- Raymond Moore, Allonby, Cumbria, 1985
- photographed by Jonathan Williams
- RAY'S GRAYS
- The poet is the guy who puts things together.
-- R. Buckminster Fuller
Foak up here in the Yorkshire Dales expect value for money. So, you will be relieved to hear, courtesy of the most over-educated man in the State of Kentucky, Professor Guy Davenport, that my method is always doggedly cathectic, peripatetic, and paratactic. And, besides, you get chips and quips with everything!
so what did the
zen monk say to
the hotdog vendor make
me one with everything
Ask yourself not what you saw printed on a grey page, but what you see pictured in the glowing gallery of your imagination.
-- John Stuart Blackie, On Self-Culture
Every land you walked was you, and you were never alone.
You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.
-- Shunryu Suzuki
Follow your nature and accord with the Tao:
Saunter along and stop worrying.
If your thoughts are tied you spoil what is genuine.
Dont be antagonistic to the world of the senses.
-- Seng Tsan
Moon & Sun are passing figures of countless generations, and years coming or going wanderers too. Drifting life away on a boat or meeting age leading a horse by the mouth, each day is a journey and the journey itself home. Amongst those of old were many that perished upon the journey. So-- when was it-- I, drawn like blown cloud, couldnt stop dreaming of roaming, roving the coast up and down, back at the hut last fall by the river side, sweeping cobwebs off, a year gone and misty skies of spring returning, yearning to go over the Shirakawa, possessed by the wanderlust, at wits end, beckoned by Dosojin, hardly able to keep my hand to any thing, mending a rip in my momohiki, replacing the cords in my kasa, shins no sooner burnt with moxa than the moon at Matsushima rose to mind...
-- Matsuo Basho, from The Narrow Road to the Far North
To look is to forget the name of the things you are seeing.
-- Paul Valéry
Everything is water-- if you look long enough.
I have done places and been things.
-- The Dowager Empress Mae West
A man should write for all he is worth, about whatever state he is in at the time, however little he knows it. You stumble on poetic truth in the dark, in the light it is too easy to step around it.
-- P.J. Kavanaugh
Do you know any jolly tunes? I dont.
-- Franz Schubert (Ray Moores closest mate)
Im a loner, a reflective pessimist, and I look for signs of finality and the end of time, impending departure and desperation.
-- Raymond Moore
I once asked Ian Hamilton Finlay what he most liked about living in the Pentland Hills of Lanarkshire, Scotland. He answered: The quality of the despair.
Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
-- Philip Larkin
I wandered lonely as a cow.
-- Daffodil Bill Wordsworth
(few people make note of the fact that Sister Dorothy, who had much of the imagination in the family, changed the famous line from cow to cloud)
Those northern clouds... E.J. Moeran, whose Symphony in G Minor was a favourite of Ray Moores, spoke of this cloud-hung and windswept work, in atmospheric terms. In the third movement, Vivace, the sunlight is let in...Eventually, a burst of sharp crescendo chords on the brass leads to a sudden brief climax, after which the first oboe is left over and hangs on to recall a fragment of his original subject over mysterious murmurings on muted violas and cellos, and the movement comes to an end, snuffed out, as it were, by a passing cloud.
My wisdom became pregnant on lonely mountains;
upon barren stones she brought forth her young.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
The wind is howling in the glen tonight. At sunset the sea looked like boiling metal heaving in a vast cauldron... I have sat in the window watching the storm, in a sort of enchantment... yet there is always a heart of peace between a world we all know and another existence and the veil between is so flimsy that it might be blown away at any moment.
I suddenly became aware that I was listening to strange sounds, the like of which I had never heard before. They can only be described as a kind of mingling of rippling water and tiny bells tinkled.
-- Arnold Bax, Glencolumcille, County Donegal, Eire
The single perceptive photograph can suggest the presence of a world that remains almost invisible because of our human limitations defined by time and space. Human fragility and the practical demands of life seldom render us capable of reacting with sufficient awareness to record the image of a happening at maximum intensity. In fact, we spend most of our lives in blinkers, insensitive to the import of what is around us. If we were only capable of transcending our space-time limits to some extent, we could witness happenings undreamt of. At this moment there must be fanstastic relationships between the things we call objects, but no-one there to record them. Natural happenings eclipsed and lost in time. All we can do is to cultivate a state of awareness within ourselves, and allow the images to come through unfettered...
