‘A small but special Spring Plant Fair’ (the header on the flyer) this weekend at Great Dixter offered the opportunity for a gentle stroll around the garden as well as to view, buy, make notes about and order from exquisite plant nurseries. Wandering up the drive by foot and admiring the structure of the trees around the horse pond – an experience often missed if entering and exiting by car. A still and misty morning . . .
. . . some plants just need more observation now such as the chusquea in relief against the castellated yew hedging.
Simon’s stacks of timber await his decisions on their reinvention into a functional item. Organised groupings and practical arrangements show clearly in the early season before the masses of ornamental vegetation take over . . .
In the field below the nursery and the shop, many small, established nurseries showed their plants, seeds and products. Lohhof Stauden displayed many grasses and Wildside with Keith Wiley presented delicious, delicate looking but tough treasures.
Around the Lower Moat, gunnera fronds are on view – the unfurling is magnificent to behold – such stature – accompanied by new vertical growth on the iris – slim and neat in contrast.
From the orchard the house appears to retreat behind the flowering fruit at this time of year but in the Long Border the drama is centre stage. Confident planting with all companions appearing well orchestrated. Great knobbly stems of salix, naked and as yet unadorned, punctuate the composition . . .
. . . the beauty of emerging foliage and flower heads is quite breath taking.
The Exotic Garden looks tantalising but we are not allowed in quite yet, as everything is under wraps until the temperatures rise, so the Topiary Lawn claims our attention . . .
. . . large trumpets of lime green and piped stems of bamboo and the coppery skirts on Euphorbia x pasteuri delight my eye around the Blue Garden.
Pretty blossoms on Prunus tenella in the Sunk Garden – so feminine. And various compositions both detail at ground level and bulkier and more distant at eye level offer themselves up to those who can’t get enough . . .
. . . Fergus has a thing about euphorbias and he’s right! Marvellous with the clipped yew backdrops . .
and just to finish lines of early, fosteriana, double and late tulips. All one could wish for.
Preludes and dawns, those spare awakenings
Gone before listened to, how we miss such
Arrays of opportunities. As sun lifts up
Its wings and birds tune their large orchestra,
We are invited out of sleep, called to
Take part, share all such daily, sweet beginnings.
Dramas of dreams rise up, the haze of them
Dries in the sun and the awakened mind.
The spirit’s opportunities see flights
We seldom heed. Good moments of regret
Vanish in our wanton rummagings,
O bold designs, O short disparaged nights. Elizabeth Jennings Missed Chances
November 10, 2013
We woke up to warm sun this Sunday and it was most welcome following torrential rain and a storm ten days ago. Standing in the attic window, I spied a swimmer doing a fast crawl towards the pier – wondered if the sea was warm too – and was a little relieved to see him exit the water about 30 minutes later.
The storm threw the pebbles over the lower promenade disguising the division between beach and tarmac . . .
. . . strong shadows on the soft, sandy, lower stretch . . .
. . . all the crunch is now higher up mixed with seaweed drying out and crisping up.
Taking this shot, I start to notice the cracks and fissures in the concrete oversail . . .
. . and conscious of Cornelia Parker, having watched and been influenced by her episode in What Do Artists Do All Day, started to take more detailed shots . . . .
. . and then I started to think what I was going to do with the photographs – time will tell.
Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Futile – the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!
Rowing in Eden -
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight -
In thee! Emily Dickinson Wild Nights
October 10, 2013
Meet under the canopy of the Shard – this was the instruction for the students studying garden design masterplan (BA Hons Garden Design) and place and culture and masterplanning (BA Hons Landscape Architecture). New start to the term and new project site: The Borough, Southwark. Cold, windy and hard environment here with major works happening to London Bridge station. The Wikipedia reference: Southwark is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudweca. The name means “southern defensive work” and is formed from the Old English sūth and weorc. The southern location is in reference to the City of London to the north, seemed appropriate to machinery machinations . . .
. . just a glimpse of a tree and a tempting offer on a station poster.
