As I’m going through my old journals, I find forgotten elements–particularly the content of dreams. A few weeks ago, I came upon a curious and appealing dream fragment from June of 1993. At that time, I awoke with words telling me that centuries would pass before we discovered that the “L” in “Lion” was understood as its birdnote. I loved this strange sentence and decided to make a linocut from the words.
The lino that I’ve used is the same soft cut material that I used for the Sisters of Mercy print. It is very much easier to cut than the tough grey or brown burlap backed battleship linoleum that I used as a young woman. I’ve taken the first proof (rough copy) of the print and will work on it further. I plan on leaving the final print quite similar to this first proof–it just needs a bit of further carving and experimentation with the colours.
Here’s the inked green lino and the hand printed proof.
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Last week, I printed the Sisters of Mercy linocut with the violet ink tinted with white. It’s on a pale blue Japanese paper with long fibres that I like. Then, on the weekend, I was out of town in Prince Edward County in Ontario. The countryside was filled with lilacs–lining the roads and lanes and in the small towns. Many were pale lavender but some were a deeper hue and even pinkish. As I admired their beauty and scent, I thought that the violet of the print had happily followed me into nature. The mercy of lilacs!
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While I was searching through my early prints for one of my first linocuts, I came across the print in this post that I made in the mid 1980s. (It’s not the print I was originally looking for.) The linocut here was an illustration for an article in the Canadian literary magazine Quill and Quire. Somewhere, I may have the actual page from the journal, but I haven’t located it yet. From what I recall, the article had to do with censorship and political repression. In that sense, it definitely fits with the mood of these times of political unrest to out and out war. Being born right after World War II and hearing many stories of it while growing up, the image also evokes shadows of the history of that war for me. The initials “SB” are from my birth name that I was still using at the time.
After Leonard Cohen died, I remembered an interview I heard a few years ago with the Iranian Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari. He had been imprisoned in Iran and falsely accused of being a spy. He was subjected to torture and didn’t know if he would live or die. One night, he had a dream that brought to mind Leonard Cohen’s song, The Sisters of Mercy. Though he had never been a fan of Cohen’s music, he felt that song had a major role in saving his life. Through it, he found a place within himself that his captors and torturers could not destroy.
Part of that interview was replayed this fall after Leonard Cohen died. I had never been drawn to The Sisters of Mercy, but as I listened to the words this autumn, I knew they would help me deal with this time of darkness in the world. So, I’ve learned the words and have begun doing some artwork related to the song. After doing several sketches, I finally arrived at one that I wanted to use. As I looked at the sketch, I could see it as a linocut and I decided to return to linocutting to create the image. I gave up linocutting around 20 years ago, though it was my favourite medium, because of repetitive strain from carving over the years. Now I considered the roving pain I have as an elder. And I thought, I already have pain, so I’m not going to be afraid of it. I’m going to return to printmaking–something I love dearly. I have found a soft lino substitute that can still have crisp lines cut into it. I’m experimenting with that and with working for shorter periods of time at a stretch. So far, this is working.
Here’s 2 photos of the carving in progress. I’m using carving tools really made for children, but that work fine! I’ll show you the print once I finish it.
Good holidays to you.
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on. And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.–Leonard Cohen
I’ve been thinking of the people of Aleppo in Syria as we hear about the terrible ongoing war there.
From Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck. © 1994 Lily S. May
As I meander through the work I’ve done, I wanted to show you a linocut I made in 1973, two years into first taking up printmaking and signed under my former married name. It’s the last copy of the edition that I have and is framed behind glass. So the photos here have some reflections in them. (I must get some proper photos!) The image is one of several I did on the theme of nature and goddesses. I called this print Mother Nature in the Sea.