A Pulsing Imagination - Ray Clews' Paintings

A video of some of my late brother Ray's paintings and poems I wrote for them.


On the Unity of Assemblage and Poem

In Split Mask and UnfurlFlowerring, the mask came first. A weltanschauung grew around it, accoutrements, fabrics, a ‘look’ enmeshed with the theme, and I felt a nascent poem emerging. When I write an afterpoem to perform in an assemblage, mask, persona, it is always about the topic that the ensemble is presenting, and there is also reference to my being inside the guise, what it’s like to be the hidden self inside the poem being performed. This double subjectivity, then. The doppelgänger being the everyday self, and the masked poet performing the spirit, the message.



Halloween Assemblage -Getting there

What I started with. Where I got to was like painting with photo programs. Two lights set up, one to the right and one on the table. Look forward to clearing the chaos of my living room and putting all this stuff away. But I still want to try long black boots and a leather corset I bought at maybe 63, my first one! Those shiny catches on the cheap Amazon one need black nail polish or something.

Actually, both paintings might work as backdrop in a performance videopoem. I'd tape black fabric to the wall behind them. Something to think about.


Between 3 photo programs, approaching what I sought

From yesterday's shoot. The lighting was all wrong, but, with time and patience and a willingness to use different photo programs, I was able to get the darkness I wanted.

Basically, I am trying to get some images of this assemblage so I can see what I've composed and write of the 'being' who's emerging, if that's possible. Also, it is helping to see how to tweak things - like, I'll wear black boots, the sneakers didn't work with my body type. I have to get floral tape to do the flowers that I stick into the (cheap Amazon) corset (only solution I could think of to hold the flowers) and figure out how to attach the trailing leaves on my arm, perhaps hot-glued to elastic (if I have any wide black elastic), who knows. It should be an assemblage that doesn't slide off over an evening's movements. Also, I'll likely be moving in a videopoem, and then certainly could have leaves falling, trailing, whenever I get around to that.


Oh, my Halloween Assemblage!

I've had what seems negative reactions to the assemblage I am creating for my Halloween poetry and music event. It's been a huge amount of work, attempting to video (tons of problems spread over days) and finally I got some clips in focus - though the light wasn't right - and one person who looked at these images seemed very ticked off when she saw them, saying only, We're supposed to wear costumes? and another person who is also coming that I shared the images with in a message had no reaction, said nothing. What's wrong with what I'm creating? I think it's quite striking, even lovely.

Because there was no sun, once again, which would give me the contrast I'd like, I set up two lights. Man, it was a lot of work. The camera app took forever to connect and then kept cutting out so it was pretty much useless. On the computer after, I was so happy to see the image in focus, however, the lighting isn't right. So I did quick colour replacement in PSE, turning the background blue. I wanted a dark background, but wasn't able to do it. I think the blue is interesting, and makes for unique, rather theatrical photos.






Unwindings & The Unanswering

This is a video of a reading at Minstrels & Bards* Spring 2022 for an upcoming show.

For Calling In The Muse, May 1 - July 13, 2022, an on-line show by Erica Ross curated from her Open Studio sessions, I share two poems written in 2022, Unwindings and The Unanswering. These poems share my inner perceptions in, hopefully, a language that is honed, polished, yet which flows, that has an aesthetic beauty of its own.
In Unwindings, Virginia Woolf is a muse. Re-reading her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, I came across a sentence that reverberated. Each day, another image arose in response. The final poem is about the unwinding in her novel, and the unwinding in us when we undergo inner revolution. My second poem has five potential titles, Woman Walking In-Verse, Hanged Woman of the Tarot, Pittura Infamante, and Soul Question. As of writing this, I think it's last line works best: The Unanswering. I took a Movement & Memoir course with Sara Porter in January 2022. We moved between dance and writing. In the session out of which this poem arose, she asked us to dance our deepest question. I was working with a concept of a personal ‘life review’ at that time, and danced my question from angstful depths. Then we drew our dance on paper, and that drawing is now a choreography of the piece. We got up and danced again, this time guided by our drawing. After that, we sat and wrote about our question in the dance that transpired. Again we rose, danced, and after, noted shifts that occurred in the writing and the dance through the successive iterations. From this whole process, I later composed my poem and, because it has a choreography, can dance it anytime I read or recite it.

