BY MARY BARNES
|Painting is a movement of body and soul, the essence of an experience. To me,
painting is an important part of my life that was buried for forty?two years. It emerged as a result of an inner
"happening," part of an emotional re?formation. Kingsley Hall saw the birth of my painting, in 1965.
In a wild, breaking?down state, black breasts all around the walls, the Hall, the games room, passages, the flat,
everywhere, black, black, black. I was going down into the dark, wanted the breast, wanted to suck, but the breast
was black. I was going down, down into rage and despair, moaning, groaning, tearing and biting?to get out of a
net, to escape from a murderous tangle. Joe (Dr. Joseph Berke) said, "Here, scribble," and later, "Paint
the crucifixion." I did, on and on, from shit on the wail to oils on canvas. Always, the painting came from
me, and I let it grow how it wanted to go, often not knowing what I was doing. The house became full of paintings,
and it all seemed like "me" on the walls. Later, when the paintings came down off the walls I felt like
a burst balloon; lost, gone away into the air. In my own mind, I worked it out like this. It must have been bad
for me to have so many paintings on the walls. Joe would have worked things out for the best. He wouldn't have
taken the paintings down himself, because then I might have "gone against Joe." So, whoever did take
them down, must have done so because Joe put it into the mind of that person to do so. One day, about a year later,
like lightning, I suddenly knew for sure that Joe had not organized the taking down of my paintings. Only the person
who took them down knew they were coming down. It took a long time for explanations, for words, to change my feeling.
I had to live through the madness, before I could in a sense really comprehend the truth. My shattering anger streamed
out of me, and much of it was bashed out on Joe: "How hard can you hit?" "Is that all?" Joe
Later, further relevant thoughts came. When very angry, but pretending I wasn't as when
the paintings were taken down I would say to myself, "It's therapy, it must be for the best." I was seeing "feeling" my Mother, or the "Mother" figure as God. "Whatever
happens is of God, it must therefore be for my good." Actually, insofar as one always sees good, good comes rather than evil in this way, the psychotic experience is not harmful, but true. What is bad is being really angry, and instead of resolving it?that is, oneself?suffering one's own anger; pretending it is not there and being "smiling and nice on top, but nasty below.
Before coming to Kingsley Hall many things must have happened that I would have l worked out as if it was "therapy." Seeing someone as a "therapist," as my Mother, meant "everything must be right," there was then no "cause" or "reason" for anger, the, to me, explosive, killing bomb. Yet I often felt it wasn't "right" but denied the anger that was in me and so had severe depression that is repressed anger. Saint John of the Cross called it the "dark night of the soul" which he suppressed greatly, there in his "way to the light" or in the "resolution of his anger." Soon after this incident of the paintings coming down 1 went back into a state of hibernation. I lay alone. Joe wasn't always "digging me up to see if I'd grown." From the fallow field new growth burst forth. Peter Before Christ was my first finger painting,
In May 1967. I'd been in the games room, touching, looking at everything. It was all so strange?months in my room seemed years and years and miles and miles away. There was a piece of hardboard, big and heavy. Gasping, I got it inside my door. Safe, back in my room, not. a sound, no one must know. What had I done? Why had I got it? Where to put it? Quick, before someone comes, under the mat, under the bed. Relief, I got into bed and lay very still until the day passed into night. Then on with the light and out with the paint. I squeezed and squeezed the tubes, my fingers were on the hardboard. The paint smelt good, I was caught in the spell, first the blue eyes, then a black hand, then red, warm, loving: I was painting Christ. Brown came, for the Rock of Peter, and there was yellow in the sky for the light of God. It was finished. Off with the light, back into bed, with paint on my hands and in my soul. That's how painting was to me?a sudden spurt of two, six, eight hours, like a moment, a kiss, the picture was there. The Red Christ, an agony. Spring the Resurrection, a rising joy. Disintegration, a fear of evil, the devil clawing at broken parts. Through colour I met with God inside myself. Through the paintings I spoke, met People and knew myself. Stories came, first without words, pictures scrawled over the back of odd lengths of wallpaper. The Wall Paper Stories they came to be called. You walked the length of the paper, telling the story. Then other stories came. The King and the Donkey, The Cross of Christ, The Hallow Tree, and always pictures grew with the story.
In the beginning, in May 1965, the black breasts were screaming from the walls. Then I would be curled up like a foetus, often in a big box that Ronnie (Dr. R. D. Laing) had got for me from the basement. At this time the painting was shit on the wall, an ovum, a sperm, a breast and the cross. Coming up from the breaking?down state, into a "tom?boy" of a girl, I danced, shouted, played with bat and ball, and painted foetal figures on the wall. From scribbling on paper until a picture emerged, I went on to painting the Mother of God on canvas by the dining room door. This was Easter Monday, 1966. The first five months of this year was a time of intense, violent activity. If feeling "bad" I would throw myself onto the floor, immovable. Joe would re?new my life. "What's that on the floor? A ghost?" touching my body. "Oh! it moves." Groans and moans from the frozen lump. The body moves. Life is returning. Joe taps my head: Who's there?" "Mary." "Mary who?" "Mary Barnes." I was alive, at home, all inside my body. I'd race and shout, get stuck, be dumb, do a big painting, fling down the brushes and lay on the floor. I was a "baby child," angry and jealous, living through Joe, unable to move, not "all there" if Joe went out since I felt this as a punishment. Yet, when alive, in paint, I could leap through it all, and create The Moon on the Sea, Saint Joseph, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, The Annunciation, Going down into Egypt. I went down again at the end of this period, in June 1966. I was choking with anger, and Joe, with Ronnie, helped me to subside and learn to live with my anger, to resolve it. This had wonderful results, not only through future creative activity, but in giving me a sense of wholeness, of joy in my own "being." Expressed in words, it was something like this: I am high on a ship, leaving the people, tiny below, moving away from the pull of the shore. 1 feel 1 am floating, out to the sea, where I shall be. I was going through the desert and drinking at the oasis of my own soul. Very much aware of God, I seemed, as previously when painting, to be at times "above my usual state." All life seemed to be moving, in harmony.
