April 4, 2017

Two CNF/Essays and Featured Visual Art by Toni Cogdell

Toni Cogdell lives and works in Bristol, UK, from her woodland studio. Exhibiting her paintings across the UK for many years, she has honed her process and technique to give voice to her expression, a personal style seeking to connect with the world around her. She loves to write as part of her expression and her written pieces like to exist nearby her paintings, gently trailing from their coat-tails.
In walking the space between figuration and abstraction Toni finds a freedom which allows her to go deeper into the intangible substance of the psyche and human condition without restricting or enforcing definitive ideas. Pulling recognisable truths into the work while giving reign to the unknown and ensuing contradiction to hold its own space, her paintings are looking for a balance, a kind of peace. In every journey travelled there is darkness as well as light, with more questions than answers. And these are the places Toni looks to find beauty.

Love Remains

Look for Me

All or Nothing

Green Bough

"If you keep a Green Bough in your heart then the singing bird will come" Proverb.

I feel it. A slim branch-like thing called Hope, growing within me. It weathers the seasons, it withers it sheds; it waits patiently for the green. It may sometimes be only a thread, a shred, a wisp, but it's there, growing, invisibly weaving, searching for sunlight.

You feel it too. I can see it pass over the whites of your eyes, a faint glimmer of it circling your iris, I see it. When the landscape before you rolls on with unending barrenness, the horizon indecipherable from continuous road and a destination unknown, it's there. With dirt on your trembling hands and an arcing sky above you, cold and cavernous, the green bough remains, stoically unfurling, looking for light.  

If I tell you a story will you sit with me, will you stay? Hold a warm bowl in your hands and allow yourself to dream, while the green grows beneath ourselves, beneath the things we're told, beneath the belief of a world that is not ours. We will dig into the dirt and reach above the canopy of trees to find the pieces of our own lives again, stitching them together to make us real. While the green grows like rivers flow, onwards regardless, always ours. While the green grows under our feet, binding them, tying them in, steadying us, it will hold us while we grow our wings.

If we keep that bough of green in our hearts, no matter how slight or withered, the promise is sealed, hope can be held. The songbirds will come, Icarus will fly, and we'll once more remember the language of flight.

~Toni Cogdell

Be Here


Clarity of Dawn

A Different Kind of Dream

Green Man

The land has been sleeping. Its twisted tree skeletons standing in silent meditation against the horizon, memories dwelling in their hollows, life moving only slowly across long shadows. Winter likes it that way. For her reign of the seasons she dances with silver chiffon across the terrain, icy fog softly spreading from her white hair, cool crystallised raindrops falling from her fingertips. The binding of tree and rock with her threads of stillness. The landscape in monochrome holds on to its secrets until the time arrives for him to collect them.

The wheel has turned and he can feel the bounds between what was and what will be, deep within his bones. This transitioning awoke him, the thing that brought him away from the wilderness of the Underworld to wander these dense forests now. The power in him rises and moves, he can feel it flowing under his skin, swimming in the river of his blood searching for the surface. Already the hues around him are moving from grey to green, brown to red; the trees are thickening with fibres of viridian spinning themselves into pointed leaves and vines, dappled movements of branches and briar reveal awakening buds and the promise of fruit and flower. The sound moves from the echoes of cold whirring air to the rushing of stream water; its gargle as it furls around pebbles and somersaults along the brook a perfectly choreographed dance. Scents pirouette from must to sage to sap to blossom, endlessly on the sweet candyfloss breeze fusing them together. The forest’s exploding palette of colour reflects in his dark eyes, yielding only the briefest glimpse of the fire that flickers and burns deep within them, the fire that scorches deep into the earth through his roots. The more he awakens the more the land comes alive.

The man of leaf, twig and flesh, the Guardian of the wood, stands with arms outstretched and drinks in the scene playing out before him. The domino effect of rebirth rippling through the landscape, the meandering of budding green, dew kissed petals and sun diamonds sparkling on the singing river, the chorus of birdsong and symphony of scents.

He hushes the tall tree sentinels with a gentle lullaby, easing their hurts, letting them forget. The man of leaf wistfully recalls the names he’s had through the ages, ‘Jack-o-the-woods, Herne, Wodwo, The Green Man, and he tastes clarity, the hazy veil of reverie finally cast off. Throwing his head back he heaves out his ivy twined chest and releases a booming, resonating roar from the depths of his bones, uprooted from the primordial depths of the earth itself.  The carmine red wings of his howl spread across the sky, carrying upon them The Green Man’s rage and passion, his carnal energy, the memory and fervour from centuries of the great wheel’s turning. Like a bird of prey it soars the skies then swoops to the ground, covering every plant, every living thing with a warm blanket of protection, a nurturing layer knitted from his bone and marrow, the life force of the Wodwo. He intrinsically understands the delicate balance of light and shadow, and he softly laughs to himself through his assemblage of leaves, as he takes his place in the heart of all things.

The forest stands magnificently in her Spring Splendour, the ripples of shadow and light play like children through the grasses and leaves. Yet the wild reaches of this place stretch deeper than imagination can gauge; the ancient forest harbours longings and tales. And there he will remain, Guardian of the wood, hunter and healer; in every nook and dark crevice, walking the periphery of a human mind, within the place language has no words for, in every untold story; until the sands of time are no more than dust in the loam.

~Toni Cogdell

Her Story


Letting in Light

My Body Knows Unheard-Of Songs


Two Sides



© Toni Cogdell~Text and Visual Art

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