April 20th – The Festival of Painting the Pool

Out west of Buentoille, on the side of a hill that overlooks the bay, is a freshwater pool surrounded by a few pear trees that have just shed their blossom and are displaying their first fresh green spring leaves. In the centre of the pool is a rock that can easily be swam out to, and serves as a popular lounging spot in the long summer months, though it doesn’t see many visitors at this time of year, except for today that is.

This morning, before the sun has risen, the group will set out from the City, passing through the Old West Gate and following the trail that curves around the edge of the bay. There is always a comfortable silence to the walk, broken only by the sound of boots on gravel, and then, later as they cut through the farmlands on the hill, the swishing of long, dewy grass. As the dawn chorus picks up, the walkers stop for a few moments at the edge of a little coppice, looking out over to the clouds of gablelarks exiting their nests and swooping over to the marshes.

They usually get there just before the sun rises, and take their positions. Old Gerald from the little cottage down the way is nice enough to set up the easels beforehand, and he sits against a pear tree, quietly nodding to the painters as they arrive. They set up their materials and begin to sketch the outlines of the landscape before them. Sometimes a model sits on the rock in the centre of the pool, looking out over the sea, sometimes they don’t. Everyone moves slowly and quietly, trying not to disturb the mist that hangs over the pool, twisting its tendrils around the tree roots.

This morning the painters have one of the best, most famous, views in all Buentoille. Here it was, 271 years to the day, that Asa Jerichim painted her first Mist Over Pool, the first of seventy one near-identical works. She had been out walking with a set of oils and a canvas in her backpack, seeking quiescence. Her first love had left her two weeks before, and she had been unable to sleep. The peace she had found there, as she quickly daubed on the paint in her now-characteristic expressive style, set in deep, and she soon found that she was not bitter or sad any longer. She returned every year, in commemoration of that great change in her life.

For those who have studied the work of Jerichim, the change in her personality is entirely apparent in her work. Before this momentous painting, her style was painfully precise and studied. Clearly something changed within her at that moment as she looked out at the mist and the morning sun glowing through it; the strokes are quickly applied, yet it is far for simplistic. Whilst the shapes of the land and the trees are approximations, the quality of the light, the way it filtered through the mist, have a striking accuracy to them. When she exhibited that first painting it was an immediate success, spawning many admirers and imitators.

Some of the people there at the pool this morning have been coming for years, continuing the legacy of Jerichim, others saw the beauty of her paintings, wishing to experience the place themselves first hand. Some paint enthusiastically, seeking that quiescence that Jerichim spoke of so eloquently in her final days, others stare out happily, content to do nothing.

As far as we know, Jerichim was happy for the next seventy one years of her life, content in a way that few are able to be. In some of the paintings a naked woman sits on the rocks, looking out to sea, in others she is absent. It’s always the same woman; Jerichim’s wife, Renee Underneath, who she met five years after that first painting. You can see the passage of time through its marks on her body, if you look at the paintings chronologically (as you can at The Collection gallery), though little else changes in the scene.

When the sun has risen above the tree line, the painters begin to pack up. It is only then that somebody speaks. ‘Who’s for coffee, then?’ says Old Gerald, ‘David should have the kettle boiled by now.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Flow Sweet River Festival
  • The Day of Net Repairs