Last year I had the privilege of meeting a beautiful man who isn’t afraid to cry. He isn’t embarrassed to express his deepest fears and longings, his heartaches, triumphs and failures. This man isn’t ashamed of the grit of his life – the awkward truth that he can choose to either accept or hide.
My friend and inspiration, poet Tony Brennan, writes with honesty that both sears and soothes. His words cut to the quick of my soul, speaking of my experiences as they speak of his. When I read his poems my mind is flooded with images, my heart resounds with feelings sometimes of joy and humour, other times of profound sadness.
The first time I read his poem, 'Quick action saves life' (soon to be published), I felt the strangest reaction. Goose bumps crept up my arms, then my throat constricted and I began to cry. The second, third and fourth times were the same. In fact I cannot read the poem without experiencing an intense visceral and emotional reaction. In the poem a young boy suffers a seizure and collapses in shallow waves. His father sees this and throws himself from his car to try and rescue his boy, dragging his useless legs through the sand in desperation. I realised that as I read, I became the father on the beach. Like him, I too have felt helpless to protect my children from life’s cruel blows. I could relate to his anguish.
The painting I have made in response, entitled ‘The Father’s Love’, depicts a shoreline, waves and a glowing dawn. There is no drowning boy, no desperate father or running surfer because the poem doesn’t end there. It doesn’t leave me feeling powerless and bereft. The father’s quick action, despite seeming insufficient, was enough to save his son. His love preserved life and created hope.
It has been both challenging and a deep honour to interpret Tony’s poems in image. I have learned about myself, the world and the act of painting. Now I look forward to going to Hobart, on 7th August for our combined exhibition and book launch entitled ‘A Beauty that Catches’.
I invite you to come with me, whether ‘virtually’ or in real space and time. I will be posting images and video of the event on Facebook, and right now you can have a look at some of the paintings that go to the framers tomorrow!