For many of us, it’s hard to articulate the complex spectrum of emotions we felt (or are still feeling) during the pandemic. And it brings a sense of relief to find someone or something that expresses them for you. It’s a bit like unknotting yourself from a giant tangle and it’s a relief to know that you’re not alone. Or that was certainly my experience when I stumbled across an exhibition of paintings and poetry by Claire Fearon, currently Artist in Residence at Sussex Prairies Gardens.
The first thing that strikes you with Claire’s work is the diversity and I wasn’t quite sure whether this was the work of just one artist. But Claire’s work is very accessible, whatever your preferences. As someone with a near magpie style obsession with brightly coloured things, I was first drawn to works like The World is Yours, What Lies Within and Rebirth. We all have our own ways of exploring art, but for me, these just allow you to dive in and quietly unravel your own complications.
The layout of the gallery (which is at a fantastic venue) eases you into the exhibition, and you can slowly make your way over to what I found to be more challenging works such as We are Spirit and Bone, and Breathe. Ironically, Breathe didn’t speak to me of Cissy Floyd so much as of all the youngsters we have wrongly lost during the pandemic. Each to their own but whatever it evokes in you, it is certainly intense.
It’s hard not to be moved by Claire’s work but there are also a series of poems that accompany many of the paintings. My personal preference is always to explore a painting first without the back story. To let the work sit and sink in a while. But however you approach it, without a shadow of a doubt, the poetry adds a rich new dimension to the exhibition. It is honest, personal and something we can all relate to at different levels. Whether you are a parent or a child, poems like Escape will touch a nerve as it invites you to be more honest with yourself and the foundations of your approach to life.
Claire Fearon has spent a lifetime working in the arts industry and as an artist but when we first went into lockdown, she found she couldn’t paint. Gradually she immersed herself in nature, and explains that she began to realise that this was part of her grieving process. She had lost her father three years ago. More importantly, she also found that personal expression was coming to her in words as she recorded a series of poems. It was only later that she realised that many of the poems had a direct correlation and connection with a number of her already existing paintings. The result of her work is an exhibition that is raw in its honesty, challenging in its integrity but in its own way, soothing for the soul.
The exhibition is open until mid-October at Sussex Prairies Gardens and thereafter, you can view some of her work on her website www.clairefearon.com. Reflections on Being Human in These Challenging Times (Claire’s book of poetry and paintings) is available to buy at the exhibition or via Claire’s website.
I used to paint but then my father died
And so, my brush ran dry
No amount of paint, paper or pleading
Could get my hands to make manifest
What I had locked inside
Changed forever and abandoned by my muse
Calm in the face of such loss
No one would ever see the truth
For there was no way of expressing this sorrow
It was as though more than my father had vanished
An earthquake was unleashed with tremors that would not end
Ripples spinning out and touching all aspects of what it meant to exist
Then I dissolved, I too was lost, gone forever
Until I learned to accept that the world would never look the same
I would never feel the same, I would never be the same
A death forces you to be reborn, scorched and charred like a phoenix
Rising from the ashes of all you deeply loved and held dear
My father died and I lost my brush, but I found my pen
Claire Fearon 2021