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Posts Tagged ‘samuel_palmer’

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/

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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.

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It’s a month since I blogged so a lot to catch up on. I’ve just got back from a rainy week in Portugal, missing the good weather in the UK, and now sitting in Skylark Gallery with the cold wind and rain falling outside – the weather performing a Bank Holiday Special.

Yesterday I queued up early morning to see the David Hockney show at the Royal Academy which finishes today. It wasn’t the 4 hour wait some had reported – I was there at 9.15 and was in by 10.45. I must admit I was disappointed with about 80% of the pieces shown. I thought much of the work looked rushed and unfinished, and could really have done with a critical eye over it beforehand to cherrypick the best pieces; the show wouldn’t have suffered for less work being shown. Surprisingly the ipad drawings in reproduction worked very well, seeming to retain the lightbox effect of the technology on the printed version. Light was what seemed to be missing from many of those big flatly painted canvases, along with any real vision or depth to the images. I really liked 3 of the hawthorn blossom pictures which seemed to have more form in their amorphic surrealism than some of the more straight pictures of trees and landscapes, and also more fun and pop joy in nature effervescing.

In terms of subject matter, this was all of course right up my lane, so to speak. In March I went up to Oxford to see the Graham Sutherland exhibition at MOMA called An Unfinished World – focusing on his dark and neo-romantic pictures of Pembrokeshire on paper, landscapes and trees being so similar in subject matter to the Hockney show. The scale of the work differed hugely to Hockney’s of course, but the images hold more magic and emotion. Sutherland for me is able to infuse mystery into an image, and the highlights were 4 studies for Entrance to a Lane shown together. The sense of place conveyed by Sutherland is missing from Hockney’s vision of the countryside, I think because Hockney is concerned with the surface of the world and not what lies beneath.

When Hockney looks in detail with the camera montages of lanes and hedges, it is again just the surface, and no matter how big the image is, there is nothing revelatory about the changes in season or the atmosphere of the landscape for those of us who walk regularly along lanes and across fields. My favourite of these moving images was the hedgerow on a windy day simply because of the movement that was lacking in the unmoving surfaces of the other films.

In Oxford, a visit late in the day to the Ashmolean Museum led us to the Print Room for an hour to examine the superb Samuel Palmer drawings and sepia pictures of his visionary years in Shoreham. That really was a magical experience to hold the pictures and be able to examine them with a magnifying glass in all their minute and exquisite detail. Interesting too that the ink is a much darker brown than I remembered when I had seen them at the British Museum show of his work a few years back, but this may be influenced by the tan coloured reproductions which seem to have been produced over the years.

So I’m feeling inspired to paint again, but in the meantime I’ve added some more collage postcards to my website – the first shown here is called The Ascent of Man and the second is The Surprising Attractions of the Rheidol Valley, Aberystwyth.

ImageImage

There are 8 more new ones in the collage gallery of my site.

I’m now gearing up for showing my work in the Pavilion Cafe in Dulwich Park as part of the Dulwich Festival Open House next month (14th May – 3rd June), and before that at Grand Designs Live at London’s Excel with Skylark Galleries from 4th-13th May.

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