The story behind this painting really is a series of synchronicities. The synchronicities have conjured up fond memories from my childhood and dreams I have. Through this painting I have learned more about people and their affections for this hopping animal.
My heritage is Maltese. Both of my parents grew up on the Island of Gozo; the second largest island of three making up the Maltese Archipeligo in the Mediterranean Sea.
A dish you can expect to be served as a delicacy and gesture of love in any Maltese home is Rabbit Stew (Fenech). So, as a child, rabbits were always breeding in our backyard. I spent hours and hours of my childhood watching them, holding them and undeniably loving them. As pets. If ever there was any doubt as to what I was putting in my mouth, the answer was always ‘chicken’.
Last year, my father passed away. His way of making things easier for my mother was to, over time, slowly take things out of his amazingly productive garden. The fig tree went. The loquat tree went. The prickly pear went and so did the rabbits. Frangipani’s were planted and a rail along a set of stairs was put up to help my mum climb up to the elevated garden where potatoes, snow peas, grapes, tomatoes, artichokes and broad beans all had their season; and rabbits frolicked. Yes, they were partly free range!
The day I painted this was a beautiful day. Still summer. I was feeling free. The painting was quite automatic and I was focussing on colour and the addition of pumice into paint as a medium I wanted to work with. When I decided I had finished, which was after a short while, definitely not a painting I agonised over; I leaned it up against the wall and a lady remarked ‘Looks like a dolphin jumping out of the water, look there’. It was then I saw the beautiful rabbit and acknowledged my father’s silent presence.
A few years ago, I was gifted a book titled ‘My Heart Wanders’ by Pia Jane Bijkerk. The person who gifted it knew something I didn’t allow myself to feel at the time. Knowing the power of this book I put it on my bookshelf, having not even turned open the cover. It sat there for 3 years. The Christmas week of 2014 was when I took it off the shelf. A chapter which resonated with me was time when Pia and her partner lived on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Free to express. Both thrived. I decided I would do that. Live on a houseboat.
A few weeks later, a drive into the hills took me to a special place. I found the little rabbit that will live with me on my houseboat. Made of cast iron, a tea light holder. I light a tea light daily for my father.
A few months passed, working at my studio one beautiful afternoon, a dear friend came up to see me and said ‘Look. Look outside!’ There she was. A beautiful bunny. Two have since made their home directly underneath my studio. Rabbits are my heritage, my childhood, my father.
I will end this little blog with these words. A little rabbit lives with me on a houseboat in Amsterdam, Watching me write. In candle light. Enduring me play the violin. Chicken is the rabbits’ name.
The painting is still available, and was a successful entry into The Ellenbrook Art Award 2015. It is the Art of life and storytelling, of memories and laughter.