The Dark Monarch

Tate St Ives: Exhibition :10 October 2009 – 10 January 2010

I came across this exhibition from Tate St Ives The Dark Monarch, which takes its title from a book written in the 60s by St Ives artist Sven Berlin. It seems really relevant to the themes I am currently exploring, folklore, mythology, the occult and landscape. It explores the tension between romantic knowledge and progressive modernity, by examining the magical, mythical and geological elements which are embedded in the British landscape, whilst also seeking to connect magic to modernism by drawing on their common links such as fetishisms and taboos.

It features works by a variety of artists which include Damien Hirst and Derek Jarmen, the latter of which has created an intriguing, surreal film Sulphur,1975 which appears to show some kind of strange ceremony or ritual.

The video alerted me to the photography of Paul Nash (a well known surrealist painter) which was based on phenomena in the landscape, something which I also find myself photographing on a regular basis.

While my work seems to be more focused on the macro and details in the landscape, Nash takes large subjects such as fallen trees or inanimate objects such as stones, and to me,  these stark black and white images instill a sense of unrest, or even underlying evil, appearing as if they are statuesque monsters, waiting to be awoken.

They also bring to mind the writings of Aldous Huxley, in Heaven and Hell : “In nature, as in a work of art, the isolation of an object tends to invest it with absoluteness, to endow it with that more-than-symbolic meaning which is identical with being. “

3. ‘Monster Field’, Carswall’s Farm, Newent, Gloucestershire. (1108/L*). PW III. 170x303 mms. 1938. Lit: iii, no.22. iv, pl.88. i. and ii. no. 32. Related to an oil painting and two watercolours exhibited 1939.

3. ‘Monster Field’, Carswall’s Farm, Newent, Gloucestershire. (1108/L*). PW III. 170×303 mms. 1938. Lit: iii, no.22. iv, pl.88. i. and ii. no. 32. Related to an oil painting and two watercolours exhibited 1939.

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5. Stone Post. (661/T*). PW V. 303x160 mms. Lit: ii, no.20.

5. Stone Post. (661/T*). PW V. 303×160 mms. Lit: ii, no.20.

As this exhibition is long gone, I managed to source the paperback book about it on Amazon, edited by the presenter of the video, Michael Bracewell. I await its delivery, as i feel it will be an important reference in regards to my research.

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