Tag 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.

“A Land” has Landed

Here’s our copy of the new edition of A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes, just out from Harper Collins, on show in the Reading Room.  We’re so excited that this wonderful book is in print again at last and hope it will delight many readers new to Jacquetta’s unique mix of archaeology, geology, history and personal insights into the landscape of Britain.

Music for a Bowed Oscillator

The re-appearance of A Land is leading to all sorts of exciting new connections for Jacquetta’s work.  I was intrigued to learn about this piece by David Ap Martlet inspired by re-reading A Land.

“A Flamboyant History of Planet England”: A Land is back in print

In Saturday’s Guardian Review, Robert MacFarlane re-reads A Land and reflects on its continuing power and its author’s fascinating life.  MacFarlane introduces a new edition of the book, due out shortly in the Collins Natural Library, which describes it as a classic piece of British nature writing (here it is on Amazon).  While A Land is readily found in libraries and the second-hand trade, having been a huge seller in its time, its reappearance in print (and electronically!) is very exciting.  This will bring it to new audiences and encourage further discussion of its qualities.

“No-one has ever written more beautifully …”

Nice to see A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes chosen by writer Adam Nicolson as one of the five best books about England in this short piece from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph.  He suggests an interesting comparison with a book new to me, Taylor on English Building, which he says see buildings (and stone) as the “autobiography of the country”.  Interesting stuff.