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!
This piece was performed at the University of East Anglia on the 6th December, 2014 as part of an event entitled ‘An Afternoon with Iris: Life, Thought, Writing’.
Few authors write and subsequently publish their first attempted work, and Iris was no exception. Several novels were started and later discarded (almost certainly destroyed) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. We know very little about any of these save ‘Our Lady of the Bosky Gates’.
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.
I looked out Under the Net from our bookcase and found a lovely old Penguin with Margaret Foreman’s beautiful painting of Jake in his chair. I was captivated again and found we had The Bell, The Nice and the Good and about four or five more. I had to read all of them and then, being something of a completist, had to read the rest of the novels, most of which I had never heard of or seen in print.
Serious book collecting isn’t the draw it was for earlier generations, and the biggest prices are still attached to the works of the canonical dead white males (although Dickens can be surprisingly cheap), making Murdoch and some of her contemporaries viable and reasonable to collect. So how do you go about starting a collection of Murdoch’s works? Where do you find them? And, crucially, how much should you pay?
The Cavalier could boast many distinguished visitors; his image has been gracing the Wallace’s sumptuous central gallery for decades. Among them was Iris Murdoch, visiting with her beloved father as a child and in the 1940s as an aspiring writer and philosopher …
Now libraries and archive collections are re-opening, and I am delighted that restrictions on travel have been lifted, so that I can make an appointment at the Iris Murdoch Special Collections at Kingston University, to continue my work on the archive material there.