We intended to cover a semi circle – radius of 1000m centred on the station with first stop at more london . . black Kilkenny limestone defining the strong desire line . . . a busy ‘chunnel’ at 1pm on a working day. We talked about how the space would feel on a Sunday. We hoped/suggested that the students might make a visit then to note changes. I would if this was my major design site . . .
. . . some tumbling and some sitting about and some standing around on scaffolding. Great Fraxinus – they work better here than the more decorative birch . . .
Through Potters Field and on by the London City Mission, we crossed under the tunnels arriving at St Mary Magdelen Churchyard and then into Tanner Street Park. A group of Prunus sargentii were starting the fireworks display of autumn but, these poor trees showed the detrimental effect on plants trying to cope with badly laid paving + kerbs – terrifying hard landscaping. Through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park and on southwards to Tabard Gardens (lovely, potential here for detailed design – hint, hint) then east to Merrick Square and slowing down, a bit, to enjoy Trinity Church Square. .
. . . through Mint Street Park, we came across this community garden – green roof building and plenty of info for interested visitors. And yes, the baby came too.
On passed Cross Bones Cemetery and the ‘site with most potential’ that is currently a car park prior to development, we swung left down Southwark Street and into Neo Bankside. Many smiles spread across faces here. Maybe because the end was in sight but most likely as this landscape was deemed attractive by those studying – the staff more sceptical, which is their rightful position when analysing landscape projects, . . . . we’ll be doing it all again with the MA students – click here for this. We covered the semi circle ending at Tate Modern – another potential site – in just under 3 hours. So, looking forward to hearing and seeing the group survey presentation on this area, reading the A3 document and getting stuck into individual masterplanning at 1:500. All by the start of December – no pressure, of course. Exciting site will produce imaginative designs. And the poem, well for me it’s about not being precious about the past, allowing some respect but, mainly welcoming the future.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. E Bishop One Art
September 22, 2013
To the west of Aix-en-Provence, is a site that forms part of ‘Sur les Pas de Cézanne‘, if you are a tourist but is also a splendid place if you are a resident. I was very taken with this well built welcoming wall but someone else, quite small, charged off to see what happened beyond the far gate. The gate was quite lovely and well designed – everything was looking very promising until we hit the visitor’s centre . . .
. . . peering into the entrance through bars, we discovered that unfortunately we’d missed the only slot of the day for a guided tour. This happens at 9.45am but only on certain days. So I am grateful to Louisa Jones + photographer Clive Nichols for these scans below taken from Mediterranean Landscape Design – a wonderful book – of the scheme. Philippe Daliau (ALEP Agency) has created fine and sensitive interventions within the exposed stone providing a walk over differing surfaces with differing treatments – timber, metal -where views are encapsulated and framed by angled mass of the rock – some hewn and some natural.
Wandering through just part of the 7 hectare site that provided stone for the building of Aix (up to the end of 18C), we came across individual stone landscapes. In a certain way, it’s like a lost world but then in another, it’s seems well used. Rock climbing at a novice scale, mountain bikes carefully controlled, joggers, picque niques and large family get togethers and 4 legs all jostling together in a merry fashion.
Scrub oak, arbutus, pistacia lentiscus and pine form the major structural planting with some cistus, rosemary, euphorbia and rambling lonicera in the sunny patches . . .
. . framed views of Mont Sainte – Victoire and the barrage Zola taken while we lounged around on a rocky outcrop – an indulgent pastime for a Saturday morning and why not?
And moving on we find a built structure, not a cabanon that Cézanne might have used during his time drawing and painting here . . .
. . but a building that encouraged interaction and it had with a great view. Can’t take my eyes off the landscape.
The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly. G Stein Cézanne
September 9, 2013
Parque de la Memoria ( Memory Park) is unique in symbolism and unique among the eclectic mix of parks and green spaces in Buenos Aires. Carlos Thays planned most of the 19 – 20 C parks during the initial growth of this city as the capital of a large country facing industrialisation. In recent years, more contemporary open spaces have been slotted into post industrial developments such as Puerto Madero, along the Plata underlining the growth in the economy and changes in social requirements. Many of the new parks and urban spaces integrate abstract sculptures – this park has eight visually powerful pieces conceived and created within a broad collective theme of Human Rights. This is not only a park but also a monument to the tens of thousands of Argentines that disappeared during the military dictatorships that spanned 14 years. It’s fitting that the site chosen is by the river believed to be the final resting place of many of the disappeared and also that it is adjacent to the University that many victims were associated with.