-- Raymond Moore
Who will say that the inch of grass in his heart
is gratitude enough for all the sunshine of spring.?
-- Meng Chiao
ONE LOVES ONLY FORM! Charles Olson boldly declares that early in The Maximus Poems. It smacks of Herakleitos, and I wish I knew who said it first. I wish Herakleitos could ramble with us on the Howgill Fells above Sedbergh in Cumbria-- on the flank of Arant Haw, looking to Calders, to Rigg and Bram Rigg, and White Fell, the shapliest hills in England. Would he have said Eyes and Ears are poor informers to the barbarian mind; or, There are gods here, too?
To see it takes LIGHT. The Aryan root is leuk-, to shine, to be white. Cloud and dark over Britain have put sail to that-- some Northerners simply fled. Oldham, Lancashires Willie Walton to Capri. Bowdon, Cheshires John Ireland to London and the South Downs of East Sussex. Bradford, the West Ridings David Hockney to technicolour Hollywood. It is one of the major achievements of the best artists on these islands that they have done so much, sat at home, with an infinite range of greys. I now, in fact, will proclaim Raymond Moore as the Honourary President of the Grey Liberation Society!
I am recasting all my thoughts about Ray Moore, quoting others, amplifying my dumbness in the face of his unique vision, leaping before I look, simply because he was once kind enough to write me: The thing I like about what youre writing is that its lively, something Ill want to read a few times. Its not like a letter from the bank manager; a critic whos certain he knows more than you; or the Inland Revenue about whats wrong with ones financial balance and way of life in general.
Just a few of the adjectives in Joseph Wrights extraordinary English Dialect Dictonary (Oxford, 1898), used by prophetic, rheumatic country foak in the Uplands of Britain, scanning the heavens to describe different kinds of rain. Nowadays, as they get out in the carpark at Sainsburys or Asda, they merely say, Isnt it dreadful. Raymond Moore, the recent authority on the infinitudes of bleakness, was rather like Henry Ford, except he would always say: You can have any colour you like, as long as its grey. He was not the very first major artist to see this substance so precisely. There was the incomparable watercolourist, John Sell Cotman, who worked often in North Yorkshire:
Karst Country Limerick
Assessing the angle of Ingleborough
caused Cotman to dangle his single bore
in a glish bit of clay,
mixed with Paynes grey,
he kept in an underground shingle burrow.
Homage to Basil Bunting
three miles of glishy slutch on Great Shunner Fell!
Allow me to keep working a poetic vein a little longer. I am setting a tone.
Three Shades of Grey, a memorial poem I wrote for Ray in the autumn of 1987 just after his death:
Wie deutlich des Mondes Licht
zur mir spricht
moonlight speaks to me
wore a light-grey suit
Black & White
were having a cup of
sour pondwater and a
with their gross and voluminous friend, Grey,
at the tarn
atop Haggy Hill,
Wheres that daft old booger,
He hasnt seen us
you havent been bloody seen
till Ray sees you!
Where do people go
when they go?
straight to the hearts of those
who pay such attention to
the corruscating instances of Black, White, and,
they require no cerulean or scarlet
in their puddles
a good grey puddle!
You know where you stand
in a good grey puddle!
when all candles be out
all cats be grey
grey, of course they were grey...
I talked to Ray Moore a lot about music, because he said: I discover other peoples work through my own, and generally find more to dwell on and hold onto within music and poetry than photography. The people I like best, whether they build dry-stone walls or build poems, seldom like to talk about what they do every day of their lives. Harry Callahan, 80, said recently: It took me a few months to get a good picture. Thats when I said to myself: Youre as good as youre going to get. He was quoting himself in 1941. So I talk to Harry in Atlanta, Georgia these days about music, baseball, drinking-- the real stuff. With Ray, it was Schubert, Liszt, Frank Martin, Bax, Jack Moeran, Frank Bridge, John Ireland, Gerald Finzi, Peter Warlock, Robert Simpson, Patrick Hadley, William Matthias, Colin Matthews, and, now and then, the coloristic Cyril Scott, born, like Ray, on the Wirral. Scott lived a long time in the gloom, and ended up writing pamphlets about Cider Vinegar, Colonic Irrigation, and Constipation and Common Sense.
