Tuesday 22 August 2017

What Lies Beneath: A Letter to Eckhart Tolle by Pauline Bewick

A Letter to Eckhart Tolle by Pauline Bewick
A Letter to Eckhart Tolle by Pauline Bewick

Niall MacMonagle

Pauline Bewick lives in the now. And right now, today, it's her 81st birthday. We know from Bewick's 80: A Memoir, published last year, that her life is an open book, a book in which she remembers, in painterly detail, then - not now. Even though it was past, "I only had to close my eyes and I was back in the moment," vivid moments such as a naked Pauline being painted kelly green by her sister Hazel, going barefoot to school through "squishy mud and cow dung," painting huge plywood cut-outs of lions and unicorns for Queen Elizabeth's coronation or a statue of the Virgin Mary for a Kerry graveyard.

This recent painting, watercolour and acrylic on handmade paper, dated August 2016, celebrates now. When Bewick discovered self-taught Eckhart Tolle, named the most spiritually influential person in the world, on YouTube, she responded intuitively, instinctively. Tolle survived a troubled, unconventional childhood. Abandoning a Cambridge doctorate, he spent two years watching the world from park benches in London's Russell Square; his best known work, The Power of Now, resonated. Through eight decades Bewick has known powerful nows.

A Letter to Eckhart Tolle was inspired, initially, by a visit to Lidl. Ah, the glamour of shopping. Milk, eggs, avocados, yoghurt, loo paper... and then: "I saw this huge bunch of peonies. I couldn't resist them." They became the lower half, that sensuous duvet with nestling pregnant woman. Life is a bed of peonies.

Bewick then ingeniously expanded the painting, the pattern of leaves camouflaging the join. A young woman sleeps, dreams, having listed in her notebook "moments of NOW: the first taste of new food; entering the cold sea; when told you are sick; the plop of a poo; a knock at the door; when you are loved." It's a "wishful, if only painting", for "at the back of my mind is the rumbling of Pat's confused life due to his severe Alzheimer's." Bewick knows that sorrows come, unsettling, anxious sorrows like her husband's illness. And the way forward? "Now, now."

On Culture Night on September 16, Bewick will speak about her Seven Ages Collection at Library Place, Killorglin. Her latest work, including this painting, will also be on show.

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