In the winter of 1990 I visited the Friars, a monastery near Aylesford in Kent. I was back, from au pairing in Paris, for a weekend with my then boyfriend who was still a student at Maidstone College of Art where I'd graduated earlier that year. I still have a couple of faded postcards and I remember the visit, being captivated by the beautiful 60s mosaics and artwork and the jewel like candles....though I just as strongly remember going back to his student house in the afternoon rain to eat toasted crumpets and watch "One Man and his Dog".
I visited the Friars again this summer and was astounded afresh by it's beauty. If all the cells in our bodies are constantly renewing themselves and we follow the concept that we are always becoming new....how can it be that some things from our past can leave such profound marks on our visual memories and also our souls (or what ever the "thing" in us that feels things profoundly is).
I recently finished a book about the life of artist Samuel Palmer who in the early 1800s lived at the nearby village of Shoreham. I disciple of William Blake and painter of small magical, mostly overlooked at the time, paintings I first heard of him whilst a student. Our tutor of Cultural Studies, Alan Young, introduced a very local and place specific awareness of art which included making us aware of Palmer, a visit from artist, poet, musician, fascinatingly out of step Billy Childish (at that time probably still dating Tracey Emmin) and viewings of Powell and Pressburger films including "Canterbury Tales" set in the Second World War, in Kent and imbued with the history and magic of the area.
The county of Kent to me now represents two very opposing images - a route to Dover by car and train, a highly populated area with some slightly shabby, run down coastal towns and in contrast an area of incredible rural beauty - hidden pockets of small woods and rolling hills, fields of hops and apple orchards and villages full of cottages with hollyhocks and post offices selling ice lollies on hot summer walks.
I can't explain it very well but it feels like under the outer views of the area there lies some sort of power cable of magic and energy which I can sometimes hook up to. I'm unsure if it truly exists or if it has just been created by stories and images planted their in my late 1980s art college days.
But I've felt it twice this year - lying in this orchard in May after a picnic lunch and again when stopping by my old college for a last look as it closed down this summer. Looking into the Printmaking Workshop, now empty of presses, where I spent most of my third year.
And also now remembering, I think I caught a bit of it in a lithograph I did in that last year (1990). Drawn straight on to the zinc plate outdoors by a river near West Farleigh.