Through my paintings and drawings I’ve attempted to capture moments in time and the symbolism of the everyday. By immersing myself in the act of painting and drawing, I would like to think that I’m engaged in a process of deep attention, allowing the artworks to evolve organically and often incorporating unexpected elements. Murdoch and, importantly, the Iris Murdoch community have offered me new ideas to explore, new ways to interpret and think about my own work, and also a lot of enjoyment!
The influence and impact of Iris Murdoch’s work is increasing exponentially each year and the Iris Murdoch Review likewise seems to grow with each issue. This edition contains a wide-ranging collection of essays, reviews and reports variously connected by specific features. We begin with celebrations of Murdoch at home and abroad, then move on to America, art, philosophy and literature – specifically by women writers: a set of topics that encapsulates Murdoch’s life of working, writing and travelling.
Iris Murdoch herself visited Japan along with husband John Bayley at the request of the British Council. They stayed for around two weeks and the lecture Iris gave in Kobe that I attended took place at the Kobe Institute of St. Catherine’s on Friday 28th May 1993. This wide-ranging talk was on ‘The Modern Novel’.
Murdoch concludes her essay ‘The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited’ (1959) with a very expressive metaphor: ‘a novel must be a house fit for free characters to live in; and to combine form with a respect for reality with all its odd contingent ways is the highest art of prose.’ Surely we see this in The Sandcastle? Moreover, she never again explored the subject of portrait painting or indeed school-teaching in such depth, though we see in her next great novel The Bell a further development of an enclosed society with its tensions between sacred and profane love.
Australia’s ‘trickster-poet’ Gwen Harwood (1920-1995), a brilliant and, in her time, controversial figure, was a great admirer of Iris Murdoch, and in 1967 had a chance briefly to meet her.
What happens when we deliberately try listening to Murdoch’s novels? What can be gained by attending not just to the social, moral, emotional and visual worlds she creates, but also to the aural worlds in her work?
In this essay Miles Leeson suggests that the under-discussed friendship between Elizabeth Bowen and Iris Murdoch is one that warrants further attention.