This week’s post takes a broader look at some of the artists whose work would have featured in our Dulwich Festival show, “A Green and Pleasant Land”. The work selected looks at the world close up – it features beaches, forests, landscapes, trees, abandoned structures and often the impact of man’s presence on it.
‘Green and Pleasant Land’ is a line from one of England’s most popular hymns, Jerusalem; one of William Blake’s poems written in the early 1800’s and set to music in 1916 by Sir Hubert Parry, it is often hailed as Britain’s unofficial national anthem. Blake’s poem was written when England was facing great change with the Industrial Revolution, his ‘dark Satanic mills’ seen as threatening nature and human relationships.
Today this threat comes in a different form, as we find ourselves in lockdown, trying to fathom out how we live in a world where COVID 19 exists and what it means for the future, our nation both united and divided in equal measure.
With environmental issues at a critical point, we are dealing with a pandemic that, whilst reaping tragedy, is also proving restorative to the land and we explore how artists see and interpret the Green and Pleasant Land we live in today. We look at how they interpret urban and rural landscape through their own cultural, political or spiritual ideologies.
Ceramic sculptor, Rowena Brown recreates abandoned structures inspired by the weatherworn derelict houses often seen scattered throughout the British Isles. Rowena explores themes of self and the dichotomy between isolation and community in her work. The sombre architectural forms although individually dark, empty and isolated when grouped together appear to form their own community, evoking human interaction and suggesting a human presence by its absence. The houses are intended as being objects for contemplation and to provoke reminiscence.
Rowena, has exhibited with Cavaliero Finn for over 10 years and recently moved from London to the Hebrides in Scotland, a place that has always been a source of inspiration for the artist.
Ceramicist Barry Stedman’s vessels are inspired by the light and patterns in the sky and the farms and fields visible from his home and on his train journeys to and from London, where he works as a part time assistant to Edmund de Waal.
Working with red, iron-infused, earthenware, Barry creates hand-thrown and slab-built vessels. Using sticks and twigs the artist alters, marks, scratches and sometimes rips the surface of the clay while shaping his final form. The work is very energetic and intuitive. A white or cream slip is then built up as a base and Barry continues, layer upon layer, mark-making on the clay surface, as if it were a canvas, this time with a variety of different coloured slips. His colourful abstract designs reflect the changing seasons and capture the vibrancy of the English countryside.
Painters David Edmond, Kate Sherman, Gill Rocca, Catherine Knight, Rebecca McLynn, Mia Cavaliero and Trevor Burgess all look at our natural environment and investigate how man fits into the world. In some cases, there are only hints at human presence; the glow of streetlights in Gill Rocca’s imagined landscapes and an ordinary plastic garden chair randomly located amongst the beautiful birch trees in Kate Sherman’s new work. In others, like the paintings of Rebecca McLynn, DJ Lowrie, Catherine Knight the interpretations are deeply personal where the artist strives to capture the essence of their experience at a particular place, depicting a particular light, mood or atmospheric condition in order to process and communicate their experience of the landscape.
In a similar way, Alison Griffin’s detailed drawings look at landscape from the past, a past that is firmly rooted in her own personal childhood memories. In her new work she has incorporated oil to the drawing to capture the heat of the day at dusk. There is always a slight unnerving tension in Alison’s paintings which the title of this painting, Where Worlds Collide, suggests.
Winner of this year’s Scenes of Everyday Life Category in the Jackson Painting Prize, Judith Tucker is inspired by the landscape and the environment of Humberston, on the North East Coast of Lincolnshire. Her latest series, Night Fitties is concerned with the Fitties plotlands at Humberston which lie behind marshy beach and dunes. Here, since between the wars, local people and visitors have erected their diverse dwellings with individualistic names and styles, in order to enjoy the simple, restorative pleasures of seaside life. This particular area might be considered the epitome of a landscape in which the human and non-human are interconnected and entwined. For Judith, it is a place that invites questions about what is natural, and what is unnatural and in her work, she explores the play of light and dark and the uncanny transformations of the chalets that take place after hours as well as notions of vulnerability, precarity, occupation and emptiness.
Both David Edmond and Trevor Burgess are great observers of people and how they interact in our towns and cities. David paints busy beaches full of people but all interacting in their own lives, together but not together, united by the sea and sand.
Trevor’s paintings look at life in the city but in this case, painting busy markets and city streets. Trevor explores how people use their surroundings, they are very much about living and living pre-COVID 19.
Artists Hannah Tounsend and Angela Charles are both inspired by coastal landscapes using different media, clay and acrylic and coloured pencil. Their abstract, gestural works evoke the windswept, rugged, coastlines of the South and South West of Britain.
Artist Helen Ballardie has always been inspired by paintings from the past that she reinterprets providing a new narrative. Her most recent work is inspired by the flowers in the garden where she is staying during lockdown. In the work she references, Dutch flower paintings from the 17th Century weaving them into her semi-abstract paintings in her own unique way.
A number of the beautiful paintings we have available on the website by Helen were recently featured in the latest season of the BBC drama The Split (still available on the iplayer if you’ve not already watched this series during lockdown – it’s worth a look)
Ceramic sculptor, Ikuko Iwamoto investigates the microscopic world, looking at the microorganisms that inhabiit the natural world as a source of inspiration and she brings this to life in porcelain. Delicate and detailed, her work often incorporates spikes that holds us at arm’s length creating a tension, attracting and yet repelling at the same time. Ikuko’s work tells the story of a world that remains largely unseen but as we are accutely aware, now more than ever, is very much there.
If you would like to find out more about any of the artists featured in this post, do please go to our artists and click on their page. We also post regular updates and sometimes videos on each of our artists on social media. So, if you don’t already, do follow us using the links below: