Yvonne Reddick and Diana Zwibach’s Deerhart at Summerhall

Publication: The Times.   
October 2017

Collaborations between visual artists and poets are not uncommon. Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin famously worked together on Crow. Somehow such collaborations are, somehow, more than the sum of their parts.

Here, the artist Diana Zwibach and the writer Yvonne Reddick, both based in the north west of England, have come together to create, respectively, a series of highly expressive drawings and some intellectually complex, deeply-felt poetry. They first met in a print studio in Preston and so their collaboration seems rooted and pre-ordained.

In some cases, Reddick’s words have inspired Zwibach’s imagery and, at other times, the poet’s words have been informed by the earthy, energetic, passionate, charcoal essays of the artist.

Zwibach, whose family is Jewish, has roots in Novi Sad, on the banks of the Danube in Serbia. This European sensibility, which reflects the tumultuous history of that region, deeply informs these images. They are by turns dramatic, traumatic, heart-breaking, shocking and tender.  They combine the ethereality of Chagall with the hard-hitting force of German Expressionism.

The title poem, ‘Deerhart’, and its accompanying image, are composite portraits, both offering perspectives on the process of creation and creativity itself. Reddick reaches back into the essence of Scotland, the Gaelic language and its associated myths, as well as the landscape, with its colours and textures. The poem almost writes itself off the page, straight into our senses.

I track their traces though myths

beast-musk rank with age.

Their hooves slot smoothly

into stories: a cross flares

between a stag’s horns.

Zwibach’s imagery augments and complements this sense of vitality, in swirls of faces and antlers, carved in sketchy, rapidly-applied charcoal.

Reddick is a poetical gad-fly, a shape-shifter, trying on different voices and identities, coining phrases, digging deep for neglected words. In ‘Chillán Fruit Basket for Pablo’, quoting the Chilean poet, she chides and teases him:

Full woman, carnal apple, warm moon

thick smell of seaweed ­­–

and you, Neruda, what primal fruit are you hiding?

Zwibach’s response is a suite of three works which, like Reddick’s poem, alter perspectives, tilting it towards the woman’s point of view. One shows two lovers side by side, in near embrace…beneath the skin, bones show like x-rays, as tongues extend in ecstasy.

Reddick’s poetic influences are diverse but she acknowledges her debt, explicitly, to Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

Given Reddick’s relative youth, these are remarkable word-creations; Zwibach’s seniority allows her life-experience to connect deeply with the poetry. The results are unique, forceful and precious.