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Watercolour - by Maureen Wilkinson

Explaining the Constellations

Large (30" x 21") = £75.00
Medium (19.75" x 14") = £50.00
Small (14" x 9.75") = £35.00


Watercolour - by Maureen Wilkinson

This picture and its associated poem are unusual in that the poem was written around the year 2000, while the watercolour drawing was completed ten years later in Spring 2010. Maureen had this to say about it:

"At the time of writing the poem Fred and I were running an ethnic art and crafts gallery in Falmouth, our first Morning Price Gallery. The premises were huge, a former car showroom, but in winter, when trade was quiet, we would take turns to staff them alone. At the time I was writing a great deal of poetry, and often recited current work in my head as I tidied, dusted, arranged displays and served the occasional customer. 

I have often found that working alone at a mundane physical activity helps me to think creatively, and this was the case when one morning I accidentally knocked a large box of dressmaking pins on to the floor. The pins spilled far and wide, and I spent some time sweeping them up, placing some on display surfaces as I moved through the gallery and pinning others through my sweater.  

Much of my artwork and poetry begins with a strong visual idea, and such was the inspiration for the poem 'Explaining the Constellations'. As I swept I imagined myself 'sweeping the sky for pins'. The pins were pierced into the dark fabric of the sky or into my clothing, where they became stars, and eventually formed constellations. Constellations are generally named after characters or events in mythical stories, and so it was with 'my' constellations, the sweeping woman eternally committed to the mundane yet magnificent task of simultaneously tidying up the sky and creating the world!  

Recently we moved to a large 1960's house which needed a great deal of renovation. Each day before the builders arrived I fell into the habit of sweeping through the downstairs rooms, removing rubbish and sawdust but also reflecting on the shape and space of my new home, noticing the fall of light and the shining sea beyond the windows, and thinking of my activity in terms of movement and time. All this sweeping brought to mind my earlier poem 'Explaining the Constellations', and led to the creation of its picture partner.

I think of the circular space in the picture as a kind of flat earth, lit by and turning beneath a hanging moon, whilst beneath it the women move in perpetual circles, sweeping. The same woman is drawn twelve times to symbolise both the months of the year and time passing, but I think of the women as twelve identical sisters at different times and stages in their lives, rather than a single individual.

I had intended to paint the picture as a watercolour, but the small detailing of stars and pins made this impractical, so instead everything is drawn and coloured with watercolour pencils, a lengthy and somewhat meditative process."



I spend my days sweeping, and playing scrabble.
I am the woman sweeping the sky for pins.
I raise my eyes to the mirror of the moon
and call out words. I am my own opponent.

And when the moon hangs high as a ballroom sphere,
and faceted, then all my women glitter
golden as bees. We dance as we sweep as we sing; bird gossiping
as the vowels come bright and fast. We keep the pins
for sequins in our skirts. We are dizzy with dance
and cannot choose the dreams we speak. We cast
words behind us like wheat, like water, like forgetting.

Sometimes I tire of games.
My dark face weeps.
I cannot speak
except in tongues, in gibberish. Night is a vast
shore I must search, with stars as numerous as grains of sand
and a rolling tide. I must sift the stars for pins.

Or I am a hag riding night's sawdust ring
on my hazel horse,
and the moon is my boat, the moon is my clock which chimes.
The moon is my crock of words, which spills its tongues
silver and sharp; and again and again I must sweep
my burden, my bounty.

I have cut my dress from the sky's dark stuff.
The ghosts of my dark girls keep
circular time. I pierce the sky with pins, and name each day
in neon lights. I speak from a box of words.
I am pinned to the sky like a moth. I cannot turn
back to see the beauty that I walk in.

Maureen Wilkinson


NOTE:  There are also four hand-signed limited edition artist's proofs of this print available, 1 large, 2 medium and 1 small, the last in each size.  Each print is signed in pencil Maureen Wilkinson, titled Explaining the Constellations, and numbered 1/100 or 2/100.  The prints are mounted on card which might be removed for ease of shipping.  The price of the small print (2/100) is £125.  The medium prints are (1/100) £225  and (2/100) £200 respectively, and the large print (1/100) £350, all including shipping. The 2/100 medium print has a signed certificate of authenticity attached.  To buy one of these beautiful and rare signed prints please use the donate button or bank transfer details HERE and notify me with delivery information via the contact page.  100% of the money will go to Maureen's Golden Angel Emergency Shelter.

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