The past is all around us

When I was a child, I lived in a house that my mum and dad bought from new. They were the only owners that house had ever had, and as my mum still lives there, she remains so. It never occurred to me to imagine anyone else that had slept in my bedroom (and it still is MY bedroom, despite the fact that I am now in my forties). Later, I lived in a 1930s mansion block. It had all the original windows and doors, and this is where my obsession with what has been before was born. Having not really given these things much thought before, I suddenly became incapable of passing through my bedroom doorway without imagining a large collection of ghosts walking through with me. I'd lie in bed wondering who else had lain in bed - occupying that very space in the room - 20, 50, 70 years ago. I realise this sounds a bit morbid, but it wasn't like that really, they were nice thoughts. I'm fascinated by the nonlinear time theory - that time doesn't simply move from past to present but happens all at once (I am sure this is a very crude explanation). I can't say I personally believe in it, but it is a lovely idea that every step you take, you are joined by thousands of past lives, walking with you.

These were the things i was thinking about when I started my most recent series of paintings. I wanted to try and convey the sense that what has been before is still there, occupying the same space as you, at the same time. The first one I completed was 'My Shadow' (below left), the later 'Where I Waited Before" (below right) but I'm not done yet - there will be others. You can see these paintings in better detail on my 'latest work' page.

Recently, I've been working on the East Cliff Creatives Lasting Memories project. The project commemorates 100 years since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which brought eventual peace to Europe following the 1st World War. On 29th & 30th June, coinciding with Armed Forces Day, seven large poppies will be built on the beach in Folkestone, from 50,000 individually painted pebbles (just a few of these can be seen above). Each poppy represents a theme relating to the war and to local people's experience of that time, and the pebbles are being painted by local people, schools, groups, and anyone who wishes to*. 50,000 - quite a lot of pebbles, right? So we've had many early starts collecting pebbles for painting, and standing on the beach in the early morning, my thoughts generally turn to all the people who would have been there over 100 years ago, the men setting off from that very beach, many never to return.

It seems appropriate to be writing about this, on the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings. I saw a photo this morning of the ships leaving from Folkestone exactly 75 years ago today, from the same coastline I see almost every day while walking my dog. If I'd have been walking there 75 years ago I would have seen those ships. And this morning, I was of course joined by everyone who had been there before. And their dogs.

*If you would like to get involved with the Lasting Memories project, please do! We are looking for people to help collect and paint stones, More details can be found on the East Cliff Creatives website here. You can also come along at the end of June and watch the stones being laid to form the poppies.

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© 2017 by Hayley Restall. All rights reserved.