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Moths and flames

The discovery of previously unpublished brush works by Hokusai, on show at The British Museum, inspires a few words on one of Sven Berlin’s most revered favourite artists and a return to the fascinating theme of artists' notebooks.

Pages from Sven Berlin A Poet's Notebook
Sven Berlin | From A Poet's Notebook - Moth drawing and poem

Sven often paid tribute to Hokusai and his understanding and observation of the natural world, remaining faithful to the Master’s discipline of continuous drawing.

‘Every insect which made up the mid-summer hum in fields, before the insecticide invasion, was a special construction of great beauty…’ Berlin wrote in an essay entitled Mangwa, a reference to Hokusai’s vast collection of notebooks.

All drawings, of course, may lead to a finished work, bringing different nuances depending on the medium. Berlin’s ability to capture this ethereal moth in translucent alabaster, for example.

Oswell Blakeston on Sven Berlin:

“He draws to get the direction of forces, the structure of images and rhythms, or else he draws insects under a microscope or people for their humanity. He paints in order to bring in light and colour.’ The Arts Review Vol. XVII No 12, June 1965.


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