If I dance The Unanswering at an event again, the poem needs to be memorized! I put this video together quickly so that what I submitted to the show would have a visual component. It's kind of a fun reading, though, especially as good friends were in the audience.

The drawing of the original dance and that has become a choreography for dancing the poem:

Woman Walking In-Verse, 2022, 17" x 10", deAtramantis inks on Strathmore drawing paper.

*Minstrels & Bards is a quarterly writing & music series I run at the Tranzac Club in Tkaronto/Toronto. Go the the Facebook group or scroll down on my website Homepage to see more info: https://brendaclews.com
Music from Audiio.com: Arms and Sleepers - Cinemas For Marseille (Instrumental) Primo Levi - Violin Piano Floating II (Instrumental) Center Of The Sea - Bending Gravity (Instrumental)


Alchemical Wheels: A Portrait of a Painting & a Near Death Experience (a silent video)

Alchemical Wheels: Portrait of a Painting & a Near Death Experience (a silent video)

Alchemical texts are riddles. Writing about visionary experience is impossible. Here goes…

the circle dips


& two become one

opalescence of the self,

golden pearl rising

A psychic and artistic journey encircling a dream of alchemical wheels emerging on each side of the face. Wetting charcoal dust, dragging charred willow, self-portrait surreality. The spinning wheels become Catherine Wheel fireworks, then a spiral goddess path. Maria Prophetissa,1 mother of alchemy and chemistry, beckons, one arm about me, the other pointing.. How to do the work of turning lead into gold — her formula:

“If the two do not become one, nothing will take place. If one does not lighten, and the two become three, nothing will take place. But when one yellows, three becomes four, for one yellows with yellow sulphur. At the end, when one tints into violet, all things become violet.”2

Carl Jung, in Alchemy and Psychology, writes:

…the ultimate aim of alchemy…was trying to produce a corpus subtile, a transfigured and resurrected body, i.e., a body that was at the same time spirit.”3 

Scraping, chiselling the carapace, breaking the shell, sloughing the cocoon, a serpent’s, an oroboros’ discarded skin. Hardships, pain, complexes, defense mechanisms, PTSDs. Grit of peeling. An emergent self — trust, openness, sensitivity, generosity, loving. Untarnished, wondrous child. The transfigured self, glittering healing radiance of what calls, powerful love pulling us to live in intimate near-death-experience, profound, inclusive. Fully who we are and fully in the panorama.

Impossible vibrating luminance of the self beyond the self in the self.

The video follows a journey beginning with, ‘Self-portrait after an Alchemical Dream,’ 2021, 20x26", charcoal on Yupo paper, then focusing on ‘Alchemical Wheels,' 2021, acrylic on canvas, 30x40”.

My Near Death Experience at the age of 28: 

‘Radiant energy appeared. A startling and powerful love had come for me. How powerful this love was is indescribable — the greatest love I have ever felt, complete and full. I drew upwards, rising from my body, leaving it on the bed below. I felt only ecstasy, the wave of my form nearing the radiant healing energy like entering the Great Union or heaven or Nirvana. As I rose, I thought, ‘but my father’s grief, the life I’m to live…’ and, immediately, fell back gently into my body and the radiance vanished.’

For many decades, I’ve regretted my egoic attachment to my little life, to not embracing that powerful love, to what I might have learned and brought back. Working through this grief in painting has brought me to a realization that something was, indeed, imparted. If it was a type of ‘das-log’, a shamanic Near Death Experience of Tibetan religion, then I may have given from it.


1 Maria Prophetissa was a 1-3rd century Jewish woman who invented the bain Marie, the double boiler, still used in cooking and chemistry today, and who is credited with being the mother of chemistry and the first recorded practitioner of alchemy.