We would often meet Ray, and Mary Cooper, and their young son, David, here at Corn Close, or at The Shepherds Inn in Melmerby, a village on the Penrith/Alston Road, at the bottom of Cross Fell. Sometimes at The Riverside, in Canonbie, Dumfriesshire. Good ale and better pub food than most. Ray had his favourite pianists and I had mine. He admired Alfred Brendel in Schubert and, particularly, Liszt. I would grant that he was incisive and intent, but thought he was dry and lacking in romantic sonority. I would insist you needed a loony for Liszt, both a demon and an angel, and the man for the job was Mad Vlad Horowitz. Only two days before Ray died I made him stomach the great one roaring through the Mephisto Waltz in a way to make the hair stand on end. Only Horowitz could have said: There are three kinds of pianists. Jewish pianists. Homosexual pianists. And Bad pianists! Horowitz the Prestidigitator could work magic even with Schubert, as he did in that Lisztian pastiche, Soirées en Vienne, included in his late recital in Moscow. But, if not Horowitz, then, surely, the rock-solid, brilliant Jorge Bolet, or the scintillating Martha Argerich. Ray wasnt buying. I was forgetting the Kingdom of Grey. I was born under Carolina Blue, nothing but blue skies, etc. Anyway, this was a wonderful time we all spent together under the Cumbrian murk.
There is a photograph by Roger Fenton taken in 1860 titled The Long Walk, Windsor. It is pure Ray Moore. How he managed to make that exposure 60 years before he was born is one of those aesthetic mysteries. But look at it. Talk about the coherence of forms! A white rectangle on a post-- a sign, one supposes, but not there to tell the Queens grockles to keep off the grass. All those odd bits and pieces off the edges of the walk-- candles in bags? And whats that at the right margin? More black and white rectangles! A stand to buy ice cream? A vehicle to get you back to Chelsea? The two little figures appear dismayed by the endless prospect before them. You cant blame them-- this is modern art, boys and girls. Its time for some scholiast to write Fenton at Balaklava; Moore at Silloth: Shadows of Death.
It is doubtful that Ray Moore and Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941), who photographed so brilliantly around Whitby in the late 19th century, would ever point their cameras at the same subject. Anything pictorial or photogenic put Ray off his food. Still, the old Yorkshireman had a very modern feeling about weather.
If we did but know it, the weather we so revile in these islands is about as perfect for photographic purposes as it could be made... To this vile weather we owe our most charming effects. If there was no bad weather, there would be no clouds and no gales, no rain and no snow. If there is one time more than another when the country smiles the most, it is during rain.
At times our cameras make what we think must be music, which any one would gladly pay for, but it is only when we become case-hardened with repeated disappointments that we get accustomed to having our best work thrown back to us. For instance one bright July day, when the sun had been shining since four oclock in the morning, it became suddenly dark at mid-day. The birds of the air and beasts of the field became very uneasy, and all the faces of the people in the village became white or grey, for every one thought the last day had come. There was not a sound to be heard, and it got darker and darker. Then an age seemed to pass, and the people simply sat and waited and waited for the sound of the trumpet. Then all at once, instead of fire and brimstone out of the black inky night above came rain. Such a rain. Then, after a time, away in the west, the dawn began to show, but still the rain came down. Seen against the brighter sky in the west, the rain, as it fell, looked like the long black hair falling from some invisible beast in the sky. One would have thought that a photograph of such a weird scene would have found a buyer, or have been thought worth a place on the walls of an exhibition, but the plate which saw that dark, mysterious heaven, and blacker invisible earth, might as well have never seen the light at all, for any use it has been.
We try all things, we achieve what we can.
