The Voyage Out

The Voyage Out

 

Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Voyage Out’ has provided me with much inspiration.

Here are 10 paintings, one porthole and a map comprising 76 printed 20cm squares, based upon quotations from The Voyage Out as I have tried to capture the sea journey, the importance of music to the heroine Rachel and the character of Mrs Dalloway.

It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for

It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for

 

The Voyage Out follows Rachel Vinrace, as she leaves England on her father’s ship, The Euphrosyne. Over the course of the voyage and subsequent stay amongst ex-pats in South America, Rachel’s views on life develop and she finds her own voice. Rachel’s lifelong love is music, and a recurring theme is that it “says everything”.

Alone in her cabin, Rachel ponders her thoughts and the impossibility of connecting with others except through music. “It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for.”

It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for, 65cm diameter, Porthole and oil.

 

The River

The River

 

“Sometimes the flats and churches and hotels of Westminster are like the outlines of Constantinople in a mist; sometimes the river is an opulent purple, sometimes mud-coloured, sometimes sparkling blue like the sea.” [1992:4]

The River, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm.

 

A slight but perceptible wave

A slight but perceptible wave

 

“A slight but perceptible wave seemed to roll beneath the floor; then it sank; then another came, more perceptible. Lights slid right across the uncurtained window. The ship gave a loud melancholy moan.” [1992:9]

A slight but perceptible wave, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm.

 

The voyage had begun

The voyage had begun

 

“The voyage had begun, and had begun happily with a soft blue sky, and a calm sea. The sense of untapped resources, things to say as yet unsaid, made the hour significant, so that in future years the entire journey perhaps would be represented by this one scene, with the sound of sirens hooting in the river the night before, somehow mixing in.” [1992:17]

The voyage had begun, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm.

 

Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway

 

“‘What I find so tiresome about the sea is that there are no flowers in it. Imagine fields of hollyhocks and violets in mid-ocean! How divine!'” Mrs Dalloway and her husband Richard, had joined the Euphrosyne for part of the voyage.

Later, Mrs Dalloway would get her own book.

Mrs Dalloway, acrylic on canvas, 50cm x 100cm.

 

Like a ball of thistledown

Like a ball of thistledown

 

“Inextricably mixed in dreamy confusion, her mind seemed to enter into communion, to be delightfully expanded and combined with the spirit of the whitish boards on deck, with the spirit of Beethoven Op. 112*, even with the spirit of poor William Cowper there at Olney. Like a ball of thistledown it kissed the sea, rose, kissed it again, and thus rising and kissing passed finally out of sight.” [1992:29]

*Beethoven Op. 112 – A calm and prosperous voyage

Like a ball of thistledown, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm.

 

They had dropped anchor

They had dropped anchor

 

“They had dropped anchor in the mouth of the Tagus, and instead of cleaving new waves perpetually, the same waves kept returning and washing against the sides of the ship.” [1992:30]

They had dropped anchor, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm.

 

It happened at tea

It happened at tea

 

“Quite suddenly the storm relaxed it’s grasp.  It happened at tea; the expected paroxysm of the blast gave out just as it reached its climax and dwindled away, and the ship instead of taking the usual plunge went steadily.  The monotonous order of plunging and rising, roaring and relaxing , was interfered with, and every one at table looked up and felt something loosen within them.”[1992:63]

It happened at tea, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm

 

Down she looked into the depth of the sea

Down she looked into the depth of the sea

 

“Down she looked into the depth of the sea. While it was slightly disturbed on the surface by the passage of the Euphrosyne, beneath it was green and dim, and it grew dimmer and dimmer until the sand at the bottom was only a pale blur. One could scarcely see the black ribs of wrecked ships, or the spiral towers made by the burrowings of great eels, or the smooth green-sided monsters who came by flickering this way and that.”

Down she looked into the depth of the sea, acrylic on canvas, 50cm x 50cm. Private Collection.

 

Visions of a great river

Visions of a great river

 

“Visions of a great river, now blue, now yellow in the tropical sun and crossed by bright birds, now white in the moon, now deep in shade with moving trees and canoes sliding out from the tangled banks beset her.” [1992:77]

Visions of a great river, acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm. Private Collection.

 

Music goes straight for things it says all there is to say at once

Music goes straight for things it says all there is to say at once

 

Escaping containment upon a cliff top, unprotected from the elements and above the human world, Rachel speaks her mind. She boldly states that music is superior to novels – in the company of Terence, her  fiancé, who desires to be an author. “Music goes straight for things. It says all there is to say at once.”

Music goes straight for things it says everything there is to say at once, overall size 2.4m x 2.4m, 76 x 20cm squares Fabriano paper, lino print on monoprint.

 

The moon poured its light through the empty air

The moon poured its light through the empty air

 

Over the course of the sea journey and her stay in Santa Marina, the heroine, Rachel develops emotionally, mentally and socially, in the process emerging a ‘free-spirit’. She meets and becomes engaged to Terence, a would-be author, to whom, at the top of a cliff she states that “Music goes straight for things. It says all there is to say at once”. Then she catches a fever and dies.

Then “for two or three hours longer the moon poured its light through the empty air. Unbroken by clouds it fell straightly, and lay almost like a chill white frost over the sea and the earth.”

I imagined that the night sky would be a deep inky blue and the moon, shining over the sea contains colours associated with the land and Rachel’s thoughts as its light pours down.

The moon poured its light through the empty air, 100cm x 50cm, acrylic and oil on canvas.

 

First published in 1915, I created this image in the centenary year: to capture the spirit of the book, with colours for sea, sky and earth, finishing with a light blue edge to hold it, like text on a page.

The Voyage Out oil on canvas 100 x 100cm

The Voyage Out oil on canvas 100 x 100cm

My painting has now been transformed into a silk scarf, measuring 136 x 136cm, digitally printed onto velvety crepe satin silk and made in England.

‘The Voyage Out’ by Virginia Woolf was originally published in 1915. My quotations are from the Penguin 1992 edition.

 

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