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`The return of the Sun` ; The diaries of artist Charles Dively edited and presented by Jonathan Hayter

The Return of the Sun (copyright J.Hayter, C Dively 2010)

In late 2009 distinguished Cornish artist Charles Dively asked me if I would be kind enough to look at his work. Charles had been a remote figure in the Cornish art scene - he had settled in Cornwall in the 1970s after a hectic whirlwind of city life in London just after the war. He came to prominence in the later stages of the conflict where his skills were recognised and he became a late entry as a war artist working alongside such eminence as Paul Nash and Sutherland.

Friday, 22 January 2010

NB; The images on show here are some of Dively`s works
In late 2009 distinguished Cornish artist Charles Dively asked me if I would be kind enough to look at his work. Charles had been a remote figure in the Cornish art scene - escaping the shackles of our hectic world, he had settled in Cornwall in the 1970s after a hectic whirlwind of city life in London just after the war. He came to prominence in the later stages of the conflict where his skills were recognised and he became a late entry as a war artist working alongside such eminence as Paul Nash and Sutherland
The artists probably failed to see Dively amongst them - as most of the time he was making the tea and sweeping the floors in the camouflage workshops!
Never the less Dively perused an artistic career - working in theatre, visiting Bali with an early interest in light and shadow
Dively says;
`I was fascinated by the esoteric in art and culture, and I saw something in the ancient art of the shadow puppet theatre - very primal indeed! `
The result was Dively worked with Dalangs (Balinese puppet masters) for several years...
When he returned to the uk in the mid 60`s he had a breakdown, due in part to the death of both is parent s and the loss of the ancestral home at Buckminton in Berkshire.
`It was then that I realised my calling was painting. I got a place at the Slade, and never looked back - all my pain and feeling poured into my art! ` Says Dively.
In the 1970`s Dively left London for good and moved to Cornwall quickly establishing a style that was to mark him out amongst many...
`It was the sun that drew me there. The night before I left for my new life I had a dream of an enormous red -orb and a gentle wind pulling me ever west ward...`
Curious because much of Dively`s work right up until the present day focuses on the significance of the sun, both emotionally and culturally..
`The sun is always there ` he says enigmatically
`Now the sun is about to return- we will notice the sun again as our prime giver of life, both literally and spiritually`

NB ;Below are extracts from his diaries, that as editor, I am gradually uploading to this site along with my comments and guidance. I believe Dively has discovered the true combination of the spiritual life along with that of the artist. Dively has also brought to general attention the importance and understanding, that will help to illuminate the path of every individual. Above all the significance of the return of the power of the sun in our age...
The extracts from Dively`s diary also fulfil for me a life in touch with the real essence of creativity by capturing the essence of the spiritual life lived in touch with the environment. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do in putting them up here?

Now in his eighties - the early entries reveal Dively as a vigorous and energetic artist not afraid to paint in the landscape...
`What I have revealed is for all to witness there is something stirring in our land trying to tell us something , but the message is different for each individual`

Jonathan Hayter January 2010



Monday September 7th 1970
Aeneid – priestess and handmaiden to Apollo refused his plea saying;

`I am coming with you – who else will make sure my lord returns to this life above the earth – with your best interest at heart- I will protect you?`

Apollo replied;

`Very well you can come to the land below this one – but note well fair maiden that it is the land where the sun goes blackest , and that the many things we witness there will be etched into your mortal soul forever…..?

Apollo waited to see his priestess’s reaction- there was none;
Very well! Come let me lead you into the land of the black sun …. `

From somewhere deep with in the chaos of the earth Hades smiled and a distant rumble was heard from deep within the chasm in the earth…

An old lady passed by my house this morning, but as she reached the perimeter of my land she stopped seeing me walking to water some flowers at the front porch…

`The sun will be at its lowest when she comes to visit…`

She was bent over her stick with one of those bags that old ladies always seem to have about them to collect their shopping in. I noticed her head scarf sported a sprig of white heather …

`Sorry ?` I said , as if I expected her to say more – but she didn’t –instead she muttered to herself , which I might have considered to be quite rude ,if it were not for that fact that I suspected she were quite deaf , and that all along she had really been talking out loud to herself . What she had uttered therefore was not meant for me, just the ramblings of a lonely old woman perhaps?
I carried on watering my plants , but for the rest of the afternoon could not quite relax , running over in my head like an old piece of audio tape the utterances of that mad old lady…sending a shiver throughout..

