The Gloaming

Transitions, twilight, gloaming, thresholds – moments between states – is this where slippage might occur? A timeless space…

Wordsworth’s garden. Time leaps through the centuries and the fading light is half now, half then. One foot in reality, the other in another zone.

I go for my third night painting session in Dove Cottage garden late in May. It is a perfect spring evening. I am starting at 7.30pm in order to watch the light fade and my intention is to stay all night, watching the light come up and dawn breaking. The familiar excitement begins as I load the car with everything I could possibly need for a night in the garden. This session is very different as well because I am accompanied by Tara, a friend and writer who asked if she could come along for the night. I am not quite sure how that will work. We watch the sun fade and the first stars appear – we get to work – each in our own thoughts and ideas. The warm evening light is just superb through the spring green… and I try to capture the backlit evening leaves on a small canvas.

005 'Dove Cottage Garden,Evening' Oil On Canvas 40 X30 Cm Alison Critchlow 2018

We listen to a blackbird going through his night time conversations, mesmerized. It feels like a real privilege to be in this place listening to this. The dusk and dawn belong to the birds. At some point I look up and realise the sky is full of stars and the night time shapes are here… this is when the garden comes alive in an entirely new way. A spring night, it turns out, has a very different vibe than the winter nights and because it is warmer I am still painting when I notice a subtle blackening. A brief deadening moment before the light starts to come up and colours gradually appear… and then the birds wake up and I sit back and enjoy the sheer glory of the dawn chorus and wonder why I don’t always witness this… I am tired now, but can’t resist one small painting to fix the moment in my mind. It occurs to me that I have been in my own world, focused on my own work and have no idea what Tara wrote… I wonder if she will ever show me?

Tracing the gaps and spaces between words on a manuscript has become the play of light across leaves; the pace of flower and shadow rhythms (similar but a semi tone different). Rhythms are tricky to pinpoint. Obvious at first – a dance of colour or the progress of a shadow – but they have an underlying pulse and that seems to change. The speed and strength measured by the light. Thin light is a shallow beat, while bright sun is glowing, pounding. But the gloaming is different. It has a deep timeless glow. It resounds. Transition moments are like that. People talk about some places being ‘thin’ as though spirits might move freely between worlds. Surely they must be thinnest at twilight? Shapes start to merge and morph together, spaces close and new ones open up. The shape shifting starts. Time and imagination join together.

I arrange several more night painting sessions throughout the summer usually beginning at 7pm so that I can watch the flowers glow and fade. Painting the same flowers by day makes me realise they strike a very different chord in the evening.

Nothing compares with the magic of the gloaming on a summer evening. The time after the sun has dropped below the horizon and before it is dark is enchanted time, rich with possibility and intrigue. The pale flowers glow the most and for the longest.

Their silent luminescence fills the air and they radiate an invisible magnetism… is this what transition moments are made of? What is going on here? I am always drawn to the Japanese Anemones beneath Wordsworth’s window. They radiate something invisible, there’s an aura of magic… I’m not sure what it is they do, but whatever it is, it is transfixing and beautiful. I paint them in Wordsworth’s window pane and I wonder about his words ‘with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things’. I wonder about the ‘power of harmony’…

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the gloaming and the tiny shifts that occur during this time. I have been trying out abstract passages of paint in the studio, painting a loose movement of colours across the canvas on top of marks and words taken from Wordsworth’s manuscripts… making the connection between his written words and this transformative time of day. They share a resonance I don’t have words for. I like the idea of painting a timespan; a passage of colours in which a change of state might occur. I think of them like a movement sweeping across the painting fading and changing as it goes. A bit like putting the moment of transition under a microscope. Here are a couple of studio paintings and some details .

019  Garden Passage .oil And Acrylicon Canvas A Critchlow