Painted furniture created between 1978 -1980
In 2011 my life as I knew it was falling apart. Yet standing amidst the tattered remains I knew two things clearly. The changes ahead would be both vast and deep, and within these life fragments were reflections of the past that would become foundations for the future.
My first reflections took me back to 1983. I had just completed the first Merlin book and had moved to the medieval town of Saffron Walden in Essex. Among the many features of this delightful market town is a turf maze, a series of circular excavations cut into the earth of the common. While earliest records date to 1699, its origin is thought to be much earlier. It is the largest example of this style of maze in England, the main part is about 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter.
A year after I arrived in Saffron Walden I opened my first gallery and named it the Sacred Dance after the spiritual journey of the acolyte walking the maze, mindfully spiraling clockwise to arrive at the centre and then returning anti clockwise. The Sacred Dance consisted of a gallery and shop on the ground floor and separate treatment rooms above. In the beginning it all went well. I brought in various New Age speakers that attracted good audience numbers and covered my costs.
At this time most of my artwork reflected the designs within the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels. Based on these sacred texts, I could never have imagined my art would be considered offensive. But it was, the success of my gallery, the New Age speakers and especially my ‘pagan’ artwork had attracted the attention of local born again Christians.
Sacred Dance 1984
Point Of Light 1977
They began gathering in front of the Sacred Dance, shouting at customers and behaving in a threatening manner. One day, to my utter amazement, one of these demonstrators picked up the very large and heavy ‘A’ board sign that stood in front of the door, lifted it over his head, and hurled it through my shop front window. As I stood there astonished, I noticed his eyes were cold and lifeless. He seemed in some kind of trance. Moments later he shook himself, came to, quietly walked over to his push bike, and peddled away from the scene.
Although this was the first, and rather dramatic, negative reaction to what I was doing, it wouldn’t be the last. I was verbally abused in the street and discovered there was a church praying for my soul. I was beginning to realize that people really feared the art I was creating, even though its inspiration came from the Gospel books. And I was beginning to understand what it means to introduce art and ideas to a world not ready for them. New, at least to the Western World, ideas and practices like acupuncture and aromatherapy were met with suspicion, scorn, and ridicule. Thankfully over the years there was a greater acceptance as people became open to these alternative philosophies that offered a fresh light and new ways of thinking. But the lesson of this stayed with me. I wasn’t for a moment deterred from my spiritual journey but I would walk that journey with more discernment. My art had opened the door for me to be in service to others.
This time in Saffron Walden guided me to think more deeply about how to welcome others through a portalof new understanding.
Other reflections from this tumultuous time would be fundamental to my journey. They involved the unfoldingand clarification of my spiritual alignment.In the early days of my spiritual journey I began my search by reading the books of Alice Bailey, Blavatski and Krishnamurti. Yet I would discover that information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Through my work with M over the years the need for spiritual knowledge receded and rather than filling myself up with information, my path seemed to be to keep this channel clear as possible for the Merlin energy to express itself
as fully as possible. The art emanated what I was feeling in my heart and that seemed the best lode stone for me.
I had discovered through my early searching to not affiliate myself with any particular group teaching. I found that, although the message they professed was spiritual freedom, there were often strings attached. Strings that attempted to control what I could and could not believe in. Strings that became very political the closer I was drawn into the group’s core. It seemed there was always
more emphasis on methodologies than methods. It was all about the fingers.
The nun Wu Jincang approached the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, “I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas I do not quite understand. Please enlighten me.”
“I am illiterate. Please read out the characters to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning,” he responded. “You cannot even recognize the characters? How are you able then to understand the meaning?” “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s
location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.”
In my relationship with Merlin there were no fingers. Just the moon. Plus, the messages I gleaned through Merlin The Immortal seemed a fresher approach than these other spiritual teachings and more akin to the present day. This was the right path for my journey.
When I first started my early pictures in 1977 I was trying to give voice and expression to the hospital ward experiences. These early efforts were steeped in symbols and viewing them now I am reminded of the frustration I felt as each endeavor sadly missed the mark. It was my
first personal encounter with seeing through the veil into the otherworld. But it wasn’t my first encounter.
My mother was very psychic. I remember her telling me a story of what happened one evening when she arrived home from work. As she walked through the door she saw someone sitting in a chair in her living room. She recognized the occupant as Lord Mountbatten of Burma. He had appeared to seek her assistance in writing a book of his life. A book that would reveal information that had not previously been made public. A book which, he insisted, must be written in his own hand so that people who knew him would know it was genuine.
First, my mother needed to find a fountain pen that would suit his handwriting. He was left handed and she was right handed, so the correct pen was essential. When a suitable pen was found my mother began writing. But it wasn’t the book. For months she wrote the same sentence over and over and over, filling countless notebooks. She grew weary of this and much preferred to spend her time watching her favourite soaps. But Mountbatten was determined for her to write. So they worked out something of a schedule. She would watch one of her soaps for an hour and then write for an hour. This rhythm went on for several more months, always repeating the same line. Her handwriting was evolving and changing with each flourish of the pen but it was never good enough.
Finally one day she asked him why he had chosen her for this task. Although he had been a diplomat throughout his life, Mountbatten’s response far from diplomatic. He explained that he needed someone who had very little understanding of history and politics so that the writing
would carry no preconception or prejudice. To my mother’s ears this meant she had been chosen because she was stupid. She broke the pen and never wrote another line.
Mountbatten had been looking for a clear channel. And I understood this was exactly the essential nature of my relationship with M. It was an inspired creative process in motion rather than a Courtney Davis creation. The result was beyond gratifying. But it took some getting used to.
Over the past 35 years my art has gone through many metamorphoses as I let go of trying to express my feelings to allow the Universe play through me without the Courtney constraints. This new art began to attract favourable comment for it’s vibrancy and I was becoming aware that I was tapping into an inspirational force that was very powerful. It was not unusual for me to work non-stop for twelve to fourteen hours, seven days a week when the flow was intense. It’s been 30 years of constant transformation I learnt to free my ideas from the art and let the painting expand and grow as it needed to. Often I would have no idea of it’s direction or what the picture had to
say until the end. I am often asked what it was like to work in this space. People assume that it must be blissful and calming as I work with the energy. To be honest it’s often quite opposite. Starting some of the more significant paintings bringswith it a period of energetic chaos. Things disappear, falloff walls, leap off shelves and sometimes bring disastrous mayhem to electrical gadgets.
This intense focus often brings up deep feelings within me as the painting unfolds and addresses inner work that I need to be dealing with. It also brings up difficult outside worldly situations that need my attention. It can reach a point where the drama unfolding becomes so extreme that I shake my fist to the Heavens, releasing my frustration and fury. When this energetic flow slowly balances out, the creative process can fully begin. At this point I often lay down and close my eyes for 15 minutes. In that time there is an inspirational download as the shape for the painting develops and becomes clear. The art might start from the centre or grow outward from a corner developing as it needs to. I am often very surprised how quickly the draft process evolves, the next piece of the jigsaw often forming in my mind before the present segment is completed. This early draft is often only a very simple guideline. When I embark on the finished work it may change completely. I am conscious that it is important just to get the pencil or brush moving for I that movement the control can be taken from me and the guidance can begin. The years working with M taught me that it was always essential to work with no boundaries. Intricate borders were often broken or overlaid by the interior detail as the painting progressed. There have been times when I have been guided to overlay a finished piece with further work so that the viewer might sense rather than see what lays beneath – as if looking through a veil to another world barely visible.