It was late summer and the moist odour of vegetable decay mixed with damp air filled the nostrils having the effect of melancholy in thought and reflection that wafted me seamlessly into an evening sat by the fire recounting friends and memories from summers past...

I had recently moved to Cornwall wanting to escape the rat – race of busy life in London. My frantic relocation took place in early spring – just as the winter light intensified into the
Unrestrained vibrancy of spring with its flowers and budding hedgerows.
The following summer had been good lots of sunshine, walks and visits to the beach.

I had, on more than one occasion taken my easel canvases and paints down to the shoreline – happily lost in painting while happy tourists bobbed in the white surf. Some, curious, ventured up to look at my work, on one occasion I had sold a painting on the spot!

Friday october 16th 1970
Now the autumn was here things were looking up as I had recently been lucky to get some teaching work in a local college. Teaching art was the only way in which I could supplement my life as an artist…

The house that I had found to live in was a modest cottage on a hillside, in the far distance the north Cornish coast could be viewed .It was source of great comfort to me that I had a small woodland nearby from which the landowner was more than generous in supplying wood for my open fire as the evening light grew shorter and the nights colder warmed me through with a crackling fiery intensity as the logs burned quite easily.
One such night whilst I was contemplating my next project the wind began to pick up – so much so that the flames danced more than usual in the fire place as I searched the map for the next location from which to paint my next work.
As a painter of landscape I had noticed so much about this new environment, and since moving to Cornwall from the city become accustomed to the peculiar habits of the weather – yet nothing had prepared me for such a storm. The sun had not long hungrily eaten its way into the earth ,all angry and red when the trees in the fading light began to nod quite gracefully .By sun-down the wind was howling round the masonry and trees in the half light bent over like bows –stretched to their limit..

I threw another log on the fire and drew the curtains to block out the image of the night .By midnight I had my route planned for the following day. Visit to an ancient stone circle – a place to perch and begin my studies…
I went to bed –pulling the eider –down over my head – outside the wind hammered at my window ….
I fell into a slumber and dreamed I was Turner – tied to the mast painting in the storm that I was at the centre of….

Saturday 17th october 1970
The next day was a Saturday, and I noticed the wind had changed direction. It was no longer coming from the south west – instead the gales of last night had been replaced by a whispering bitter breeze from the north….

I packed my art things and sizeable packed lunch and went to my destination.
I noticed the sun was low in the sky following my drive along granite –lined country lanes. It took me 40 minutes to reach my destination.
There were the stones standing like row of jagged pointing fingers at the sky.
I was struck how quiet it was – except for the gentle movement of the wind there was nothing. The sun now dominated the low skyline like an eye of light –silhouetting the stones and casting their long shadows to where I set up my easel.
Once I had set up my paints and large water colour papers I paused and waited for the mood of the place to direct me in my task. Then gingerly I put paint to paper .Large areas of golden light flooded over the page. I was possessed by the muse of the moment. I `ve got to get the sun – that moment to moment changing, dancing of the light.
After 20 minutes frustration set in – what I saw on the paper before me – was not what I felt I wanted to convey …
In anger I screwed up the image in a fit of frustration…
I began again. This time the wind whispered and moaned dancing across the page – large areas of blackened ink found its way from my brush onto the page as the sun danced among some clouds – so my image darkened . That’s it I thought, the perfect storm – the sun is black not gold? Its weight grew heavily upon me as if I were the sun and the sun were part of me.
`Paint what you see` the wind mocked `That’s right –let the sun through...`
By now the sun was a blood red orange bouncing over the horizon in a menacing form, transformed. I looked at my painting and then to the scene all about me …
What had I done? I had been painting – but all time had rushed past me? Like a stone on a beach the waves of time had lapped at my feet leaving me bewitched and possessed at the same time by a force totally beyond me…
I wrapped up my paints and put them in the boot of the car. Over come by some archetypal fear I placed the –still-wet painting in the boot of my car.
I drove until I was safe distant from the stone circle. When I reached the main road I felt safe once more and ready to face the journey
Home again…