-- Herman Melville
A century after Sutcliffe most Britons would no more think of hanging a photograph on their walls than a gentleman from Virginia Water would think of taking his holidays in Wigan during the monsoon season. Some years back I listened to reactions from the good burghers of Carlisle, Cumbria, when Ray Moores Arts Council retrospective exhibition was at the local art gallery. Ladies and gentlemen (masquerading as Dan & Doris Archer, Jack & Vera Duckworth) would look at absolutely astonishing and telling images of the county in which they lived and ask each other the ultimately awful, class-constricted question: Now why on earth would anybody bother to take a picture of that? That, in this particular instance, was of two dogs wandering loose and nosing about the foreshore at Harrington.
Since the barbarians are long since past the gates and have nearly broken down the door to the attic, a wee digression in which to open a can of aesthetic worms. If the snobs and the yobs and the bores dont like to look at Ray Moore prints, what do they want to look at? Natives in third-world countries often say they like television in order to see the war. Advanced nations are more circumspect. Doris Archer would rather look at the outside of a Gideon bible, world without end, than anything as dismaying as a new kind of image. Not Vera Duckworth. One imagines she might just like a peek at a bit of (blimey!), whisper it, black dick. You would too if youd had Jack lying around the house for 33 years. She wouldnt even insist on an archival, platinum print by Robert Mapplethorpe, almost anything would do. Jack, a serious reader of page-three spreads in the Sun, is a tits-and-ass man, but a nice bit o minge wouldnt come amiss, just this once. Jacks just a regular guy, the ur-White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant he-man with a terminal case of testosterone poisoning. When it comes to art he is more lethal than acid rain or holes in the ozone. Photographic images are not Dan Archers problem. Stick a pint of Shires in front of him, or the front end or back end of a Horned Dorset or Clun Forest sheep, and bobs your uncle.
Shropshire Union Canal Limerick
There was a young stripper from Brewood
whose grindings verged on the nude.
Cried a voice at the front,
Show us your !
Just like that. Right out loud, Really rude.
Curious, even serious, matters. Signor Michelangelo once told the world that an adolescent erection was the most beautiful thing in the world, which I hope does not cause offense to the gerontophiles present who prefer Willie Whitelaws willie. Senator Jesse Helms, of the Great State of North Carolina, the Lord Clark de nos jours, has declared boldly that male genitals arranged on a table aint art. This, presumably, is why a painting in Lucien Freuds current exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery of the corpulent crotch of Leigh Bowery is not travelling to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to cause offense to our sensitive republic. Ray Moore would pour a glass of wine, chuckle, and quote Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Yes, Mrs. Lovett, the times are desperate! And they call for desperate measures!
Virginia Khuri blames the lack of photographs in household interiors in Britain on all that lovely wallpaper by William Morris and C.F.A. Voysey, available from Arthur Sanderson & Sons Ltd, 53 Berners Street, London W1P 4AQ. She has a point.
Raymond Moore, for one, was a religious man in the manner of Wordsworth. He thought himself no better than the louse on his shirt or the stone under his feet. Its all about bringing the commonplace into a state of grace: at-one-ment, atonement is a sacred name for it. Nothing is ugly, anymore than anything is pretty. Take photographs of what you come across, when the light declares a unique moment. Be democratic before the world of things. The folks are as good as the people (something nobody really believes). A dreary warehouse in Allonby is as good as Great Gable is a good hill-- if you see all that is there; i.e., all that one pair of eyes and a camera lens can see at a instance in time.
A fine guide to such matters is that most genial and illuminating of phenomenologists, Gaston Bachelard. I love dipping into The Poetics of Space for his reveries on the world and what is beyond the world. He remarks on a sentence in a novel by Jens Peter Jacobsen, Niels Lyne. (Jacobsen is nearly lost to us now. Rilke and James Joyce thought this Danish botanist and literary man the most interesting writer in Europe. Arnold Schoenberg wrote Gurrelieder from his poems. Delius wrote An Arabesque, his greatest work, from another.) The sentence is: ... there was, in addition, a thin moss that covered the tree-trunks and reminded one of the wheat-fields of elves. Bachelard comments: This is one of the many daydreams that takes us out of this world into another, and the novelist needed it to transport us into the region beyond the world that is the world of new love. People who are hurried by the affairs of men will not enter here.
