Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

February 10, 2021

Lockdown London looks particularly beautiful in snow, and when it snows, the first thing I do is go out and get a snowball to use for painting it. Here above is our London street, and below, the February page of my artist’s book From Grass to Harvest, which sets lines from Virginia Woolf’s The Years, one page for each month, in a concertina book that allows the December page and the January page to be tied together, so that the year circles seamlessly round. I painted the snow here with Titanium white mixed with snowmelt, so that the snow itself has a material presence in the painting – and took as my subject the view from our window of a street that Virginia Woolf passed along many times on her way to visit her friend Roger Fry, who lived nearby.

This book, indeed this page, features in an online preview of my forthcoming exhibition The Prospect of Happiness at Hampstead’s Burgh House, which was postponed from last year due to the first lockdown, but will be on show before too long. Meanwhile, I keep adding extra works into the preview, so it’ll probably need the Albert Hall by the time it’s actually installed; you can have your own private view here.

I love everything about snow – walking in it, writing in it, eating it, painting it, painting with it. I love how it covers up all the black plastic and the rubbish bins and transforms them, along with everything else, into elements of a visionary landscape of the imagination. I love how it starts stealthily, casually, and then builds to a great crescendo, whirling round the lamp-posts and obliterating everything that is not snow, until our London street becomes a country lane, timeless, uninhabited, silent, except for the faint breath of the falling snow. Last night, hearing a crystalline scratching, I looked up at our skylight to see nothing but an icy white blanket, and realised I was listening to the cosmic song of the snow.

These pages are from Snow like thought, my artist’s book setting a poem of that name by Jeremy Hooker. 

You can find the poem in his wonderful recent Selected Poems 1965 – 2018, from Shearsman Books, who say of him: ‘Jeremy Hooker is a literary explorer, and a poet with a powerful sense of place, whose joy in the landscape and his surroundings shines through the entire body of his work.’ I find his poetry constantly inspiring, and I love the way he always writes with a sense of the individual in the landscape, fully engaging with an always changing world. His poems evoke what he calls ‘an ever-elusive reality’ not by definitive description, but rather by allusive images, and a visionary openness that draws the reader into a closer relationship with the living landscape and the ideas and memories it embodies, ‘the life flowing through the leaf’. 

Snow like thought

because it arrives

seemingly from nowhere

small flakes wandering

sideways

down & up & down

then faster, heavier

bringing up

deeper silence

from some place not dreamed of

that was always there.

Each poem ends with a sense of underlying silence; it is where questions continue, and I hope to find a new beginning.

Jeremy Hooker, Selected Poems 1965-2018 (the poem and his words quoted by kind permission of the poet)

Inspired, I’ve just started work on a new artist’s book, with today’s fresh, timeless snow.  

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