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Lil Neilson, ‘A Place for 4 Women’, 1989. Insert in ‘The Bitter Cup’, photographed by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, Catterline, April 2019.


‘The full moon floated up into green light; and as the rose and violet hues spread over snow and sky, the colour seemed to live its own life, to have body and resilience, as though we were not looking at it, but were inside of its substance.’

– Nan Shepherd [1]

Red against muted blue deepens into reddish brown. Streaks of dusty pink, white and blue commune with twisting dark vermillion. Stripes of yellow and green hover. Moonlight spreads silvery veins along fluid black and emerald. Crimson quickly in blue-blackness, soft translucency, intense silver light. Deep ultramarine hoops over gold shafts. Planes of crimson and orange scrape over pink, outlined in earthy brown. Watery blue and pink smear fade to deep magenta. Ominous grey and silky brown stipple green. Dabs of white circle mottled mauve and tendrils of cobalt impasto. Dappled washes of green and blue float against garish pink. Pastel lemon crescents stroke violet and viridian eclipse.

The moon eye. Thick grey and reddish black, slash of scarlet. Shadowy purple shades brown, mauve, magenta. Three pink stripes tickle blues and dark reds. Congealing lunar shimmer of coal black and curved orange. Luminous white lies to dark ultramarine and cadmium red. Bright layers of yellow soak grey-white. Prussian blue sweeps cerulean blue into dirty red and burnt umber. Pale blue glow over deep orange and palest leaf green. Bright scarlet yellow mark. Pink rose in blues outlined in green. Streaks of dark indigo scrape white light. Outlined in black, the palest manganese blue double moon. Lemon-heavy hyacinth drips waxing.


[1] Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain, p.98. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2011.


Valerie Norris is an artist and writer based in Dundee.

‘Cold Moon’uses phrases and colour descriptions of paintings taken from pp. 27–28 and pp. 93–101 of ‘The Bitter Cup’ by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, published by Book Works in association with Hospitalfield, Arbroath, 2019.