So, we have to pry our eyes open and be prepared to spend time (very quiet long time) in front of Raymond Moores images. The one I come back to more than any other here at Corn Close cottage is Allonby 1982, which, I confess, hangs against Mr. Morris s Chrysanthemum pattern wallpaper but manages to hold its own in a wide mount.. The local police sergeant was up recently to check on our security arrangements here in the Cumbrian Wild West. He looked at the photograph and volunteered, Thats the ugliest house Ive ever seen. I said, Youre right, that house looks worse than Darth Vader with all his lights on. But what about all this other stuff? Those shadows are unreal. The telephone pole has no business being where it is. The gate is bizarre, after the absurdity of the front wall. Look at the wires-- theyre high on the right side of the house and low on the left-- thats weird. The pebble-dash is like a scabrous dream. Therell be a murder in that house in time, Id be willing to bet you. The sergeant departed, and gave me an odd look.
Lets keep on looking hard. I once got Ray Moore to express himself on a group of six prints included in the exhibition, The Unpainted Landscape, organized by Coracle Press and the Graeme Murray Gallery for the Scottish Arts Council. Heres what he said:
(1) Ecclefechan, 1986: I get a lot of excitement out of the play of the light: the little group of flowers at the base of the wall, the menacing, cropped yew tree... the way the hill is divided by the tree, the wires making a kind of calligraphy, the bare trees over the wall, the flat areas, the broken hedge at the front-- all conspiring to make an ambient magic, to go a bit portentous... Paul Nash was an early love. And much contemporary sculpture.
(2) Mallaig, 1985: Why shouldnt we be as interested in the little pile of wood, the old bath, the mystery of whats behind the back door, the odd light in the sky, the decorative fence as in gawking at the statue of some bloody cabinet minster on a bloody pedestal? (A lot of people think Im a raving loony who ought to be locked up in a bothy in the Lake District and made to photograph Great Gable and Scafell twice a day until I got it right.)
(3) Campbeltown, 1985: Ordinary rotary clothes-line in the backs of some two-storey flats. At the particular moment they seemed like giant spider webs that had landed from Mars during the night. I like things taken out of the mundane and everyday. The man-made and the natural way thus take on a curious at-one-ment, an affinity to do with magic and a transformation. The light-- just at the moment-- reveals a structural map of forms, of strange microcosmic architecture. People are often disappointed by such pictures, because they offer no visual pre-conceptions. They ride in on their isolation and ask: Why take a picture of that? Yep. Lock him up!
(4) Dumfriesshire, 1985: Your quotation (one loves only form) from Charles Olson seems very apt. The excitement-- dare I say beauty? (I hate the bloody word!)-- is in the coherence of forms. I nearly froze waiting for that bus to loom out of the mist and work against the sign.
(5) Gigha, 1985: Here, again, the concrete structure with the iron grill, and the house appearing through the shed, as though there were a mirror there. The contrast with the grasses, and a house vaguely emerging in the foliage, and the fence line and the line of the wall crossing the field-- areas of visual significance for a single instant. What odd luminosities are concentrated in the two buildings.
(6) Kintyre, 1985: A place for breeding fish. Yet, a world with which you feel a moment of affinity. The light, just then, creates an atmosphere in which the forms are inviting. The reason for taking pictures is for the excitement. Painters know this. Photographers seldom do.
Let my condensed poets eye look at six more images:
of something that happened,
got very quiet...
one B&B sign
in a million!
who drew it?
the great unknown naive artist
of Aspatria, Cumbria...
with her mind
full of kippered-Hittite calligraphy,
cabochons of amber from the sea,
and a secret sensuality...
