Holy Mountain Series – Thoughts on Painting, loss and Becoming

Holy Mountain Series – thoughts on loss and becoming





Sunset alighting Mount Psiloritis – legendary birth place of Zeus









Holy Mountain I

The holy Mountain series are a discrete group of works made over several years. The final, greater part of the series came about after my father‘s death when the drive to create then became an imperative. The squeegee technique became a metaphor for loss, drawing a slick veil of colour over already developed images, this became a more conscious process of destruction; the covering and partial revealing of whole passages of paint. The final interventions, controlled, accidental, brutal but necessary. Unavoidable in terms of realising the painting, leaving something complete in itself.

The work became an authentic reflection of those months, but somehow leading beyond them into an archetypal realm. The meeting and merging of light and darkness, a familiar tension and theme of mine, was transformed, somehow the transparency and transitions became far more eloquent, the in-between was redolent with loss. However, there developed a vigorous out-streaming quality a new and stronger ‘presence’. This certainty of action led to eloquent passages of paint, at times really sublime, in terms of scale of mark and the move from transparency to opacity and back again. I was moved, somewhat beside myself and yet the painting held me, the reward for working is the ability to work and only through work could this eloquence exist, that which we remains outside speech,

as Jeanette Winterson has written, ‘Art is there to carry the things we cannot bear, why have we forgotten this’?


Holy Mountain VII

Tapetum Lucidum II

The Alchemists and initiates left us keys which we may still latch onto; ‘As above so Below’ is one such, or perhaps, ‘Know thyself and you will know the world, know the World and will know yourself’. We can sense the place of the mountain in the interior life, a journey we’re making together but which remains stubbornly singular, a place we stand upon in isolation, a place we enter into; like Nan Shepherd, to enthrall and protect us, or, a place to climb but never really ‘master’, as in ‘The Mountains of the Mind’. Nietzsche had Zarathustra come down from his mountain and Speak. Moses climbed the mountain twice to bring back wisdom for his people. The ancient Greeks set temples to the Goddess Athena at high places overlooking their cities and sacred sites. One ascended to petition and parlay with the Goddess of Wisdom, the ancients had their Ziggurats and pyramids, but each had hidden inner chambers within which mysteries were performed.



Holy Mountain XIII – XIV – XV

There’s a kind of fascination for the logic of the accident, the process of developing complexity, layer upon layer, destroying consciously the potential of each for further reach and clarity. As Pascal said “Chance favours the prepared mind”, and as per Kirkby would say – “We work standing amongst ruins…” The time spent, the time passed, in some cases years. The final act, leading to an unexpected outcome, but within familiar parameters, this is the reason, the necessary drive of painting. A process of seeking, uncovering and finding a new outcome, greater than one imagined at the beginning. An activity which reflects the living of life, an authenticity imbricated between layers of paint. Scratching back, destroying and revealing, as if we’re burrowing into time, this all builds tension.  As I look back at life I experience the incompleteness of my understanding, clear and naive as it was. My father’s death lifted the veil for me and allowed reality to slip through and reach past filters, my habits of mind and long held half-truths.



Holy Mountain V


The why of painting – to move, push forward from habit to intuition.

  • The intention is to be moved by colour, chance and conscious ‘accident’.
  • To realise disappointment and see expectation fulfilled.
  • To push on until a new resolution grows and makes its presence felt (The painting does not necessarily convince for long).
  • We can be bewitched by a passage, a surprise or unexpected discovery, this can lead astray, you must be prepared to “Kill your darlings’”, again as Per Kirkeby said.
  • The unexpected in the process of painting can mislead, or complete the painting.
  • The revelatory quality of attacking a painting with a loaded squeegee can be addictive.
  • Knowing when is the time to act, to transform a painting is a good feeling – A clear resolution founded on intuition.


Richard Heys



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