On Red Island

News from Volcanoland.

The photograph above is of a very large trunk of a living pine tree in the park near my house. There is a big gash in it and I don’t know what caused it, but it is very dramatic and every time I go by I must stop to admire it.

From the very first time I set my eyes on it I saw petrified lava rather than wood and the colours reminded me of the rocks and minerals I saw on Mount Etna a few years ago after an eruption.

My Muse (see November 26, 2011 entry) repeatedly asked me to paint this image and eventually I gave in. The description of the act of painting that picture has ended up as part of a chapter in my new book Rua.

‘She started to paint slowly and carefully as if trying to reconnect with a flow that was interrupted when the knock came on the door. Then with a steady increase of movements she entered a rhythm and painted with great energy. She applied the oils thick and fast with a hard brush and, using the other end of it, she dragged it through the colour scratching the surface with wavy marks.

After a while she took a tube of red paint and squeezed the colour directly onto the canvas and spread and smoothed the colour with her fingers, relishing the silky feel of the paint.

All the time she was thinking about the visit, the day before, to the Red island,  the hard climb up to the crater, the smell, the rumbles, the scarse vegetation but, most of all, the heat and the colours of the scorched hearth.

Rua worked without a break for a few hours feeling that she was obeying an inner urge directed by something or someone else.

When the impulse was exhausted she laid down the brushes and went outside on the terrace. There she collapsed on the tiled bench that stretched between two of the pillars that held up the pergola and sat for a while looking out at sea and at the approaching sunset. Then she half reclined her body, resting her head in her arms and laid there with her eyes closed.’