This one’s as much a fieldnote as a blog post. Reminding myself as much as anyone else that sometimes the process of writing is helped by stopping and doing something different. Even if, as in this case, that ‘something different’ is going somewhere else and writing something different.
Mid afternoon in the Lady Lever Gallery and I’ve been sat in front of Tom Edward Mostyn’s painting ‘Silver and Gold’ for maybe half an hour now, after a day of steady academic writing that had begun to slow down.
The information next to the painting tells me that the artist was considered to be a late Pre-Raphaelite and that he died nearly ninety years ago now, in 1930. Meaning that he was alive during the years when this gallery and the rest of Port Sunlight were being thought of and built.
For me this painting is one of the reasons I’m here in Port Sunlight now, working on the utopian dissertation that’s part of the MA and PhD I’m doing. Because one day in January 2018 on a day that was also my birthday, my partner Sarah and I came here to walk around the village and think about whether I was going to apply for the PhD that was then on offer. And during that day I spent a long time sat in front of this painting, where I’m sat now writing this.
So it feels like a very ‘Port Sunlight’ sort of painting to me. Not merely because of the garden and its landscaping that are in it, but also because it looks and feels like a way in to here. A way in to somewhere vague in the painting’s middle distance. Mysterious too in its hint of densely autumnal trees with maybe no path through them? Yet also welcomingly mysterious rather than in any way threatening. Tempting me up those three steps into somewhere not yet gone, to something not yet done. Which I decided to do.
Sat in front of this large and lovely painting was where I decided I was definitely going to have a go at applying for this PhD that was going to be co-sponsored by the Port Sunlight Village Trust. To go somewhere not yet gone, pushing myself gently towards those autumnal trees.
And it’s a tangly garden here. Especially as the path not seen through those golden trees turned out to lead through an MA before eventually, any day soon, reaching the in here somewhere PhD.
But I’m loving the walk, the finding, the work and even the never quite knowings. I think my life was ready for all this back on that January day. And I’m loving being sat here now with Tom Edward Mostyn’s painting, that so tempted and welcomed me in.
My short break nearly over, it’ll soon be time for me to return to my real writing, as I’m calling my aim for the day, to finish something I want to get finished. But I will come back here, to sit, to read and to write some more about this place, this building, its art and the why of its being here.
But for today it was this one painting I came to visit, this ‘Silver and Gold’ from 1918, this one memory of why I’m here in Port Sunlight, in the middle of this high summer afternoon, on the last day of July in 2019.
And so you know and I’ll remember, after I’d sat there and written this, I walked back to my other writing and it flowed easily again for the rest of the day. And if I didn’t quite get to the finish that had been my aim I did realise the abundant value to my writing of having art like this just round the corner.