When the colour orange draws us home, by Doris and Rebecca
In a place far from home, an atmosphere, the way light falls, or the smell of cooking can bring us back to ourselves and feelings associated with home.
A sense of home can be found in the memory of our younger self meeting our older self as if time hadn’t existed. Sometimes seeing time as a spiral or as patterns rather than a line can be another way to affirm our belonging and our orientation within life. This could be the case whatever age we are:
Painting by Doris, at MMA, 2014
Doris and I are chatting around a table in the Deptford Albany cafe at Meet Me at the Albany (MMA) – a cultural day centre for housebound elders, based in the Deptford Albany cafe and run by volunteers and artists. Doris is adamant she must go out shopping. I am sitting with her so she doesn’t escape the building. She paints the colour orange over and over again on lots of pieces of paper. Doris was a talented ceramicist. At MMA orange becomes her colour in all her paintings as her memory increasingly gives way.
Whilst painting orange she tells me about two apple trees in her garden: “one’s an eater, the other’s a Bramley.” She ‘superimposes’ on the present fact of the two trees in her garden today, the first time her husband set eyes on her 65 years ago in Rotherhithe and how later they married and had twins. She tells her story in slightly different shifts of emphasis over and over again, whilst the colour orange is painted onto paper on which she lets me draw the two trees and write her story; then she folds them into small squares with the ‘art’ on the inside – a new development. She closes the lid of the paintbox with a final emphasis as if to convey the end of the story.
It was a gift to receive her sharing of a ‘story poem’ told in one colour. The symbolism of two trees structured the story in a beautiful way by uniting two moments, two qualities of two separated by time: two trees and twins. I doubt I will forget this moment. It is interesting how these creative conversations stay with us and inspire us long after, like a dance or artwork we have seen. A few weeks after we had sat together, I learnt that Doris had passed away.
From field notes by Rebecca Swift, 2014