2 Quote from Jame Hillman’s audiobook, The Alchemy of Psychology, BetterListen! LLC., 2015.

3 Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, trans. Gerhard Adler and  R. F.C. Hull, Princeton University Press; 2nd ed. edition (Oct. 21 1980), p. 514.

With gratitude and thanks to the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies' Art of Individuation 2021 course. https://brendaclews.com
Music, a edited mix I did of Kepler, BytheWay May, a paid-for license from musicbed.com


Self-Portrait After an Alchemical Dream

Self-Portrait After an Alcemical Dream, 20”x26”,charcoal on Yupo paper. ©Brenda Clews 2021

Self-portrait after an Alchemical dream. ©Brenda Clews 2021. 20"x26", charcoal on Yupo paper.

[Adding the original dream & something on the process of what's appeared in this preparatory sketch for a possible painting, if you'd like to know what it's about.]

Original dream
…red spots develop under my cheeks, and as I powder them, they become raised wheels, one on each side, which the thick powder whitens, six spokes, a central hub and an outer wheel, a relief sculpture perhaps, like something from myth, an archetypal symbol, which the attempt to hide with powder only accentuates. I feel no horror, or pain, but awe as I brush the powder on skin become wheels and spokes. Sculpted like Medieval cosmological wheels, alchemical wheels of transmutation, the configurations are mysterious, almost reverential, an embodied reference the Wheels of Ezekiel, but also to the powdered faces of highly-stylized Oriental performance, and somehow the magnificent coiled antlers of Bighorn sheep… (2008)

Process of charcoal sketch:

Friday, I decided to try a charcoal drawing to see how my dream of the alchemical wheels appearing in my face, rising in my cheeks, might appear. In the dream, I powdered them as they rose sculpturally. But here I hoped to let my 'unconscious' take over and I did go into a light trance and even worked with my eyes shut at times. At the beginning, I used a sponge and charcoal powder that I then sprayed with a fixative, and kept working. There are distinct shadow and light sides. The wheels are dark - to me, the one in shadow looks floral; the one in light, ocular. The hair fed snake-like into the wheels, which seem almost to be whirring and that is unlike the dream. And I see four eyes!

I find the drawing a bit scary, actually. There's psychic progress for sure. Self-portrait after an alchemical dream. 20"x26", charcoal on Yupo paper.


Fruiting Bodies

Fruiting Bodies
is writing begun during lockdown and stay-at-home orders. When you are alone, you don't have a sense of yourself-in-context of the society in which you are a viable subject. You move through your rooms invisible to yourself, you don't think about how you look, and aren't dealing, one hopes, with your otherness among people. Race, colour, creed, size, age, these aren't at the forefront when you are home, in your own space where you are safe to be yourself. The images, in this section, are from my abode, and, when I read them, I find the familiarity of what I dwell among. I wanted this writing to have a spiritual dimension since I believe we all speak in our privacies to something ineffable, to what guides us through our lives.
Recording a reading was entering the world in some way. It was hard to look at a non-existing women, myself, in the clip, to see her, the gesture of my physical body, the contours of age. I hung a William Morris Tree of Life weaving as a backdrop, and shot in a room of sunlight. Editing the video, I began layering in poppies I've photographed on my walks through my neighbourhood, perhaps seeking to add some beauty in what is essentially a 'talking head' video. I live over a subway, which I rarely hear, but, oh, could you hear them on the sound track! I removed the sound of 8 trains! Lastly, I added chimes, which I had ordered for this video, some larger ones, and played, standing, moving the clapper. I hope I've produced a watchable reading. 

A reading for a feature at the Art Bar Poetry Series in Toronto - one in a series of many Canadian poets who have videoed themselves reading their poetry during lockdown over the last year and a half. Many thanks to Margaret Code and Rosa Arlotto for their hard work and dedication to providing one of the best spaces for poets to read, share, blossom. 

A special shout out to Lizzie Violet, whose beautiful hand-crafted flower I wore in my hair.

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