Category Archives: A Land

The sun went in, the fire went out

Jacquetta Hawkes and her archive continue to inspire artists and curators!  “The sun went in, the fire went out” is a new exhibition which uses Jacquetta’s  experience to present art made by three avant-garde female artists active during the 1960s and 1970s: Annabel Nicolson, Carlyle Reedy, and Marie Yates.

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“The sun went in, the fire went out”.  Detail from exhibition catalogue front cover: Jacquetta’s handwritten text which inspired the exhibition

 

The curators, Karen di Franco and Elisa Kay, also explore parallels with the work of modernist writer Mary Butts, who, like Jacquetta, was a well-known figure who became marginal – and is now being rediscovered.

What do these women have in common as artists?  The qualities characteristic of A Land, Jacquetta’s greatest and most distinctive work: “resistance to easy categorization, concern for process, and understanding of physical and cultural landscape”, to quote an enthusiastic review by Jonathan P. Watts for Frieze magazine.

The Sun went in, the fire went out: landscapes in film, performance and text” is on show at CHELSEA space, Chelsea College of Arts, from 27 January to 4 March 2016.

 

It makes my flesh weary: Jacquetta Hawkes and continental drift

Why do Earth’s continents fit together so neatly?  Were they once joined together?  If so, why did they move apart?  Are they still moving and if so, how?   The theory of plate tectonics, developed during the 1960s, elegantly answers these puzzling questions.  The continents are on plates which move thanks to convection, grind against each other and move as new rocks rise up through the ocean ridges and push the plates apart.  We now see that Earth’s geology is a dynamic, living system, with renewal centred on the sea bed.

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When Jacquetta Hawkes wrote A Land, this theory hadn’t yet taken shape.   Geological change in her worldview was overwhelmingly vertical: land rose through volcanic activity and was then worn down, endlessly.

” … the limestones and sandstones, the chalk and clay that make so great a part of the landscape of Britain. It makes my flesh weary to recall this seemingly endless levelling down. In fact it is not endless. So long as the hard skin on which we live rests on a morass of molten magma, there must come a moment when it will weaken and ruck up, and as the energy long curbed below is freed, the sedimentary rocks that have been laid so quietly on the sea floor may be thrust up ruggedly into the air.”

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Tim Radford cites this striking passage in a chapter on plate tectonics in his new Guardian short, Science that changed the world.   For him, Jacquetta’s book, along with The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson, illustrates the 1950s view of the workings of Earth:

“For [Carson], and for Hawkes, the ocean floor was the basement, the foundation, the oldest part of the planet. It was pretty difficult to imagine how a continent could migrate across it. The seeming snugness of fit of the Brazilian bump and the west African concavity was just as likely to be a co-incidence: just one of those puzzling things in a perpetually puzzling world. There were, indeed, as both writers seem casually to concede, schools of thought that contended that continents could move. It was just that nobody could imagine how the continents could have moved, and then propose an empirical way of proving that they did”.

Photo credit: Globes in the National Geographic shop, Regent Street, 2008.  Ricardo’s flickr stream, CC BY 2.0.

Stone-book and word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane returns to A Land

A Land, the unique, unclassifiable book Jacquetta Hawkes was born to write, is celebrated in the latest publication from nature writer Robert Macfarlane: LANDMARKS.

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Landmarks is a word-hoard, a glossary of disappearing dialect words for British nature phenomena, a celebration of the particular and the specific (qualities to which Jacquetta was of course drawn in her own writing).  Macfarlane reflects on his own journey into nature writing and the authors who influenced him.  He describes A Land as the “stone-book” of his twenties and devotes several pages to reflections on its power and strangeness.

Macfarlane always has interesting things to say about A Land, a book he has clearly pondered over many years.  I noticed the way he discusses an interesting paradox in A Land.  Its scale is both very broad – spanning millennia, transcending ideas of nation/country/race, absurd when seen from the perspective of deepest time – and very precise.  It is recognisably a product of its particular time and place: New Elizabethan Britain: the era of the Festival of Britain, renewal after the privations of post-war austerity, the romantic modernism of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.  As Macfarlane notes, Jacquetta shaped the relationship of these disparate elements with aplomb and daring, zooming from her own garden to the Cretaceous and bringing all together with passion, deep knowledge and honesty.

From Aquabob to Zawn, Guardian article by Robert Macfarlane about the word-hoard in Landmarks & some (very positive) reviews of the book: Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Times Higher Education Supplement.

Reading the Fragments: review of Pots before Words

Alice Miller reviews Pots before Words, Kate Morrell’s exhibition inspired by Jacquetta, in the arts magazine This is Tomorrow.

It’s a fantastic review, with great insight into Jacquetta’s thinking and how Kate has engaged with her. I particularly like this: “Just as Hawkes worked to access prehistory through the study of objects, Morrell has created new objects as a way of accessing the history of Jacquetta Hawkes. ‘Pots before words’ casts the viewer as archaeologist, as Morrell’s body of work encourages thought and discovery, inviting us to read the fragments.”

There’s still time to see the exhibition, which is on at Gallery II at the University of Bradford until 22 May.

A Land at Chipping Campden Lit Fest

Dr Christine Finn will discuss Jacquetta’s life and ideas on Friday 3 May 2013 at the Chipping Campden Literature Festival.  Jacquetta had a particular connection with this part of Gloucestershire.  She lived in Chipping Campden for the latter part of her life, moving to a house called Littlecote after the death in 1984 of her husband J.B. Priestley.  This was, as her friend Diana Collins observed, a wise move, taking her away from the home she had shared with JB but not too far from her local friends and interests.

Jacquetta Hawkes in 1986, at Hubberholme church

Jacquetta Hawkes in 1986, at Hubberholme church

Full details of the programme, location, tickets etc. on the Festival website.  The Festival looks to be a fascinating mix of literary discussion, practical skills and fun for children.  Authors celebrated in the programme include Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Proust, Ford Madox Ford and Nancy Mitford.

On Blog and Pod (quick updates)

Quirky Yorkshire fashion blogger Noonton and Cocobean liked the Back to A Land Jacquetta Hawkes exhibition!

Great news!  The Radio 3 Jacquetta documentary is to be available indefinitely as a podcast.   So if you missed it, or want to hear it again, here it is!

More responses to the Radio 3 documentary and Back to A Land to follow … and do let me know your thoughts or any other reviews that you encounter.

 

Back to A Land: on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

We’re thrilled to announce that some of the most exciting, beautiful and historically fascinating objects in the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive will be on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 8 September to 4 November 2012.  They appear as part of an exhibition, Back to A Land, curated by Dr Christine Finn, Jacquetta’s biographer.

La Cotte de St. Brelade (Jersey), entrance to the cave from the ravine (archive ref: HAW 18/3/45)

La Cotte de St. Brelade (Jersey), entrance to the cave from the ravine (archive ref: HAW 18/3/45)

The exhibition coincides with the Harper Collins reissue of Jacquetta’s tour de force, A Land, her synthesis of geology, poetry and travelogue.  Fêted by critics and the public as a celebration of Britain’s landscape as it emerged out of the dark days of war, Hawkes’ wandering – and wondering – about the origins of Britain’s foundations, from primeval swamp to North London pavement, was illustrated by her friend Henry Moore.  Dr Finn has used the book as well as Jacquetta’s notebooks, manuscripts, photographs and other archive items to revisit the key locations of A Land, reflecting on how Britain has changed since first publication and presents the results in new photography, film, and illustration.