Sunday 18th October 1970

Last night I slept heavily after the intensity of yesterday`s experiences . I had no way of evaluating my experience than to suggest the sun had its `eye` on me . Looking at my art work in the light of a new day its as if I was not responsible for what I had painted . I made some coffee , read the sunday newspaper and dozed in the fading light of the afternoon by a diminished fire . I returned to review my artwork early after supper . Something caught my eye . Something odd in the picture that I had barely distinguished before . What it was astonished me for I had no recollection of painting it ! It was a dark figure struggling through the landscape . It was obvious to me he was dressed for the season in a heavy dark over coat and struggling against the biting wind . How curious that I should have included the mysterious figure as some sort of serendipity.
Determined to continue my project I decided that had to return to the landscape at the earliest convenience ....

EDITOR`S NOTE; Dively could not return the following day as planned due to bad weather conditions and the onset of autumn storms forecast for the following day. Instead he was confined to bed due to a heavy cold , with only the howling wind for company . On the 3rd day he recovered and the storms retreated enough for him to begin another filed excursion...

Wednesday 21st october 1970

I felt much better this morning and was ready to begin a return to the site of my painting excursion a few days before.

I arrived at the site shortly before 11am and was all set up with my easel by 11.15.
The weather, whilst being changeable remained dry enough for me to begin painting by 11.30am. I waited for the atmosphere from my surroundings to seep in and then began painting. Yellow ochre, splashes of alizarin crimson, the paper dripped with complicated patterns of light and shade.

A Woodland off to my left made stark patterns against the sky. After twenty minutes or so I noticed that something splendid was happening to my work . It had a real intensity of atmosphere and light that made me feel I was beginning to achieve my creative goal.
Possessed by the creative drama of each moment I did not notice a dark figure approach me at first...

`Been round here long? `he said

I turned to see the tall dishevelled figure of a man.

`Sorry? ` I replied stunned by the intrusion.

`Well you don’t want to spend too much time in these parts ...`
Then , he suddenly turned away from me and began walking toward the woodland not waiting for a reply.. like a man possessed .Had he disturbed my creative reverie – just to tell that?

In sensed , that my moment had been disturbed I watched him as he entered the shade of the trees with their spiky shadows forming patterns on the land below. He was just a local , perhaps it was his way of being friendly and he was just trying to warn me of something? But what?

Then when I returned to my work it looked nothing as I had recalled it!

Now I really had the sense that I was being watched. Perhaps it was the recent intrusion, but somehow I sensed not. Moments later the large disc-like sun launched itself from behind some scudding clouds. A menacing orb of sinister autumn light - it spread its fingers towards me - touching the stone monuments with its intensity and power. It was then I realised , it was as if the sun who was watching me !
Once more I had to leave . The feeling was intense and overwhelming once more…

I quickly packed up easel in fear of the unfolding dark light engulfing me ...

The day was over.

Exhausted I returned to the car and began my journey home.