God was my only thirst, my entire satisfaction. I now understood about fasting and prayer and knew from within myself that which before I had only accepted from without. just as Joe in the past had told me, "You cannot lose it, the painting, it is in you," so at this period I seemed to touch down to an even deeper depth in myself that I knew that from then on would be forever with me. When words came they were such as this: The world is clothed. in the glory of God, and the earth shouts with gladness and is vibrant with His joy, and in awe, in the whispered hush of dawn, the world kneels, and adores Him who is its breath and being. Aflame with His love, wrung with His sorrow, magnificent in His glory the World abides, in Him, now and forever.
Or the coming of the Spirit, Pentecost: As flames of fire into the heart, melting the hard wax, the Spirit sears the soul, and it slips into the pool of God. Where it is washed and cooled, as the meadow sweet after rain, having a fragrance, of incense, rising from the altar of the earth. As a beam of light, shot into the dark, from the door of God, the Spirit comes.
As light filtering through leaves ' does God come into "being." As a cloud in the sky,
God overhangs the soul. As water in peat, God saturates and seeps. As the surf of the sea does the Spirit come, jubilant from the waves of God, to the sand of the soul. The sand that shifts; that is washed, that is dry; that is wet, that receives the sea; and is covered by the sea.
Death I experienced as: The floodgates of my soul are open, and the water of my life flows out, into the endless sea of light. This state of "being" I first knew in 1967. I painted Fire, as the Pillar of fire going before Moses in the desert. Joe said it was just as he had seen fire after taking LSD. I have never had drugs myself.
Although I painted and felt very alive in my room, I was very fragile, terrified of my own anger and of other people. With Joe I played "bears" and "sharks" and "crocodiles."
We would growl and bite and hit, but alone, without Joe there I was, with my eyes tight
shut, timid as a mouse, scurrying back to my hole at the slightest noise. The big difficulty of the day, as I started to emerge from my room, towards the end of 1967, was to get in and out of the kitchen without being "caught." I couldn't seem to get my body past another person, still less "meet" people with words. But gradually through 1968 I was able to be physically with other people, in the house. Before this I had, on occasions, put on some clothes and ran out, as very early one morning in the spring, to the Park. Never had before seen colour so vividly. It pierced right through me, the May was out, and the horse chestnuts, and I felt I could hardly stand the impact of all this light and colour, sun and movement. The grass was of such an intense green, and the wind was in my hair.
|A huge finger-painting I did in 1968 was of the crucifixion on the dining room wall. It is called Christ Triumphant, being the three stages of sacrifice: the lamb in fire, of the Old Testament; Christ, the lamb of God, crucified; and the Host, the sacrifice of the Mass.
The King and the Donkey
By mary barnes
|Once in the country amidst the oranges and the wild flowers was born a donkey
named Saleh. His master, Hussein, was a kind and rich man and Saleh grew strong and happy.
Then one night in. a terrible storm the house of Hussein was struck by lightning and so killing was the fire that everyone in the house was burnt to death. Saleh in his stable felt strange to feel so warm in the dark. He went out and felt stranger still to see such light and he heard the crackle of the flames now reaching his stable; he felt very frightened.
It was wet and he had no dry place, no soft hay. He grew cold and hungry. He wandered about. His coat was soaked with rain, his ears were full of water and his eves were wet with tears. He felt no one loved him and he was lost and sad.
| Such was the beginning of the life of Saleh as a stray, hidden, stealing
donkey. Men tried to catch him so he had to hide and no one fed him so he had to steal. He stumbled through days
and nights and over rocks and into rills and he grew thin and his coat got sores and he felt sick and he got kicked.
He never knew quite what to eat and he got so weary of trying that he could hardly breathe. One wet cold night he slipped in the mud and such was his tiredness that he hardly felt the rain or all his emptiness and pain.
He was dying, in fact the man who fell over him thought at first that he was dead.
But Saleh sighed and the man stroked his head. He loved donkeys and just now he needed one, his own had been stolen the night before.
He got Saleh to his feet and patted him and somehow he got Saleh home. His whole home was a stable so Saleh lived with the family and he was now called Abraham for this was a Jewish house.
He soon got strong and well and Joseph, being a poor man was tempted to sell him. Abraham sensed danger and big tears fell in his hay and every day he ate less and less.
Joseph loved him and was worried that he was so poor that his wife was trying to do with less milk and his donkey with less hay. Then one-day three men came to visit them and they brought gifts for the baby.
One of these gifts was some gold and at once Joseph went out and bought a goat for milk for his wife and lots of hay for Abraham. Then he started to look for a bigger house, but in the night an Angel told him, "You must go into another country."
"Thank goodness," thought Joseph, "that I did not sell Abraham, such were his tears that I thought not first of money."
So, now quickly they set out and Abraham who. had before spent so long in lost wandering now strode surely along as if he had always known the way. Every night Angels came with hay for Abraham and with milk and honey for Mary and with meat and wine for Joseph.
So it was that with the milk of his mother and with the feet of the donkey, that the King reached Egypt.
Abraham was the first donkey that this King ever rode.
@ Copyright Mary Barnes, 1970. All rights reserved