The people who have attended my exhibitions can be compared to those in the wilderness who have passed through the scenes I have painted. To cross a river, to be enchanted by the features of an upturned tree trunk, to halt on the way in order to practically assess or to willingly fall under a spell does not differ much if the experience is in a gallery or at a mountain foot.
The artist also is invisible. His brushwork hides him. Yet he knows that he shares the same natural energy of the river in the gorge, with the viewer. We are part of an eternal. The history of the humans who are invisible in my landscapes permits greater resonance in story and song for the presented work unpainted. I hope my static images will detain them for a moment before they pass by. And that they may carry something of my paintings away with them in their hearts.
A Consummation of Time
It is important to be fluid and to be able to make notes swiftly in the field but in the studio it is possible to open time beyond cause and effect. Ten years ago my paintings were more quickly done. Today I work on larger canvasses with smaller brushes. I have found my focal length. This is in both time and place. We all have one. It is our distance from our star which we measure with our lives.
And the time I spend on the road is necessary. I have to wander the lands, to get to know them in the times of their seasons so that I am not seduced by fruit or broken by stone. The constellations guide me, as do the poets and the mystic geometries and the troubadours. My landscapes are of the soul. And I would be lonely indeed without the rivers and mountains. And I am so grateful to those friends who can see what they want in my work, and who tell me and who help me.
A Projected Exhibition
Selection and presentation are important. For a painter who will be sixty-five years old in February 2021 there is no shortage of material. The material is consistently landscape. A choice can be simply made. The result will be material which shows unspoilt wilderness. Ecological, poetic and musical aspects are in supply. Framing and transport are not a problem. The paintings can and do stand alone. But a background of sacred geometry, astrology arcane history, crusade and mysticism is present. My paintings are part of a consciousness which is close to the spirit of nature perceived in Eternity by man. The troubadour tradition can be included. Around the ancient city of Carcassonne many musicians carried the Cathar doctrine into castles of the powerful. I myself came to Carcassonne as a Celtic musician in 1982 before the computer, the motorway, the cheap flight. It was story and song, combined with drawing and painting which led me away from the world of society into a fairyland of pure source, clean air and freedom. The Pyrenees have always been the seat of an alternative way, a refuge from the feudal North. From the genocide of Montsegur through to the Spanish Civil War. Until today. Free spirits find their homes.
I like to exhibit where my paintings are displayed in the presence of poetry and music. These human touches resonate in the wilderness of my paintings. I have made recorded interviews in a gallery at an exhibition of my selected and presented work. The poet interviewing asked interesting questions and I found it easy to speak spontaneously for ¾ of an hour. When one has spent long months silently painting it is easy to talk and write. Being meditatively absorbed in painting permits self education and awareness. Aphorism and description of method in and experience of work can complement the exhibited canvases.
A SIXTY-YEAR-OLD PAINTER’S RETROSPECTIVE
The North. I spent sixteen winters on the Isle of Skye. On the island it is not possible to be more than 7 kms from the sea. The winter nights are very long. The storms are strong and last for a long time. In the darkness I would paint. The rocks of the seashore and the North Atlantic mountains. Skye has fjords like Norway. Sometimes I would paint by candlelight. I lived in a little caravan and cut turf from the peat bog for my fire. The depth of the night and the wild seashore where the geology is varied put me under a spell for a long time. But at last, the sun and the flowers and the dry blue days of the South led me away from my home to adventure.
The Land of the Cathars. There are no Cathars. They were all killed in a crusade, the Albigensian Crusade. I walk their ancient pathways and have come to understand the language of birds, donkey, and goats and dogs. In the hills around the valley where I live there is a geometrical star map put on the earth. It begins at the church of Rennes Chateau. It goes back to geometry from from ancient Jerusalem and Egypt and some say Atlantis. And further to the stars. In the hills the Knights Templar built their fortresses. From my door I can see three. The knights were here, so were the Romans and the Celts. And Mary Magdelene and Leonardo. Old agriculture can be found beneath the chestnut forest. Celtic standing stones lead to other worlds.
I work generally to a non anthropomorphic nature philosophy. I apply the procession of the soul, as the Cathars had it, towards the light, into my work as a painter but I am a painter not a philosopher. Personally there are regions in the geography of the Pyrenees which I have come to know in the past six years, which I find especially charged. It is said in Chinese that in mountains one sees human-heartedness; in water, wisdom. I am aware that the history of 20th-century European Art offers little in the way of enlightening hope for individual or planet. In many ways we have adored the machine. The history of art here is a history of marketing.
I love pure landscape and this includes the Western Masters, and I don’t cling to a doctrine. I would hope for acceptance in a philosophical context which includes the Confucian “Nature is vast, deep high intelligent, infinite and eternal.” My retrospective can show nothing that is not already known in the tradition of landscape painting, but it can point to an individual path, from North to South. I would like to show that daily study from nature; in the dream of imagination we come close to the eternal creator. The memories of migrations, civilizations and of all life is written in ourselves. Beneath the stars, in the landscape, is a fantastically rich source of wisdom. As a river and mountain painter I continue to approach this source, humbly and with only a brush.
Born 3/2/1956 in Falkirk. John Slavin attended Edinburgh College of Art 1975-1980 and studied in the School of Drawing and Painting under Denis Peploe and the celebrated painters Sir Robin Philipson and Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.
From 1995 John was exhibiting as a landscape artist painter on the Isle of Skye. In 2010 he started making annual pilgrimages to the Pyrenees Orientales, Occitania, where he has been creating landscape paintings. In 2018 John began new work in figurative drawing and painting derived from his poetic translations of traditional Traveller stories, the wonder tales of Duncan Williamson. Classical myth and Greek epic became main subjects for an exhibition in March 2020, unfortunately cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With a return to his first love and foremost concern for Nature in the Pyrenees, John is learning to harness the transformative power of his art as meditation.