(EDITOR`S NOTE; Intrigued by what Dively was experiencing here. When I recently visited him in his remote hillside cottage I asked him what he thought he was witness to with his creative activity. He looked at me sternly and a cold seriousness came over him.
`What ever it was it started in the land. You see Cornwall has a history far older than many other parts of Britain the geology, the fact the earth has been investigated mined, hollowed out. What has happened to that underworld – is it still there?
My sense when revisiting these diaries is one of wonder , awe and fear that the land is party to so many secrets of cosmology , passed down to us through myth and legend…`
A silence then descended. Dively no longer wanted to talk about his experience. H e was tired. I thought this man looks ancient beyond his years; it was as if he were only just there in front of me. As if he had become one of his dear shadows. Then as if he was party to my thoughts he continued.
`You see my friend ...we are through the return of the sun about to witness a remarkable thing…the transformation of our world from one of fear and misery too…`
Once again he drifted off as if he had lost the thread of his thoughts…
`Ah shadows – yes when I visited Bali all those years ago – it was as if I had found my destiny. The duality of light and dark transcended. Opposite’s male, female all must be transcended in order to let the sun return…. `
Again he drifted off. This time I let him slumber by the light of the late afternoon fire. His carer returned;
`Better let him sleep Mr Hayter – I tell him when he wakes that you had to leave okay? `
As I drove away from that remote spot I recalled paragraph from one of his letters home to his mother, when he was still in Bali. It mentioned the shadow puppet show he had witnessed that was to haunt him all his life. Though he does not mention the title in the letter, he does describe it as having something to do with a contest between the element s. Symbolic of course as much of Divelys enthusiasms I wanted to find out exactly what it was that had transformed this man , and brought him back to Britain with a new creative purpose. I guessed it must be somewhere in the diaries?)
I unearthed this section of Dively`s diaries which gave a sense of his time before cornwall in Bali..

Tuesday 31ST January 1961

Its hot today all the mosquito nets could not keep that incessant buzzing from my ears.
Tonight I am going to be witness to a special Wayang Kulit performance not generally witnessed by the visiting public or tourists….

Have just returned from my performance experience. Everything in my life I feel, has lead to the moment where I witnessed the Dalang (puppeteer) bring alive those scenes, as if we were witnessing the thoughts and plans of the Gods behind creation.
First on stage the Dalang invoked with a hypnotic of the Gods themselves. A magnificent shadow cast itself – but it was a shadow form yes , but was the light of creation , the sun waking from the depths of sleep at the beginning of creation . The sun appeared to outline a dark horizon – the creation of our planet a semi abstract figure moved slowly to the rhythmic chant. Time had begun and was shown by the growth of a plant, or tree. This was followed by series of creature s this was followed by the development of a new musical theme; human beings entered the sun’s creation…..
After 3hours of hypnotic sound light, movement and storytelling a story unfolded which was the penultimate scene and the purpose of the entertainment. A man walked across a bleak and cold landscape ….
(EDITOR`S NOTE; Frustratingly for me the fragment of diary had the next page missing so I could not make out the rest of the tale that had so transfixed Dively!.Although I have searched his diary archive I have not yet found the missing description)

Thursday 2nd February 1961;
Was struck by the stillness that entered me and took up residence at the centre of my being. The performance two nights ago seemed to inject in me a destiny, a purpose.
I met the Dalang, a small man with sparkling eyes. Through an interpreter I asked him what had inspired his performance that seemed so dramatic and filled with a passion ?
Expecting him to roll off some standard dramatic cliché` I was stunned by his reply!
. He bowed toward me very low with both hands together as if in prayer...
`You Mr Dively ` my interpreter relayed `The performance the Gods informed me to do it for you! `
The interpreter then shuffled more of the Dalangs words, saying `Mr Dively , you must understand the Gods only speak to those they think have a destiny`
`Me? `
`Yes you the dalang seems to think the gods believe you have a destiny? `
Implied the interpreter
The dalang finished his dialogue by saying ;
`But he says it is up to you to seek it…? `
He bowed very low and then shuffled off in the direction of his workshop to get ready for that evenings performance. I was stunned .I paid the interpreter and went to find a café to sit down and evaluate the information the puppeteer had told me…

Later that evening I understood that stillness at the centre of my being – the Gods had invoked it through the most ancient of simple tales -displayed in the shadow puppet show. !I had always understood the Dalang to be a kind of shaman in touch with spiritual forces – but to have a personal message was astounding…?
(EDITOR`S NOTE; It appears not long after Dively left for England – but not until he had really questioned and finished his studies into the dalang`s art.)

