From ‘A Celebration of Cecil Collins’


This extract by JANE WISNER

Compiled and Edited by NOMI ROWE

With kind permission of the publishers – PAUL HOLBERTON PUBLISHING

This extract is from one of the contributors to the book – Jane Wisner (1944-2006). Jane attended Cecil’s classes in the early 1980s and was profoundly influenced by him. (We have a substantial selection of Jane Wisner’s work currently on this website. To view click here: Jane Wisner Art

‘Most of Cecil’s students have dreamt about him. The first dream I ever had was simply of him and me standing in the grass which was spangled with the small flowers that appear in his painting . We were in the realm of his pictures, the Lost Paradise, and the importance was that we were the ones who were to manifest it in this world. He was showing me how, by stepping in to it and holding a focus, a purity of consciousness, and clearing away all interference of the ego, we could make room for it. Learning how to become and then to create.

For years and years, I had been striving for peace, strength and inner harmony in my pictures, but I’d not been able to put my belief into words. I had felt so lonely, as if I was the only being on the planet trying to do things in a different way. When I met Cecil, it was as if the loneliness was over. Here was a kind, gentle, perceptive man, full of humour and mischief, erudite, expressing with ease and integrity those truths I’d believed couldn’t be expressed.. The recognition was so strong that I would be in tears every time we spoke together.

Cecil could never remember my name. To others he’d refer to me as, ‘The one who can draw’. I was extremely shy in those days and he would quietly support my self esteem. At the end of one class, he asked me to take my drawings and spread them out on the podium so everyone could see them. I had been working in a particularly intense way that day and every line was imbued with distilled energy. There was a shift in the way that he and I worked after that.

Each class was a precious gift. All boundaries were dispelled in the joy of drawing. I loved the rituals Cecil used and the times he used to talk about mythology and symbols. He would sit in a corner, his eyes lowered and as he talked the energy would build and change, shift and shimmer. It would pour into us and into the drawings. It often carried an element of great joy and was sometimes very moving. Sometimes a great peace would descend.

I sit writing this in Chichester Cathedral before the ‘Icon of Divine Light’, which Cecil painted for the altar of St Clement’s Chapel. Whenever I am in Chichester, I spend time with this wonderful image. I jump the rope and kneel as close as I can get in order to look into the eyes which gaze back into my soul. I feel the energy change. ‘Behold I make all things new.’ It is only when one goes beyond the surface of this image that it becomes active. It is only when we allow the divine to enter us that we can create on its behalf; then, if one allows oneself to become receptive and focused, one’s whole being is blessed. This is what Cecil’s teaching meant to me.’