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Christina Conrad & Patrick Hayman - Journey Between Two Worlds

my father sat in the evenings dreaming
like a huge egyptian cat
his paws folded
in the silent tomb of his garden
the pear tree wept
her fruit
uneaten on the ground

- Christina Conrad

"One cannot look directly at the sun. An oblique approach is necessary."
- Patrick Hayman

"When I was 33, I met a man. He took my hand. He said: ‘the lines on your hand are a map of your life. We are born with these lines. They can be changed by inward-working’. He stared at the lines on my hand. He said: 'the man who you think is your father is not your father. There is a secret surrounding your birth'. I crept away.

"Many moons later, I came to my mother’s house. The boat slid between the huge sleeping hills. Seagulls screamed over my head, their eyes cruel. I said to my mother: ‘who is my father?’ My mother said nothing. For a long time, noting. Then she said: ‘your father is the Jewish painter, Patrick Hayman’."

Patrick Hayman, the English/Jewish painter & poet, was born in London in 1913. In the Malvern College library – built to the memory of those who died after the first few months in the trenches – Hayman began a strenuous self-education. "The terrible irony of reading the First World War poets in such an environment affected me for life," he wrote. Two, sympathetic instructors clandestinely told him of their appalling war experiences. So began a life-long interest in the realities of war and violence.

Hayman was a gentle pacifist, yet acutely aware of an aggressive, eruptive side of his character. "Go back to Palestine" and other experiences of anti-Semitism at school kindled his ire at injustices.

In 1936, his father booked him passage on a ship sailing to the Antipodes and, at nineteen, Patrick arrived in Dunedin, New Zealand. For the next two years he worked in the office of Hayman & Co. – Importers; then, in 1938, he left his father’s company to “explore the wilds of New Zealand”. It was to be a journey from which he never entirely returned. On long walks in the hills, Hayman experienced a mystical sense of what he called “no feeling”, a sense of nothing. On his return to Dunedin he began to paint.

"They said I had Jewish eyes. I was afraid my father would not want me. I sent a photograph of myself. I looked like a Red Indian. I wore a white feather in my hair. I told him about my broken marriage, my abortions, my lovers, my children, my self-imprisonment. I said: ‘life is a glass mountain I keep climbing up; I keep falling down.’ I said ‘I live in a dream world. I turn everything I love into a fetish. I erect this fetish in the centre of my life. From this I make my paintings."

In 1942 - the year Christina was born - Patrick Hayman was living in a bed-sit overlooking Wellington Harbor. For him it was the most phenomenal place he had ever lived. He was in the love with the ships. Great steam ships like children’s drawings with orange and red hulls and gigantic stacks puffing smoke. He remained there – "apart from home-guard vigils spent lying on huge, empty beaches" – until the end of the war.

The war years were extremely fertile for Hayman. The adventure of artistic discovery and his desire for isolation drew him ever further from the child he had helped to conceive. More and more he began to feel himself outside time and place, outside events.

In 1947, he reluctantly returned to England, found a small cottage on the outskirts of a tiny fishing village in Cornwall, and immersed himself in his painting. In July, 1949, he met Barbara Judson. A life-long partnership began. Eventually they moved to a Spartan-like flat overlooking Carabis Bay. “The dark pine trees, the azure sea, the hills and wide expanse of ocean reminded me of a miniature New Zealand.” It was during this time he became associated with a colony of artists and writers in St Ives that included the sculptor, Barbara Hepworth.

"My father wrote to me. He wanted me. I wanted him. He had no children. Only me. He wanted me to come and stay with him in London. I was afraid of the world. I did not wear clothes very often. I did not eat meat. I lived high up in a hidden valley within a circle of hills. A great river rushed down the valley and met another river. The land was full of foxgloves and stones. I lived in an old, goldminer’s house by the river. I wrote:

'I know only the foxgloves
the throats of the foxgloves are spotted
spotted inside
I shall never walk on the other side
of the river
yet I bathe in its waters...'

