Coast, With a Cutter, a Ketch-rigged Sloop and Other Shipping – 1754
In February 1754, an artist in residence at the hospital for eighteen days. An obscure painter, a recluse. His art sings true, his ships are lauded, their faithfulness admired. A painter lacking the fame of the others lining the walls in the rooms of that place – Hogarth, Gainsborough, Ramsay, Reynolds. No fortune would come, his life cut short by consumption. An aperture closed. No sight for expression or memory and brush, no feeling or touch.
Enter the Picture Gallery and immediately to your right, you find it. An image unfurls and staggers sight.
There is a need to stand back. Breathe in, lungs lifting. Oxygen enabling sensory appreciation. Labours’ movements on waves ever still, the canvas rapt with wind imagined. The piece passes from near to far, ever out of reach with a depth of scale that asserts it. Calloused hands working sheets, holding tillers. Sea borne toil, the clouds overhead a blessing and a curse.
Sea spray covers all in a fine salty crust, a mist in the air at each prow’s kiss. Weather’s daily occurrence misleads in all ways, the mood it conveys. Strapped to an act of living outdoors, earning a giving. Risking life and limb for the tangible, some quality to share. Tacking to smooth the ride and to push on. Each journey a consensus, a union of needs, bringing together those that endeavour. In this tension we find reward, we hear a challenge and a call.
See a painting, its composition for presenting and holding, its materials for texture and showing, you agree it exists. Its frame a carved splendour, accentuates a bounty, stretching the canvas for a journey through ages, once young, now old. Abeam you are, embracing this scene.
A mainsail’s winch, a rudder well used. Functional, instructional, something is overarching, a motif for a year. At the helm it’s guiding. In 1754, maritime enterprise is all – fishing, trading, hauling, warring – speaking of a society whose obsession is commerce, the getting and keeping of it by war. Perceived lack met with perceived more.
Sea spray. Sea spray. It covers all, the rigging and mast, the bow and the stern, a child’s wide eyes as they practise and learn. Colonnades as rope-walks are a perfect space, for the steps you review and the lives that you trace. Children, rope-making, stand by stacks of the stuff, once stored in Coram’s Fields.