Writer In Residence • December 2017 • Meet the Greens

December 20, 2017

As we come to the end of yet another fantastic and creative year at Tatha we have been reflecting on all the connections that have been made and the relationships that have formed and grown. Between customers and artists, customers and artworks, artworks and emotions, artworks and ideas to name a few. This is why we love art so much, it opens many doors. In early November another connection was made. Between the team at Tatha Gallery and Writer in Residence, Rebecca Sharp. We opened with an evening in the Poetry Apothecary celebrating the perfumes made by Rebecca and the writings and poems that compliment each piece. As we draw to the end of our Alchemy Winter Exhibition which celebrates over 100 paintings, prints and sculptures by 26 Scottish artists Rebecca has responded to one of the paintings in the show with her first piece written as part of her residency program.

Please take time to read and then take another look at the painting.

Meets the Greens • Acrylic on Board • by Joan Doerr

View more by this artist here

1. December 2017: Meet the greens

I wanted to open the residency with some thoughts about what might come out of the time ahead – and a poem. I’ll be writing poetry and prose; at least one piece for each exhibition throughout the year. I anticipate that the styles of writing will vary, and I hope that they do. I might write in response to the overarching themes of the exhibitions, or I might choose one or more individual pieces that spark an idea: taking an image, a concept or simply a reaction and following it – in my case, into words. It might recognisably relate in some way to the exhibition or artwork, or it might not.

I am personally interested in process – the hows (not the whys) of an artwork coming into being. That might mean thinking about materials and background context, as much as anything more abstract. Part of my residency with Tatha will be an exploration of process; seeing what happens when creative processes – and contexts, and audiences – meet. In this spirit of exploration, and of meeting, I’m probably going to lay bare most of the workings behind each piece of writing I produce, as I’m doing here. Some pieces may be works-in-progress, to be gathered together in a final version at the end of the residency; others may land fully formed.  

It all started with a misunderstanding. From the More Alchemy exhibition, I misread the title of Joan Doerr’s painting Meets the Greens as Meet the Greens. I loved the idea of being introduced to a whole spectrum of shades, as if they were characters in a story. Which in a way, they are. I loved it so much, I didn’t bother to correct myself even after I realised my error (I think the interpretation holds up either way). I’d actually started another more abstract piece in response to several of Liz Douglas’ paintings, in particular Ettrick Song, which I set aside and might come back to.

I remembered a book I have, The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair, which describes the origins of various colours and colour-names, their uses and means of production. A fitting place to start when thinking about Alchemy and art – so armed with a happy accident and a kaleidoscope of cross-cultural references for green, off I went exploring.

Meet the greens

It starts in the garden, as it often does.

In all corners, we see an agreement of green:

of growth, of youth, fecundity,

peace, inexperience and healing.

And a distant, mythical green where mountain,

water and sky might be unified.

The Romans called it calming –

as Nero held a coloured stone before his eyes

through which to watch the gladiators pit

their lives in violent flashes of red,

of gold; made more palatable

against the glare of the sun.

Then comes the misunderstanding, as it often does.

Of how to recreate a shade that lingers

in the middle, that just won’t choose a side.

Mixing was forbidden, so dyers’ trays were fixed

in opposition; blue and black to red and yellow.

Exile to those caught dipping in woad and weld.

Through Greece, through Spain, from Eastern alchemy

came copper green, Verdigris, hope-at-last.

To be soured and scraped and trapped in varnish:

a weary, laborious green with a tendency to autumn

and eat through parchment;

to blacken unattended.

The pigment of poison, evil, a forbidden process;

of unholy green-ey’d monsters defying capture,

frustrating the artists. 

From the Emerald City to the sickly-scented streets

of Paris in the green hour:

things unravel quickly. 

It ends as it must, in Scheele’s green.

On a tiny island where Napoleon was held

and killed in a very British murder:

in a quiet room with pretty papered walls,

tinted with arsenic.  This innocuous green

of artificial flowers, sweet wrappers and frippery;

of swirling bile-green toxic ballgowns,

dispensing death in a lively two-step.

Now we try to get back to the garden,

hoping that nettle and foxglove forgive us.

Surrounded by jewel thieves –

dreamers, deceivers;

those who would dare to create.

Rebecca Sharp © 2017