Finding Blake creator James Murray-White opens up our special sale of an original artwork — a painting created and donated by a long-term associate of the project, Linda Richardson. Linda has written many posts for Finding Blake — including Tyger School.
We are feeling very fortunate to have been granted the original painting The Tyger! to sell for the Finding Blake project, by gifted artist and creative advisor of the team, Linda Richardson.
As described in her Finding Blake post, Tyger School, Linda painted this beautiful, evocative and quite fierce image of a tiger while working with children on responses to Blake’s poem at her local school in South Cambridgeshire.
The painting has been on my wall behind me over the past few months as I edit the footage of the Finding Blake film, and it’s been a joy to have this tiger approaching, making sure I press on. Now is the time to pass it on, thanks to Linda’s generous gift.
The Tyger is now on sale on ebay. Proceeds from the sale will support:
editing and post-production of the film
arranging screenings over the autumn
website management and design.
Subscribers to Finding Blake are very welcome to contact us to discuss private sale, and a viewing.
The size of the work is 81 inches X 82 inches height. Oil on canvas, signed by the artist. Collection preferred, or post and packaging as a separate cost, to be discussed.
James Murray-White is an independent filmmaker, with work on: art and neuroscience (filmmaker in residence, Cambridge University / NHS Dementia Research Network); applied anthropology (the Bedouin of the Negev); the lives of poets (John Clare; film-poetry with George Szirtes to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2019); art and environmental change (associate artist at GroundWork Gallery in King’s Lynn).
Linda Richardson is an artist. Based in Cambridge, England, she makes work that engages the imagination and intuition and tries to make a creative space for the viewer to connect their inner nature with their outer nature to form ideas that are not rooted in convention, reason or rationality. However neither are they pure fantasy that provides an escape from humdrum life. Linda wants instead to awaken the senses to the beauty and wonder of the world in which we live, to activate the attention to the mystery of the human experience.
Linda was interviewed recently for a student documentary on Blake.
Please watch this space for further project updates, including an exclusive Blakean event! InCambridge , on Thursday April 11th Poet Sasha Dugdale reads Joy. Her monologue in the voice of Catherine Blake won the Forward Prize for best single poem in 2016
We start the New Year with a timely update from Finding Blake creator and filmmaker James Murray-White. As well as looking back at our first year, a highly eventful journey and the successes for Finding Blake, James also shares a couple of sneak previews of what’s coming up next.
Blimey, as Blake might have said. It’s January 2019 already — a year on from having raised the funding through our crowdfunding campaign and cracking into the Finding Blake Project.
And what a year it’s been on the Blakean trail! From that first interview with poet David Whyte in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford — where Blake was right there with us — all the way through to the ceremony to set Blake’s new ledger stone in Bunhill Fields, London, on the 12th August. And, in-between: journeys down into the underground quarry where that piece of Portland stone came from; coming face to face with Blake’s paintings and words, and with Blakean scholars and creatives of all hues; and a deep encounter with the stone itself, which now bears his name, dates, a quote, and the words ‘Poet – Artist – Prophet’.
The ledger stone is a huge focus of the film I am making: Blake, his stone and its creation by a master-craftsperson of this age and, I hope, the themes of his vision — infinity, eternity, time, and hope.
No simple answers
Have I found Blake? That’s the question that is spinning around me now, and has been for the last few weeks as I’ve been focusing intensely on editing the material. Well, thinking hard on that, I don’t think I have — not in a rounded shape that I can put in my pocket and say, yes, here’s Blake. But of course poetry, mysticism, articulating a vision — these aren’t and shouldn’t ever be that simple or clear-cut.
Life itself isn’t clear-cut (if it is, you’re doing it wrong), and the journey is never about the destination. For me definitely, it’s about the meanderings on the road and the twists and turns. So alongside the cutting and splicing, and the giant jigsaw of the filmed story of the last year that I have in front of me, I’m reflecting upon a year in search of William Blake: his extraordinary words, images and overall vision; the physical life he lived over 70 years; what the impact of all this is, what folk say and feel about him and that vision now; and ultimately, the impact of Blake for today’s world, for today’s Britain.
Folk have asked me recently, ‘Tell me about Blake’, and I can’t articulate his life and work into a sentence or paragraph. Maybe I can with poets like Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, WB Yeats, or John Clare — all of whom I’ve had a longer engagement with over many years and a physical affinity to the places they inhabited: Hull, Yorkshire, Ireland, and the Northamptonshire / North Cambridge territory that John Clare tramped around. Maybe my antipathy towards the city of London has hampered me on the Blake trail (sorry Londoners! I always will be a village lad).
