By Bernie Bell
Cary had sent me an email about the current exhibition at Northlight Gallery, in Stromness. The images on the publicity poster were of a bear and a little girl, humming in a companionable sort of way ( or, that’s how I see it, anyway), and of two we critters in a mound.
So, I decided that I’d have to go and see it.
You walk in the door, and…..there’s the bear and little girl
And…my goodness, the tale of Callisto – from girl – through bear – to the stars.
This is pure magic, pure, pure magic.
And…Medusa, having a conversation with a snake ( again – how I see it)
And Harmonia, with Cadmus as a snake
Fortunately Howard Hardiman was there, in person, and talked me through the images. He has a depth and breadth of knowledge, so much so, that I knew that I wouldn’t be able to remember it all, so I bought the little book, which has the stories – but it’s much better to have Howard telling them.
I can picture, him, in his house on Sanday, with all those myths, stories and ideas in his head, which he then weaves into images. He doesn’t judge the characters in his pictures, he doesn’t imply “Medusa – Bad” or “Hecate – Bad”, or, for that matter “Bears – Good”. He realises, acknowledges and expresses the plus and minus, the light and darkness, in everything.
And – the faces. The face of Harmonia, with her snake-lover – a melting, and a strong sensuality – the face of the woman in Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ has something of this. Losing yourself, in love.
Harmonia was the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, and she gave up her immortality for love. That love is right there, in her face. Not just romantic love, but deep, deep deep love, beyond time and mortality. She gave up her immortality – but we are all immortal.
Humans, and animals.
There’s a lion – entitled ‘Impenetrable’. To me, he’s Aslan. He has a mouthful of blood. He’s not a tame lion. He is…strength, power, kindliness, love. A lion. Plus and minus – accepting the aspects in any nature. Animals, and humans – human animals. The Minotaur.
‘Siren’ – Howard tells me this was inspired by the what’s happening in the Mediterranean, now.
The boats – the drownings – the sea receiving it’s sacrifices. The bodies in the water.
Much of Howard’s work is drawn from the Greek myths – the Sirens sang as people drowned. People are drowning in those seas, today. I needn’t labour the point – here’s the picture –
And again, there is love there, an echo of the ’Pieta’ – as Howard said , in the Pieta, Jesus is a dead weight in Mary’s lap.
A drowned person, is a dead weight, which someone who loves them is ready to bear. The face of the standing figure is full of love, compassion – humanity.
The room is full of magic, of stories and humanity. I stood at the end of the room, and looked across at the images after Howard had talked me round them, and the space was filled with tangible – magic, strength, thought, humanity, and love. The ‘Gods’ and ‘Goddesses’ in all of us.
I really could go on and on about this exhibition, and I’m afraid I did, go on and on at Howard. But – it’s such a good thing, such a wonder, to come across works like these and to come across someone who quietly produces such wonders. What this exhibition indicates, of what that man has in his awareness, is staggering – to have such knowledge, hold it in his mind, interpret it, weave it and express it in what were, to me, some quite new interpretations. His tale to accompany his picture of Hecate, is a wonder.
The tale of Hecate, is, what it is, but, add that to Howard’s image and interpretation, and…..magic, big magic from before the dawn of time – to return to Aslan.
And what about the wee critters in the mound? There they were, Badger and Vole, in the Burnt Mound on Sanday, having a cup of tea. Yes, the big magic is there, but the everyday magic, fills our world, too. Badger and Vole.
The ‘Nature, Myths and Stories’ exhibition is at Northlight until 27th June. You walk through the door, into other worlds, guided by Mr. Hardiman, and who knows who/what else………..