Thursday, August 14, 2008

A story that can never be told

The following poem has haunted my mind for a few days, it is a story that can never be told, a mystery, yet there is something poignant in the way that Snyder captured the archaeological story in a few simple words. Who was she, this person from 26,000 years ago, a shaman of the tribe buried with due honour and ceremony, attendants on either side. Perhaps this small trio of people were related, brothers and sister, caught by some fatal passing disease, and buried with many tears by their family. Maybe she was killed in some sacrifical honour, her attendants accompanying her to the spirit world. Tantalising in death, the history of old bones haunt our imagination, fleshing them once more, gracing their bodies with movement and speech I wonder what we would really be confronted by?

Under The Hills Near the Moravia River

She lay there midst
Mammoth, reindeer, and wolf bones;
Diadem of fox teeth round her brow
Ocher under her hips
26,640 plus or minus 110 years before 'now'.
Burnt reindeer-pelvis bone bits
in her mouth,
Bones of two men lying by her,
one each side.
Gary Snyder
And perhaps a few more words by Snyder on this cold August morning, reminding one of travelling and far off places, the following taken from Raven's Beak River At the End, in this poem he captures for a moment the old celtic enmeshing of nature, animals and the cosmic reality we sometimes forget.

Raven-sitting high spot
eyes on the snowpeaks,
nose of morning
raindrops in the sunshine
Skin of sunlight
skin of chilly gravel
Mind in the mountain, mind of tumbling water,
mind running rivers
Mind of sifting
flowers in the gravels
At the end of the ice age
we are the bears, we are the ravens,
We are the salmon
in the gravel
At the end of the ice age.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paul Nash - November Moon

One of the paintings at the Ancient Landscapes exhibition was Paul Nash's November Moon, according to the catalogue Nash had been interested in how the moon appears in daylight in November. Autumn is a time of decay and death, and of course the painting has the cypress trees, evergreens associated with immortality, this tree also is part of death as well, connected with the Greek underworld.

Here Nash is playing the cycle between dying and living, the large mushroom at the forefront and the convolvous or Morning Glory one representing autumn and death, the summer flower twisting its way following the sun. This painting is very similar in expression to the Sun Eclipsing the Sunflower shown earlier on, and its soft pastel tones hide a more dramatic expression.

This picture by Nash is not in the exhibition, but again the moon figures strongly, the rounded hill is probably the Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, which he painted several times, a more formalised version can be seen in Under the Hill.

Partial Eclipse of the Sun. .

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Brotherhood of the Ruralists

This is a group of several painters who came together in 1975 and founded the Brotherhood of Ruralists in Wellow, which is not too far from a favourite place of mine, Stoney Littleton longbarrow. They painted the Wiltshire countryside, amongst other things, in a stylised and romantic vision, following in the footsteps of the Pre-raphaelites.

The Station House at Wellow which they bought in 1975 in a derelict state, now it is a family home, though the station verandah can still be seen.

Now both styles of art are an acquired taste, the voluptuous red-hair females of Rossetti and Morris enmeshed in historical fantasy, are a 19th century adaption of the highly idealised style of that century. The Ruralists on the other hand create a misty visionary art style, but also there is that clear cut lines of almost surreal images.

This for instance is David Inshaw's Standing Stones,

They are the stones in the Avenue at Avebury, and he has captured the sexual connotations of the male and female stones, the 'male' stone falling neatly between two 'female' stones. His other works (to be included in the later exhibition at Victoria Gallery - Bath are;

Silbury Hill on a Starry Night
Owl and Silbury;
Portrait of Silbury Hill;

As will the work of Graham Ovendon; a painting and a drawing entitled 'Sentinels of Silbury Hill'

Graham Arnold on the other hand (no illustration here,) paints a vivid scene of Found Objects , such things as we like to display on a shelf. Here a vase of bright red poppies, a conch shell, quill pens in an old victorian bottle displayed against a black background, but to the left of the composition a window on a megalithic structure - a quoit - for they also lived in Cornwall, home to these megalithic mushroom stones that are so much part of the countryside. Arnold's work has caught the serenity of the Wiltshire countryside, with the following painting;-

Earthwork at Maiden Castle;
Dragon Hill, Uffington;
The White Horse (Uffington);
The White Horse, Alton barnes;
His wife, paints in a different style,

but do not think that you are looking at a unicorn placed so serenely in its enclosure backed by a rock. For this is a donkey and the painting is based on a real hill in Shropshire, where the Arnolds lived, and they allowed it to become a sanctuary for wild animals. Two donkeys also lived on this hill, so dreamy notions of chaste white unicorns must be subverted into a rather awkwardly placed donkey in a very small space - though safe in its sanctuary, the space is very small in the wilderness.

August 1st Partial eclipse of the Sun

Eclipse of the Sunflower

This rather dramatic painting is to be found at The Victoria Gallery part of an exhibition called Ancient Landscapes, Pastoral Visions, and it seemed appropiate to marke the partial eclipse of the sun today with Paul Nash's Eclipse of the Sunflower.
Why did he choose this particular expression of the sun eclipsing the sunflower, he was coming to the end of his life, both through ill health and the war. For him the sunflower had many meanings, for instance the sunflower always follows the path of the sun, and in the classical myth Clytie was punished by her sister who turned her into a flower so that she 'turns with the sun and reflects its colour', and it was in the 19th century that it became the symbol for yearning or unrequited love. And of course an eclipsed sun-disc could also reflect the 'infernal calamity of a global conflict', So this painting represents Nash seeing himself as 'escaping into vast lonely places in complete freedom of bodily action, escaping the land but in death returning to it'.
There are several other Nash paintings at the exhibition...

Druid Landscape

Landscape of the Megaliths

This last painting is not the same 'landscape of the Megaliths' that is normally shown.

Ref; Catalogue - Ancient Landscapes, Pastoral Visions by Anne Anderson, Robert Meyrick, Peter Nahum