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December 2009: Sitting in the rather empty pre-revived Brixton Village in our pop-up alternative pagan Christmas shop – Gruff and Tackleton’s Winter Menagerie – my fellow artist Juliet Walker and I were talking about the future of society and how we are currently living in a golden time, with all kinds of food available, living luxuriously in warmth with shelter and security, and how really we know that this isn’t a sustainable way of life, that humans have a misplaced self-importance as a species and that we know this is a very very lucky time to be alive.

Gruff and Tackleton’s Winter MenagerieGruff and Tackleton's Winter Menagerie

 And during this conversation Dougald Hine has walked in to the shop and says “It’s so curious that you are having this conversation. Lots of people are having similar discussions – you might be interested in this pamphlet we’ve written”. So the next day Dougald delivers his little red booklet  – The Dark Mountain Manifesto – and so begins a journey with the Dark Mountain project which results in this picture being the jacket for Dark Mountain 4…

Dark Mountain 4 - Book Cover with Man on a Laptop (Early Morning)

Dark Mountain 4 – Book Cover with Man on a Laptop (Early Morning)

My work has always been to do with our relationship to the natural world around us, the natural world that we have such a blasé way of either separating ourselves from or of which we presume we are in control. Of course we have altered the world and nearly every landscape is affected by our behaviour and needs, but without us here,the rivers would still flow, plants would still grow and animals and birds would carry on in their domains, the tides and weathers would still be in control, so it’s not so hard to put our place on this planet in perspective.

And this last few hundred years since the industrial revolution is a miniscule blip in time. 200 years ago Samuel Palmer was living on the Old Kent Road in London, enjoying his boyhood in the surrounding fields and lanes of the outskirts of the city. As he grew up and industry began to blight his environment, he escaped to his rural idyll at Shoreham in Kent and created his most visionary work, most of which is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. For those of us in London, the Old Kent Road could symbolise the path of man since then with its dereliction, industrial estates and retail parks and barely a green space in sight.

When I escaped London in 2006, in the back of my mind I was searching for a Palmer-esque landscape and found it in the hills of mid-Wales on the Shropshire borders; this is where these particular Man on a Laptop pictures rose from my subconscious, and why I put this picture forward for the Dark Mountain book.

I had been working for the Campaign to Protect Rural England for 9 years, and had been asked by CPRE to send an image on a postcard for a fundraising auction they were holding. And so this little pencil drawing was born of the first Man on a Laptop as I sat one wet afternoon overlooking a marsh in Pentre’r Beirdd (in English – the village of the poets):

Homage to Samuel Palmer 2007 - pencil drawing

Homage to Samuel Palmer 2007 – pencil drawing

The figure was taken directly from Samuel Palmer’s The Valley Thick with Corn in the Ashmolean Museum. His book is turned on its side and becomes the laptop:

Samuel Palmer - The Valley Thick with Corn

Samuel Palmer – The Valley Thick with Corn

Whereas Palmer showed no sign of the modern world encroaching in his picture, I wanted to show the powers stations and wind farms in the distance. These fecund landscapes are so precious to us now, and yet a chain of pylons now threatens to blight the same valley where I made this picture – to carry the power inland from questionably efficient wind farms on the Welsh coast.

Here is the more detailed sepia drawing – using Palmer’s gum arabic and ink method – which I made on my return to London in my studio in Brixton Village:

Man on a Laptop (After Palmer) - ink drawing

Man on a Laptop (After Palmer) – ink drawing

And finally the etching which I made in 2011

Man on a Laptop (After Samuel Palmer) - etching

Man on a Laptop (After Samuel Palmer) – etching

So after this came Man on a Laptop (Early Morning)  – the image above for Dark Mountain 4 – which was the first sepia drawing I made in Palmer’s style and rather obviously uses a mushroom tree similar to his tree from his most famous picture Early Morning:

Samuel Palmer - Early Morning

Samuel Palmer – Early Morning

And instead of the small group of people (the Ancients perhaps) communing under the tree, my man on a laptop communicates to his fellows across the world from his satellite enabled laptop. Here is the etching based on the sepia drawing:

