The Fool sees

There are moments looking at the reproductions of Cecil Collins' work in William Anderson's exemplary monograph where you glimpse the harmony of the "Great Happiness" that he sought as an artist to convey: its rhythm, its colour, its form.

He is a painter of 'paradise' that state of consciousness that is our originator and our end, where all is in its place, and where the light casts no shadow.

He is, also, a painter of how messengers of that reality fare in our more conflicted, narrower, less generous world - reminding us that it is the same world, seen differently - seeing that is, at once, fragile, easily lost, and yet when given, paradoxically, is so resonant and strong, such that we wonder how we could ever and again lose its freedom.

The archetypal figures that are the messengers - the angel (here above wounded), the compassionate woman, and the Fool - strike me as deeply familiar. I have dreamt them. I have met them in the behaviours of people when most deeply generous to their own, our shared humanity. I may have occassionally myself been inhabited, touched by them.

I was struck by Anderson quoting periodically negative reviews (especially from the 40s and 50s) accusing him of neuroticism and (usually modest) forms of psychopathology. This is akin to Blake's non-reception by people fantasising his madness. It is as if to the ill, all wholeness, stands condemned as its opposite. Many of his paintings do reflect deep conflicts but these are personal precisely because to any sensitive soul, the world must be a trial. It is fallen, broken, in need of healing. Christ is crucified before resurrection. To translate this merely into an individual's psychological complaint is to diminish the viewer's hope of seeing anew.

It is to Collin's image of the Fool I am most deeply drawn - the vulnerability of an innocent consciousness that sees aright. It is an image he returns to repeatedly and it is an image of reproof: when did one last see with such generosity that the world fell into its place and was loved in your seeing, without judgement?


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