A simple resonance
Walking on concrete constantly creates that physical disconnection. I deeply resonate with Blake’s three nearly harmonious years in Felpham, where he was surrounded by the elements, able to see and sense the sea, and grow things in his garden. I’ve never been interested in trying to ‘explain’ Blake. But filming Carol Leader’s rich lecture on how she uses Blake’s work in psychoanalysis, and the presentations by Reverend Malcolm Guite and Reverend Christopher Rowland on Blake as a Christian icon, have both been wonderful experiences for me, a witness to inspiring efforts to explain or understand him in specific, focused ways.
I would recommend Will Franken’s deep and visceral film Red, White & Blake for his efforts to engage with some of the specifics. And, on the subject of connection to land, friend of Finding Blake Matt Wilmshurst is in the thick of producing Blake in Sussex, a feature drama about William and Catherine’s three years in Felpham. We’re greatly looking forward to seeing that and wish Matt and the team great success.
My film and this project are not about ‘me’ finding Blake. It’s about a shared journey, for all of us: exploring. I’m steering and mediating it, and my voice is there asking questions, commenting and reflecting. I ask a lot of questions of everyone I’ve met along this road; I’m good at asking questions, though in interviews we’ve stuck rigidly to three simple ones:
How has William Blake influenced you, personally and professionally?
What examples of his work — poems, engravings, images — or his life resonate with and inspire you?
How do you feel William Blake is most relevant to the current day: as artist, spiritual visionary, political inspiration?
And I have been delighted when interviewees go wildly off with their answers: there is no right Blakean answer!
Finding Blake— the film
But back to the product: the intangible tangible thing that this project has been created around is and is nudging toward in this chunk of Blakean time. I have a file full of sections and rough cuts, and an overall structure that I’m slotting sections into. I’m thinking about where interview clips go, and which sections resonate with others and with which words, and how much to mess around with linear time.
I’ve done a big chunk of this initial editing and structuring up in a quiet cottage in Cumbria, thanks to a great friend of and contributor to the project, Clare Crossman. While there, I discovered that Kathleen Raine — probably the single person who did the most to promote Blake into our era — had a house nearby. So in seeking the quiet places for inspiration and focus, Blake comes with me and crops up again, not just in written word and image (I had a big box of books to keep me going), but in the most wonderful ways.
The plan is that I’ll do some test screenings here in Cambridge in a week or so, mainly to invited critical eyes and those closely involved in the project, and then there will be the first public screening with the Blake Society in London on Wednesday 16th January. Anyone is welcome to this event, but please check with the Blake Society, of course.
Following this, we’ll take in some of the comments and feedback, think about further ideas we have in mind to film, and then take it forward. Any ideas you have for screening opportunities, please shout!
So a huge shout to all who chipped in a year ago: your sterling efforts have helped get the project to this point! Thank you! Your funds have been spent on travel, paying for filming and a tiny bit of my editing time, hard drives, memory cards, the odd Blake book or four, and hosting the website.
Without your support, ‘Finding Blake’ could never have started out on this Blakean journey …
We made that start without attracting all the funds we needed, because it was important to begin the journey and to share the benefits of our exploration through our film and website. We are actively seeking further funds to complete all the activities we set out to do. If you would like to make a donation, please use the button on the site or get in touch. And if you have suggestions for other funding ideas, we’d love to have them!
Our first year — and beyond
I just want to end this post with some further thank yous for Finding Blake’s first year: two specifics and a general one. To Mark, for astonishing perseverance and clarity in progressing with this website, dealing with words, images, layout, and fielding questions and responding. To Linda, who has been a marvel: digesting, processing Blake, driving us, interviewing, providing emergency sausage rolls, liaising, and more. And to so many in my technical and feedback crew, who respond to my questions and calls for help, and give the critical feedback that keeps me semi-sane and on the creative meander in this crazy world. And finally, to Mr William Blake: poet — artist — prophet …
A happy New Year to all. May it bring us clarity, deep visioning, and the energy to live richly.
A few extra things to look out for soon:
In a few weeks, we’ll start posting a regular series of extra footage and material that is additional to the film, a kind of ‘DVD extras’ bundle if you like.
I’ve really resonated with one or two of Blake’s images when I’ve met them in the flesh this year (see The Unfolding and Unveiling, about the exhibition at Petworth and in particular Blake’s image, The sea of time and space), and of course there have been some I haven’t connected to. This year, Finding Blake wants to start a mini-series of posts from you telling us about the images you love, or hate, and why.
The wonderful Tyger painting by Linda, from her residency at a Cambridgeshire school, will shortly go on sale online by auction to raise further funds for this project. More details will be announced here soon.
There is more information about Blake in Sussex, the forthcoming film from Matt Wilmshurst at the Blake in Sussex site.
James will be discussing the Finding Blake project and film, and presenting material from his film at a screening after the AGM of the Blake Society at Waterstones Bookshop (82 Gower Street, London WC1E 6EQ) on 16th January (6.30pm). See the Blake Society events page for info(scroll down to January and mention of ‘Finding Blake’).
