Discovering Charles Causley – a blog from professional artist Jill Swarbrick-Banks
Moments come in life when you stop in your tracks, take stock and ponder what really matters.
Silence offers immense relief and opens possibilities, perhaps a new path will come into view?
Last Tuesday, I sat in the back parlour on the floor at Cyprus Well looking through Charles Causley’s books and record collection.
It was a rainy late afternoon but the little house was quiet and still, almost a sanctuary from the tempest outside! Cyprus Well always feels welcoming but it’s the silence there that affects me the most. Beside the silent piano and the silent typewriter, it struck me at how important that silence must have been for Charles.
I thought, he would have sat right there in that very chair, alone, then suddenly he would have broken the silence typing out his words, mellifluous and affecting. He would have sat and typed for hours, perhaps sipping a cup of tea, an alchemist turning strands of thought to gold. In this humble house he played the piano, listened to Oscar Peterson and Sibelius, laughed at Max Miller and Peter Sellers, talked with friends and composed with fellow poets, …marked the homework of children.
I was there for his colour. To tune in and find a channel into his thought processes.
I first encountered Charles by way of colour last year when I moved to Lanson. It was the week of the Causley Festival and most shops in town displayed a painting. I had no idea then who Charles was, but a seed was planted that day and I duly bought a copy of the Collected Poems of Charles Causley. A portal opened to me and I was swept away by the beauty of his words and he has continued to inspire my thoughts and work ever since.
This was obviously a special place; sleepy Lanson. Paintings in shop windows and its very own son celebrated with a festival. Extraordinary!
Like at Cyprus Well, I too work in silence. I soak up written words or a piece of music and gradually a painting begins in oils. It forms itself over weeks, layers coming and flowing round, colour suggestions tried out, scraped away, reapplied. Constantly referencing the source: Charles’s poetry always to hand, so visual.
Standing back, it is concluded and it has its own life… suddenly! I was but a conduit in its creation. Did HE feel like this? Exhausted but elated sensing it was done. Did he ever stop in his silence and have any inkling of the enriching influence he would have on so many lives around the world?
Almost twenty years have flown since he left us. Twenty years, and it feels like yesterday when your hair is grey and thinning.
Creeping ever closer to the stream, on the bank we look over to him sitting on the other side in the brilliant light of three suns.
Perhaps he’ll look up and wave to us…in silence.
Jill Swarbrick-Banks is a professional painter and “blow-in” resident of Lanson. Her work alongside other artists will be on show in Lanson in 2023 and all works will be inspired by the life and work of Charles Causley.