Jackie Morris on Painting, Music and Words

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Birmingham-born artist Jackie Morris will be at Town Hall on 9th February live illustrating a new music composition and companion piece to award winning book The Lost Words, A Spell Book by writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris.

This will be alongside 8 musicians: Karine PolwartJulie FowlisKris DreverSeckou KeitaRachel NewtonKerry AndrewBeth Porter and Jim Molyneux.

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Writing about the origins of this idea and the experience of working with these musicians, Jackie wrote:

"When, in February of 2015, I wrote an email to Robert Macfarlane. I never imagined in my wildest wild dreams that in 2019, in January, I would find myself working with some of the finest people in the land.

I’ve spent the last week in the fine company of Adam and Caroline from Folk by the Oak,who set about commissioning and developing The Lost Words, Spellsongs. We were staying in a beautiful house, and one by one by two or more musicians began to arrive. We had all met before, for a couple of days in the Lake District and in the intervening time ideas had begun to form, but now, in these few days, songs were to be written, spells and summonings out of silence, and a stage show organised. Five venues, four shows in February, a cd/lp to record. I had been so looking forward to this, but on arrival found I was, well, a bit shy……(didn’t last long)"

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"What followed over the next few days was astonishing. Listening to these people make song from silence, add such a layer to our book, well……..and while they crafted the air to vibrate and take the spells deeper into the soul, I worked away to shape the package that would hold the disc, the vinyl, upstairs, in a corner of the bedroom. I wanted to show the musicians, and Caroline and Adam what I had in mind. I wanted to paint each musician as a creature, with a part of their instrument, worked on gold leaf, to echo, harmonise with The Lost Words, and I began with Rachel Newton and her harp."

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"And all the while songs took shape, working in pairs, alone and then together, adding words, lines, harmony, and it was just wonderful to hear the developing picture of the music. And Robin looked after us all, and Caroline and Adam came with food, and it was heaven on earth, utterly being in each moment, wanting to hang on to it, but knowing that I needed to go home, and paint.

There was much watching on my part as well as listening. Trying to find each creature. Jim was a barn owl at first. But then he changed. He’s quiet. Listens. But when he opens his mouth to sing, he has a beautiful voice. So, he’s a lark. And Chris is raven. I will work on these over next couple of weeks as fast as I can paint. Working on the rough drawings while listening to the music was sublime."

Catch this new commission and companion piece, alongside the live painting of Jackie Morris on on 9th February at Town Hall.

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Photography by Elly Lucas.