Published on 25/01/2017
SWANS IN WINTER have a unique appeal. Claire Harkess seems effortlessly to capture the beauty of her subjects, whether they be individual birds or animals or flocks of birds, groups of animals. She uses watercolour, which is one of the most difficult mediums to master, despite its simplicity. Brush, pigment, water, paper…that’s all it takes. But the simplicity of the medium is deceptive. Claire’s paintings may appear to be achieved with ease, through natural ability, but they are the result of years of practice and many discarded studies.
Winter Swan ii exquisitely expresses the power and grace of a pair of swans and the relationship between them. It is subtle, elegant and perfect.
It brings to mind a beautiful poem by Owen Sheers.
The clouds had given their all -
two days of rain and then a break
in which we walked,
the waterlogged earth
gulping for breath at our feet
as we skirted the lake, silent and apart,
until the swans came and stopped us
with a show of tipping in unison.
As if rolling weights down their bodies to their heads
they halved themselves in the dark water,
icebergs of white feather, paused before returning again
like boats righting in rough weather.
'They mate for life' you said as they left,
porcelain over the stilling water. I didn't reply
but as we moved on through the afternoon light,
slow-stepping in the lake's shingle and sand,
I noticed our hands, that had, somehow,
swum the distance between us
and folded, one over the other,
like a pair of wings settling after flight.
Winter Swans by Owen Sheers, reprinted by permission of Owen Sheers.