Friday November 6th 2009
When I reached Dively`s remote hillside cottage the chill of late autumn sunshine barely penetrated the stillness of the air.
As usual the nurse answered the door and showed me into the cosy sitting room, where, Dively more alert than I had ever seen him was reading book by the open fire.
`Ah, come in my boy I have been expecting you! How is it going with editing the diaries, are they up on-line yet? `
I indicated that it was going to take time to sort through the relevant material. Satisfied with my answer Dively then said;
`Now I know why you have come today, so I have prepared for our discussion ...`
I looked behind me …And there on the table Dively had constructed a small shadow screen, with some wayang kulit puppets…
`Wow, I never realised you had so many puppets and the screen! `
`Well I know that ids part of what has drawn us together on this project your interest in puppets which is similar to mine. So an illustrated discussion is all the better don’t you think? `
I realised that Dively understood why I had come to him that day. It was going to be an interesting morning in which Dively would reveal the crux of his creative philosophy, and through puppetry…
`Shall we begin then?) `

The door opened and in came a colourfully dressed individual.
`Dalang Nagarrisstyant from Bali`
Announced Dively
Sri Nagarrisstyant bowed low and took up position behind the small cloth screen.
The smell of incense filled the room .A darkness descended along with a cloying silence….
A dim light filled the centre of the shadow screen, a warm yellow infusion –symbolising the sun I assumed? Next the knocking of the dalang`s rhythm stick metered out the pace at which a small dark shadow emerged from the left of the screen . Percussion began as the shadow grew. Dively was silent – transfixed by the images transforming before us. When the dalang spoke the show began;

`It was there at your birth, it rose in the morning, warming you on your first day, but your mother clothed you and sent you away, `
Exquisite little shadows show a boy and his mother in fond embrace – broken by the dividing light of time unfolding. The Dalang continued in a very pronounced accent …

`To hide from the sun and lose yourself in play.
When the sun was stolen by the lords of the underworld...`

The warm yellow light at the back of the screen transformed it s glow in to red luminescence and then slowly too the sun transformed into humanoid form as the the dark figures from the underworld rose up to take him down into their Hades…

As the Dalang continued to navigate us through this world of light and sound it dawned on me that I had heard this tale before …Long ago ….? I was suddenly transported in a kind of intoxicated reverie back to my childhood… There in front of me black and white images of a man, with his black coat wrapped about him protecting him against he element s……Then the image of a late winter’s day, the warming sun after rain. I saw a puddle dry u in the sun. Its affect touched me deeply somewhere …the sun had dried up all the rain… it is the sun that dries up all the rain…..

When I came too Dively was leaning over me
`Are you okay my friend? `
`What? `
`You passed out – I sent the Dalang away .Perhaps it was the incense? I think you have had enough for one day?`
Time had passed so quickly . Had I been in my reverie for so long?
`You were asleep for quite sometime ` continued Dively ` I could not wake you!`

Later when I recounted what happened, after his housekeeper had brought me some tea,I noticed that Dively appeared amused, as if he had set up the whole thing to provoke something in me?

When I left later that day I was convinced I now understood Dively`s experience of the sun and what it meant to me as a developing artist even if had not explained to me directly – I understood it intuitively at some level of my being. Perhaps the dalang`s performance had initiated some long held deeply buried primal memory. I decided it was this knowledge that had attracted me to dively and his works in the first place …We were both on the same path. But I had yet to uncover the full extent of what that really meant to me …
But it wasn’t going to be easy to explain it so that others might understand? Why would anyone want to hear Dively`s beliefs?
`Because they are important forthe whole of humanity ` he would constantly repeat in any of our conversations on the matter.
And so therefore I was still determined that through relating his diary material his legacy might live on and serve some greater purpose for all humanity that he was so keen to reinforce!

Views: 84

Comment by Augusto on June 15, 2010 at 5:42am
Thank you Jonathan for this document.
I am sorry I didn't answer before but I just read it and find it very inspiring.
Comment by jonathan hayter on June 16, 2010 at 6:26pm
Thanks Augusto! Will get round to putting some more on the blog soon...


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