Once in a while there is someone whose art work gets into your mind and won’t go away. This is what has happened to me with the art of Agnes Larkins, friend, student, supporter, whose death this February was a great sadness to all who knew her. A selection of her etchings forms part of the current exhibition at Dove Studios: on for only one more day…
I got to know Agnes 20 years ago when she started attending my Monday morning etching sessions. She got straight down to work and never stopped until last Autumn, when her illness finally prevented her from coming. Right from the start her work was original, inquiring and good. Like herself, it was quiet, but could flash out;
was experimental but somehow always worked,
was joyful but also dared to approach, with a characteristically light touch, the mysteries of life.
On her return back to the land of the living after one hospitalisation she created a book comprising seven dark etchings to describe her visions during that time: the introduction reads:
The Woman and the Dolphin
The woman didn’t leave her bed in daylight
Curtained off, unseen until dark.
Then a movement:
A hooded figure crept out
And paced the ward.
When she returned to safety
she lay embracing a toy dolphin
almost as large as herself
it seemed to pacify her.
Watching from a distance
Her ritual became important to me.
Echoes of stories I had read
Drifted in and comforted me.
Images of healing when I closed my eyes.
Here are two of them.
In a lighter vein, she could summon up the autumn wind with a few lines,
Imbue a drawing with great feeling with the same economy of line.
A year or so before the end of her life, the class in the studio was spoofing on the idea of doing ‘extreme’ etching, like extreme ironing while white water rafting, which had been on the tv. Agnes didn’t just join in: she was in fact the only one who actually went and did it, etching plates and tools in hand in a glider over the Pyrenees.
One of the last projects she undertook, which took her a year or more to complete with a well-paced urgency and the constant threat that it might remain unfinished because of ill-health, was a book of etchings each one a description of members of her close knit family. She called it: ‘Let’s go together and look at the sky A Celebration’. Here is her nephew John:
‘John Freedom Let’s go and discover the reason for ducks’
And here is the last print, Agnes herself:
Agnes, Gliding, Looking