has been strung
on a wire
attached to a telephone pole
a piece of
finely cut, triangular,
worthy of Duccio di Buoninsegna
(it was Duccio,
who first said to
it dont mean
if it aint got that
god of waysides, crossroads, messages,
poetry & theft,
adding and subtracting
from Ray Moores landscapes:
openings in fence walls,
flat paper bags,
the low kerb
around a grave,
birds that make oblique angles to the left
and flatten out on
the picture plane
a little sky,
a telephone pole,
55 felt-tip pretend-sheep,
a bush, some bits of grass,
snow, a hill,
and this large bloke
with the guise
of a not-so-ancient mariner,
the eye of a gull,
and a camera
I have been reading a lot of Oscar Wilde lately and rediscover (yet again) how bracing the great man can be on almost any subject: Cows are very fond of being photographed, and, unlike architecture, dont move... If I say nothing else, let me
say that, as Oscar must have observed, in Raymond Moore YOU GET NOTHING BUT PHOTOGRAPHY. That is, images in service to Seeing. Not in service to Sociology, The Class System, An Excess of Rationality, Cosmic Adumbrations, Self-Expression, Masculinity, Document, etc., etc. One constantly hears in Britain: Art is not so important as People. Art is not so important as Life. Art is not so important as Nature. Art is Small Beer. Blimey-- Arts not even as important as itself. By Bright Apollo and by Ray Moore, let us declare that it is!
Let me leave Ray Moore in the company of a very great northern poet, Basil Bunting. It is comforting that these two dark (but throughly amiable) men got to know each other late in their lives amidst their fellow northerners, of whom maybe 50 souls knew either of them. As I have written elsewhere, there was something sidereal about Basil Bunting; something feral as well. He could be as remote as the stars he regarded over the Pennine Dales. He occasionally twinkled like them, but mostly kept silence. He was very clear: Readers are not what one writes for after ones got rid of the cruder ambitions. For his epitaph, he proposed five words: MINOR POET NOT CONSPICUOUSLY DISHONEST. Buntings severity-cum-wit; no one else seems to have it. For a Tribute to Bunting I edited for the magazine Conjunctions, Raymond Moore and Mary Cooper wrote the following, called In the Bushes:
We were driving along a trying to explain to our two-year-old , David, that his friend Basil had died and that he wouldnt see him again. He didnt believe it. He said: No, no, hes hiding in the bushes. Soon hell come out from behind the trees.
Here is Bunting at the conclusion of his Chomei at Toyama, a partial translation (from Marcello Mucciolis Italian version) of the great 11th century Japanese classic, Hojoki. (Kamo-no-Chomei, born at Kamo 1154, died at Toyama on Mount Hino, 24th June 1216): ...
I came here for a month
five years ago.
Theres moss on the roof.
And I hear Soansos dead
back in Kyoto.
I have as much room as I need.
I know myself and mankind.
I dont want to be bothered.
(You will make me editor
of the Imperial Anthology?
I dont want to be bothered.)
You build for your wife, children,
cousins and cousins cousins.
You want a house to entertain in.
A man like me can have neither servants nor friends
in the present state of society.
If I did not build for myself
for whom should I build?
Friends fancy a rich mans riches,
friends suck up to a man in high office.
If you keep straight you will have no friends
but catgut and blossom in season.
Servants weigh out their devotion
in proportion to their perquisites.
What do they care for peace and quiet?
There are more pickings in town.
I sweep my own floor
-- less fuss.
I walk; I get tired
but do not have to worry about a horse.
My hands and feet will not loiter
when I am not looking.
I will not overwork them.
Besides, its good for my health.
My jackets wistaria flax,
my blanket hemp,
berries and young greens
(Let it be quite understood,
all this is merely personal.
I am not preaching the simple life
to those who enjoy being rich.)
I am shifting rivermist, not to be trusted.
I do not ask anything extraordinary of myself.
I like a nap after dinner
and to see the seasons come round in good order.
Hankering, vexation and apathy,
thats the run of the world.
Hankering, vexation and apathy,
keeping a carriage wont cure it.
Keeping a man in livery
wont cure it. Keeping a private fortress
wont cure it. These things satisfy no craving.
Hankering, vexation and apathy...
I am out of place in the capital,
people take me for a beggar,
as you would be out of place in this sort of life,
you are so-- I regret it-- so welded to your vulgarity.
The moonshadow merges with darkness
on the cliffpath,
a tricky turn near ahead.
Oh! Theres nothing to complain about.
Buddha says: None of the world is good.
I am fond of my hut...
I have renounced the world
have a saintly
I do not enjoy being poor,
Ive a passionate nature.
clacked a few prayers.
What men these were... Sadness will endure.
The Photographers Gallery, London,
October 5, 1993...