Man on a Laptop (Early Morning) - etching

Man on a Laptop (Early Morning) – etching

So we’re at that time where we are living with these beautiful ancient landscapes nestled between our towns and cities, industrial parks and sprawl, where we are part of them and separate from them; where our technology affects their very existence with our reliance on more and more energy for more and more people. What I appreciate about Dark Mountain is that the manifesto is not didactic – there are no answers to these issues; the writers are bringing forward important conversations and creating new stories about the future, a future no one can really predict. We know this way of living can’t continue exponentially, so what happens next…

http://dark-mountain.net/

I know quite a lot of my followers here and on my email newsletter aren’t in London so I’m posting a few pictures of my Barbican show here for you:

Kit-Boyd-Barbican-2 Kit-Boyd-Barbican-1

World in My Eyes is on until the 26th June if you are able to get along.

Kit Boyd at the Barbican

Pan and Shamanic Object locked in their vitrine.

The exhibition about Samuel Palmer in which 3 of my etchings appeared last year in Oxfordshire is now available online

http://www.elizabethharvey-lee.com/exhibitions/palmer/palmer_intro.htm

It’s a really interesting show featuring all of Palmer’s etchings, those of his peers, and those of his followers. Let alone Palmer, I feel honoured to be in the company of Robin Tanner, Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury and George Tute, whose stunning wood engraving Dandelion Field is hanging in front of me as I write this.

It’s a shame the reproductions of my work in the catalogue and online are not very good – I have no idea how they were scanned or photographed but they look terrible – so I’m publishing the 3 of them here, though the quality of the original prints is hard to reproduce in digital form:

Man on a Laptop (Early Morning)

Man on a Laptop (Early Morning)

The Shining Path

The Shining Path

Night on the Lane

Night on the Lane

All three of these etchings are on show in my current Barbican solo exhibition on Level 2 called THE WORLD IN MY EYES until 26th June and I’ll also be taking them to the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead next week where I’m on Stand L2 with East London Printmakers.

All of the framing and preparations finally came together on Thursday when everything was cosily loaded into the back of my friend Juliet’s little blue Peugot. Having got completely lost in the dark underbelly of the Barbican – if you think it’s a maze above then try going underneath it all – we surfaced to Level 2 with the help of the wonderful support of Leslie, the Library Technician. He couldn’t have been more helpful and made putting everything up remarkably stress-free, as did Juliet Walker whose brilliant eye and professionalism really helped in hanging my work, as did Macsud for being there and doing all the time consuming jobs that would have worn me out even more. 

There are over 100 original pieces in the show (60 of them being my postcard collages which are shown here in the cases below) covering over 20 years of work.

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The earliest painting is from 1990 and is called Imago. I made this when I was at university in Aberystwyth after a trip to Tuscany and it hung at my parents house in Rugby for many years. The most recent pieces are a painting called The New Shore and my etching called Another World, inspired by the song of the same title by Antony and the Johnsons.

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Trip to Avebury

On Saturday I visited Avebury for the third time, a bleak and cold day just after the equinox and not much sign of spring arriving. 

Listening to Julian Cope’s beautiful meditative Woden (‘one meteorological cloud of music’ as he describes it) I spent a few hours yesterday creating a more realistic feeling of the atmosphere of the stone circle.

Interestingly the sky – a blank white in the photographs – seemed to pulsate and energise the compositions when I played with saturation and hue so that this informed the aesthetic of the images.

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An obliging rook.

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I love the juxtaposition of the stone and the Paul Nash-esque gate posts in the background.

 

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A face in profile in the stone – hard to think this hasn’t been carved by human hand at some point in time

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My friend Martin Litmus – fallen to earth

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Silbury Hill from the bus on the way back to London

The Control Centre

The Control Centre

Collage on vintage postcard in my series of Britain being taken over by plants and plant spores, controlling humans to do their bidding.