Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Free Fish

It seems odd that I’ve never told you about the great love of my life, the painter Marc Chagall. But like most people I neglect my best love for long periods and don’t even notice I’m living on bread and water. Recently I had a FEAST.

The feast is called ‘A la Russie, aux Ânes et aux Autres’ (To Russia, Asses and Others) and is a dvd about his life.

Here is a picture of the front of the box. I bought it in Nice in the Chagall Museum which is a museum worth going all the way to Nice just to visit. It was my last feast, in January. I’ve been three times and will go again at the earliest opportunity if someone would like to donate my fare.
Here I am in Nice, gorging myself in front of one of his giant canvases. See how happy I am?

Chagall was free. That’s why I like him. And when I first encountered him in a retrospective exhibition of his work in the Royal Academy in London in 1985, I felt his freedom. I was brought up thinking art was a serious business involving lofty ideas and one which a mere girl like me could never fully grasp. (Thanks Dad). Well, thank you Marc Chagall for opening my eyes and making me laugh all the way round that gallery. Who puts goats in the sky, upside down people all over the place and is obsessed with hens? (We have so much in common.) Joy ripples from his canvases. He was full of life, full of love. His work is full of both too.

Isn’t this ridiculous and beautiful?

So from my sick bed of enforced inaction, (back step in the sunshine actually) I’ve been thinking about artistic freedom. I mean the internal stuff, not the social-political stuff which often concerns me.

For an artist, art is freedom: ‘The place where I had freedom most was when I painted. I was completely and utterly myself.’ (Alice Neel)

And therefore: ‘To confine the artist is a crime; it means murdering unborn life.’ (Egon Schiele) (‘There’s been a murrderr.’ - Taggart)

But on the other hand: ‘No human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish.’ (John Ruskin)

And yet: ‘Writing just for the hell of it is heaven.’ (Julia Cameron)

I recognise this too: ‘Imagine, if you will, the author standing on a high rooftop hurling books into the void yelling, 'Fly! Be free!'’ (Curtis Craddock)


  1. There is a problem with the comments on this blog. If you cannot upload your comment please email me at and I will upload it from my account. I know this is a bit irregular but probably better than nothing until I can figure out what the problem is. Apologies.

    1. That seems to be it fixed now.

    2. Fabulous! Thanks so much for your help.


  2. This is a message from Jim Murdoch:

    Basically I’m an intellectual. How high up that food chain I’ve managed to peck my way I’m not sure but thoughts dominate feelings in my world; emotion still exists but the question I find I tend to want to answer before any other is, “What does it mean?” as opposed to, “How does it make you feel?” I don’t mind Chagall’s work but I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan. My great love—artistically speaking—is René Magritte, an odd choice when you think about it for me, because his paintings pretty much defy analysis. A man with an apple floating in front of his face, now what the hell does that mean? And yet his images hold me captive. I can’t say many (any?) of them fill me with great joy but then I’ve never considered joy to be the pinnacle of experience; they do, however, work on my emotions. And I can very rarely transfer that emotional resonance into words which is frustrating for a writer who thinks that everything is better once it’s been turned into words but I think it also grounds me; words are not the answer to everything.