In Winter 2021-2022 I began a series of small paintings on cardboard called “Wintersweet”. I had been thinking about the way that winter, despite being a time of dormancy, or some might say death, was also a time in which the world goes inward, rests, and rebuilds its life force. One of the few plants to flower in wintertime in cold climates is a bush called “wintersweet”. Also known as witch hazel, this plant exudes a sweet scent from the golden yellow flowers on its otherwise leafless branches. Garden writer Beverley Nichols described walking through his garden in winter, looking for any hint of life, and passing by a clump of wintersweet in bloom. “Their perfume,” he recalled, “was as sweet and delicate as anything you could desire.” (Down the Garden Path.)
I was moved by the idea of this sweetness, and began to think of winter as a time of quiet magic. Having passed the age of 50, I was also beginning to think about the wintertime of life as being quieter and slower than youth, but also having its own vital sap and energy. And perhaps a kind of peace and acceptance that was deep and new, like fallen snow.
I researched paintings and photographs of winter, especially landscapes and gardens. I worked on a small scale, with my cat friend Emma often beside me (sometimes sprawling on the paintings themselves.) The resulting series of 15 paintings was also a way for me to return to landscape and painting after a year away while working on a novel. I don’t know the names of all the photographers whose images provided me with inspiration, but I reached out for permission from everyone I could (and everyone who responded was happy to say yes).
During the production of these works, Russia invaded the Ukraine. I felt horror and grief, especially as the world has had no shortage of injustices and suffering over the past few years. Although it had not been my intention to sell these works (they are, after all, on cardboard), I decided to collaborate with a UK organization called Give With Art to sell the paintings, donating 50% of the proceeds to organizations that are directing humanitarian aid to the Ukraine. If there is sweetness in winter, I wish it for the many Ukrainian people, visiting students, animals and companion animals that have been devastated or hurt by this terrible invasion. May winter prove its sweetness for you, above all, and soon.
Special thank you to Jason, Caroline, Janice, and Michael for your encouragement of this series.