Journey Can Hero: Helen Bradley

Big Bertha

Helen Bradley mixed a little pink oil colour and painted the dress of a tiny figure – Miss Carter – who would feature in most of her paintings, alongside her mother, grandmother three maiden aunts, Mr Taylor (the bank manager) Helen with brother George and their dogs Gyp and Barney…

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Journey Can Hero: Alfred Wallis


Alfred Wallis (18 August 1855 – 29 August 1942) was apprenticed to a basketmaker before becoming a mariner in the merchant service by the early 1870s. He sailed on schooners across the North Atlantic between Penzance and Newfoundland.

At 20 he married Susan Ward, his wife was 41, and became stepfather to her five children. The family moved to St. Ives in 1890 where he established himself as Wallis, Alfred, Marine Stores Dealer buying scrap iron, sails, rope and other items. Following his wife’s death in 1922, Wallis took up painting “for company“.

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Journey Can Hero: James Dixon

A Journey Can Hero – James ‘Jimmy’ Dixon (1887-1970)

A finger of land. A boat adrift in a storm. Isolated. An outpost nine miles into the Northern Atlantic, one steeped in history, music, song and dance. Tory Island, off the north west coast of Co. Donegal.

In the late 1950’s Derek Hill, artist, was painting on Tory Island when a cantankerous old man, looking over his shoulder, said “I could do better if I tried”. Intrigued, Hill challenged James ‘Jimmy’ Dixon (1887-1970) to prove it. He gave Dixon paint and paper. Dixon refused paintbrushes choosing to make his own from donkey hair.

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Journey Can Hero: David Jones – the artist-poet of the ‘ever-present past’

David Jones was a visionary who wrote, in 1937:

That our culture has accelerated every line of advance into the territory of physical science is well appreciated – but not so well understood are the unforeseen, subsidiary effects of this achievement. We stroke cats, pluck flowers, tie ribands, assist at the manual acts of religion, make some kind of love, write poems, paint pictures, are generally at one with that creaturely world inherited from our remote beginnings. Our perception of many things is heightened and clarified. Yet must we do the gas-drill, be attuned to many newfangled technicalities, respond to increasingly exacting mechanical devices; some fascinating and compelling, others sinister in the extreme; all requiring a new and strange direction of the mind, a new sensitivity certainly, but at a considerable cost.

David Jones, In Parenthesis (1937; rpt. London: Faber, 1963), p. xiv.

In Parenthesis (1937) was David Jones’s first and perhaps greatest book, it made his name as a writer: a hard-to-classify modernist prose-poem distilling and mythologising his experiences during the First World War.

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“He took me up to a south-facing room that was thick with summer light, and there he opened the two pale-blue doors of a large wooden cabinet that stood against the back wall. It was, he explained, a cabinet of curiosities of his own devising, in homage to the great Wunderkammern or ‘wonder-rooms’ of the Renaissance and the baroque, in which examples of natural history (naturalia), precious artefacts (arteficialia), scientific instruments (scientifica), findings from distant realms (exotica) and items of inexplicable origin and form (mirabilia) were gathered and displayed.

He reached into the cabinet and retrieved object after object, explaining to me the skein of stories that each drew behind it.” p215-216 Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

I don’t have a large cabinet of treasures, but I do like the idea mirabilia, of curio, and of an object that draws a skein of stories behind it.

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