These rough-drawn salamanders symbolise
the patient grace of Gaia as she pours
our molecules, in always-new reprise
of forms and folds and patterns she adores.
This bee, who’s dead, or sleeping in this box,
epitomises Gaia’s gayer pranks.
He’s sniffed the flowers, flown above the flocks
of sheep in April; gambolled near their flanks.
He bet he’d last the summer, and he might,
but only on this canvas, stretched and sketched.
Perhaps he’ll be recycled as raw light.
A full reincarnation? Too farfetched.
We dance in patterns we cannot perceive
but Gaia does, and pets us when we grieve.
Originally a 19th century silkworm nursery, the now legendary artists’ retreat ‘Beauregard’ in southern France nestled among vineyards, forests and Celtic ruins. It was where the artist Leo Musch (1943 — 2013) gave wonderful summer lessons, inspiration, and lodging to painters and sculptors.
One July morning Leo assigned a project where we were to paint something showing motion whilst leaving an empty rectangle somewhere in our paintings. He would tell us later how to use the rectangle. I covered my large sheet of gesso-treated paper with acrylic sketches of some lizards I watched playing, and of a bumble bee that fell and lay still on a table where I had been having coffee under the trees. I carried the bee around with me in a metal box, feeling he might have been sent to me as a model. Leo reviewed the pictures and instructed us to make different but related paintings in the reserved rectangles, showing some theme that would relate the two parts of the work. I sketched the bee (about twenty times) on other paper, then painted him in the rectangle, in a three-dimensional box that looked out into other space and time. Then I wrote ‘Les Uns et Les Autres’ to accompany my painting.