"I did not show my paintings to anyone. From the age of twenty-six until I was nearly forty, I hid them in cupboards instead of food."

In 1952, Barbara Hepworth wrote to Patrick Hayman: "There are so many of your paintings that I would love to have...". The painter, Peter Lanyon, wrote: "I admire Pat’s courage that he believed his work will prove to be embracing... the most secret moments of our being."

"It is important," Hayman said, "to enter a world other than the visible one."

Most of the art and literature he cared for was rooted in the transcendental, in extra-terrestrial myth. "In symbolism," he said, "the boat or the voyager can mean the journey between one world and another. In fact, in all legends, the ‘night crossing’ means such."

"I stood at the airport. My plaits were dying silk worms. My father hovered, unfit for worldly affairs, bound in the still egg of a dream. In his long gabardine coat. His curls straggling on his collar. His smooth, olive face blurry and secretive. His mouth opulent. His gentle eyes bespectacled. He was frightened when he saw me, cleaving to the wall as if he wanted to escape. He had run from me all these years. We drove away in a black taxi.

"The tall, dark house was full of his paintings. I brought some of my paintings to show him. In a head-on collision we recognized each other’s queerly mapped territory. We wanted each other. Yet we rejected each other violently, each one aghast at the other’s likeness, each one turning away from the love offered."

Christina left London and her father's house several weeks later. They never saw each other again.

Having seen her paintings as well as her father's paintings, I can only surmise that perhaps he recognised something much more powerful than that space of "no feeling" he had chanced upon in New Zealand all those years ago - a memory of something more than a daughter - a piece of himself speaking back to himself in images so focused and powerful he could only turn away. It seems to me that her work is uncannily like his, only she painted it without any knowlege of his existence, and what she laid bare was more than her own soul. It was as if her work completed what he had struggled to make or find, and once sighted could not face. 

The impact that this had on Conrad and continues to have haunts much of her painting and scultures, not to mention her poetry. It is certainly present in a poem that she wrote many years after Patrick's death:


you came too late
a mound of anger had grown
over heart’s divided chamber

i waited for you
bound in the skin shroud
of life – death

i called your name
when I was laid
on a backstreet abortionist’s table

i called your name
when they tore out my ovary

i called your name
when I fell through a glass house

i called your name
when I slashed my wrists

i called your name
when my blood
shot into the sky
in a black fountain

you came too late
a mound of anger had grown
over heart’s divided chamber

To read more poems by Christina Conrad, visit her website at http://christinaconrad.webs.com/poems.htm


Copyright © 2011 Billy Marshall Stoneking

Born in Orlando, Florida, the only son of two wandering West Virginians, he left the States in 1972 in response to all the bumper stickers that said, "America: Love It Or Leave It".

He has written in various forms, including poetry, plays, fiction, screenplays, historical non-fiction, and criticism. His published work includes the modern-day Australian poetry classic, Singing the Snake (Harper/Collins, 1990); and the equally good though less-classic, Lasseter : In Quest of Gold (Hodder & Stoughton, 1989). Taking America Out of the Boy, an irreverent auto-fictography, was published by Hodder Spectrum in 1993.

His first full-length play, Sixteen Words For Water (published by Harper/Collins in 1991), which offers a dramatic exploration of Pound's time in the nuthouse and his relationship with tribal Aboriginal people, has enjoyed several successful productions, including seasons in Dublin, London, the Berkshires (Massachusetts), San Diego (California), Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Hobart, Dunedin (NZ).

In the late 1980s, Billy was series writer on Paramount Television's Mission:Impossible, and was creator/writer of the award-winning ABC-TV drama series, Stringer.

Much of his work has been influenced, and continues to be influenced by his long association with tribal Aboriginal people. From 1978 to 1983, he lived and worked at Papunya Aboriginal Settlement (275 kms west of Alice Springs, N.T.) where he collected and published stories and other materials in the local dialect [Pintupi/Luritja] for use in the Papunya outstations’ bi-lingual reading programme.