Six months on from our website’s launch, Finding Blake creator and driving force, filmmaker James Murray-White offers this update on work to date and to come, focusing on those elements which will form part of the full Finding Blake film next year.
I wanted to update all our many readers and subscribers with what’s going on with Finding Blake, particularly since the great ceremony in August to unveil the new gravestone at William Blake’s burial site, which had been a big event to focus on. It was such an experience to be there on the day, with so many Finding Blake supporters and other Blake devotees!
I’m now wading through the many wonderful hours of footage I have. You can see many of the clips at the Finding Blake films at a glance page in our Bleakean Archive. Some of the highlights for me include:
Finding Blake, documenting his new memorial
I have great memories — caught on film — of visiting Jordan’s Mine to see where the stone was cut; accompanying master letter-cutter Lida Kindersley as she chose the stone; being with her in her workshop for much of the process, as she bevelled the stone, then drew the letters for the inscription — and then the lovely long, slow process of the letters being cut. Amongst all that, there is an interview with Lida about Blake, talking from the heart as she cuts the letters that would soon mark his final resting place!
Leading wonderful interviews
Finding Blake has brought us opportunities to meet and talk with so many fascinating people with a shared passion for Blake:
Poet David Whyte, giving it to us from his heart in the depths of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (a special day that really felt like we had Blake on our shoulders!);
Psychotherapist Carol Leader, talking to us from her consulting room in London;
Writer and priest Malcolm Guite, in his study at Girton College, Cambridge;
Rapper Testament, delivering his powerful reflections on Blake’s influence on him, speaking on the streets outside a London theatre;
Blake Society chair Tim Heath, talking about his passion for Blake in Blake’s only surviving rooms in London
Participating in Blakean events
We’ve filmed at a number of talks by leading experts in different fields, including:
Carol Leader’s stimulating lecture in Oxford on Satanic Error – the value of William Blake’s mythology for clinical practice and everyday life;
William Blake, Biblical Prophecy and Jesus, a pair of talks in a Cambridge church by Reverend Malcolm Guite and Reverend Christopher Rowland, both vicars with an interest in exploring Blake from religious perspectives;
the Unveiling Ceremony itself, with all the wonderful speeches, candle-lighting, and personal responses, including an as yet unidentified African song, by the grave!
Creating original performances
William Blake’s creative vision speaks to many people and appeals to the genius of other creative practitioners and performers. We’ve been very fortunate in the generosity of talented actors in offering their interpretations of the man’s poems on film.
Finding Blake invited actor Matt Ray Brown to read several of William Blake’s poems on location in Blake’s rooms at South Molton Street, London, including Jerusalem, The Tyger, and The Little Black Boy;
During our interview with David Whyte at the Ashmolean in Oxford, David delivered his reading of The Garden of Love.
Bringing personal projects into harmony with Blake
During the cutting of Blake’s new gravestone, Lida and I agreed a barter: she would make a memorial stone for my lovely mum’s ashes, and I would film it. What a wonderful trade! I’m editing that project now, whittling down many hours of beautiful conversation and cutting, as well as the sounds of the workshop, and silence too. Naturally, the conversations flowed between Blake and many aspects of creativity: including Lida talking about her late husband David, the master of letters and steeped in the craft’s heritage from Eric Gill and beyond. It’s a lineage that is so present within the workshop today, in the work of Lida and her two sons Vince and Hallam, and expert cutter Fiona (who completed mum’s memorial stone), plus a range of apprentices — and former apprentices who come in to help on other jobs as and when.
So I wanted to share with you here two outtakes from that other project (which might possibly be used in the Finding Blake film but, if not, can happily rest here on our project page) which give another flavour of the creative work:
So I’m working through all this material, and more, making notes and beginning the edit. And I’m now thinking hard about the third option within the film: either dramatic recreations of some of Blake’s art, or an element of animation, or projection. Possibly a combination of all three!
I’ve always felt passionate that we could bring Blake’s images to life on-screen, in addition to the spoken words and other elements. This feeling has been particularly over the past year as I’ve stood in front of a Blake image, be it in the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge or Tate Britain in London, or at the magnificent show at Petworth House in Sussex; many of these images shine out and dazzle with their bright illumination and their sprite vision.
So, I’m in discussion with several folk on these ideas, and we are awaiting some responses to funding applications, and further discussions.
I have been talking with an institution about possible screenings of the finished film late next year, which I will announce hopefully when finalised. We have agreed to a showing of a rough-cut of the film, or pieces of the film, with The Blake Society, at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, in January. We’ll post about that nearer the time …
In the meantime, I’m back on the edit, and the numerous other projects that consume my days.
Linda Richardson has kindly donated her canvas of Tyger, which she painted with children at a primary school in her village (see her post here with the children’s Bleakean art too!) so that Finding Blake can auction this to fundraise for the project: more details to come soon. We thank Linda for that generous gift.