Kevin and the Blackbird

Kevin and the Blackbird

Clive Hicks-Jenkins talks about the Seamus Heaney poem Saint Kevin and the Blackbird and how it came to inspire his new screen print.  

"The relationships that are reported between people and wild animals are never less than interesting, though one might wish that generally mankind did better in terms of responsibility to what is held in trust.

Saint Kevin and the Blackbird’ is Heaney’s haunting account of the hermit voluntarily rooted to the spot for the time it takes a hen blackbird to weave her nest in the palm of his outstretched hand, lay a clutch of eggs and thereafter incubate, hatch and rear her brood.

I love Heaney’s poem so much that every time I read it I find new pathways emerge to my expression of it in visual terms. The poem describes an event that while steeped in love and sacrifice, viscerally describes the suffering entailed in the task. I made one painting that put the suffering aspects of Heaney’s poem centre stage, but thereafter my explorations reinvented the legend into something far more domestic, intimate and tender.

In this new print the Saint looks like any curious young gardener transfixed by the beauty of nature and absorbed in a task he’s willingly undertaken. Flowers bloom behind the hen blackbird standing next to her nest cupped securely in his open palm. A gaze passes between man and bird, and as viewers we are invited to be the witness."

Clive Hicks-Jenkins