The main access is uncompromising in its bleakness – an immediate wake up call to the rationale behind the design – but transforms itself well into a user friendly open classroom when the young inhabit the park . . . .
. . distant horizons are incorporated into the linear framework. The river is wide here but the sense of the opposite shore, Uruguay, is strong although too distant visually – the seen and the unseen. The personal memorial to those ‘lost’ is a series of concrete walls that vary in angle, height and length and define spaces that are sharply angled and sloping. The names of those that disappeared during the dictatorships are carved into bricks attached to the walls making a textured surface that contributes to a sense of discomfort, tension and sadness – all suitable.
The planting is chosen to underscore the symbolism as well as compliment the architectural feel of the park. A bosque of red budded Erythrina crista-galli, the national tree, and well able to cope with the harsh river side conditions plus the lack of management, stand in a asymmetrical group.
Areas of grass are left long perhaps to discourage active play – a creeping geranium tinged the sward with a flush of pink similar in tone to the spectacular flowers on the Ceiba speciosa . . . . .
. . . one installation that demands attention is the arc of 53 signs. Traffic signs that have become a visual language here display information as though on a route through Argentina’s recent history of state terrorism (Grupo de Arte Callejero). . . .
. . . and the dreaded Ford Falcon.
The park spreads out into the river in a wide arc enabling immediate connection with the water as well as opportunities to gaze, rest and reflect.
Pablo Miguez disappeared at the age of 14. This sculpture by Claudia Fontes was conceived specifically for this siting in the Rio de la Plata. If Pablo had survived he would be the same age today as the sculptor.
Libre de la memoria y de la esperanza,
ilimitado, abstracto, casi futuro,
el muerto no es un muerto: es la muerte.
Como el Díos de los místicos
de Quien deben negarse todos los predicados,
el muerto ubicuamente ajeno
no es sino la perdición y ausencia del mundo.
Todo se lo robamos,
no le dejamos ni un color ni una sílaba:
aquí está el patio que ya no comparten sus ojos,
allí la acera donde acechó su esperanza.
Aun lo que pensamos
podría estar pensándolo él;
nos hemos repartido como ladrones
el caudal de las noches y de los días.
Free of memory and of hope,
limitless, abstract, almost future,
the dead man is not a dead man: he is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
of Whom anything that could be said must be denied,
the dead one, alien everywhere,
is but the ruin and absence of the world.
We rob him of everything,
we leave him not so much as a color or syllable:
here, the courtyard which his eyes no longer see,
there, the sidewalk where his hope lay in wait.
Even what we are thinking,
he could be thinking;
we have divvied up like thieves
the booty of nights and days.
Jorge Luis Borges Remordimiento Por Cualquier Muerte
July 6, 2013
The term ‘pagoda’ is quite often misused, and surprisingly often misused by those in the garden profession. Many times I have heard contractors define a timber structure as a pagoda when it should be termed pergola. There again pergolas are often confused with arbours . . . but enough now on terminology. This tiered structure ‘La Pagode de Chanteloupe’ was built as a folly within a large 18C country estate on the Loire. The gardens were laid out in patterned formality to include the necessaries – vegetable, decorative, copses + groves – by the architect Louis-Denis Le Camus for a Duke.
These gates and railings appear to be original, even though most of the infrastructure of the estate was destroyed in the revolution. Visible features today are the pagoda with semi circular basin, Petit Pavilion (concierge house) + 2 other pavilions in Louis XVI style – markers for the estate entrance. Until recently the long avenue of limes afforded a view from the small parking area by the road, but now the first sighting is well and truly screened with hoardings – a shame – and the visitor is taken on a orchestrated route through ticket office, new Chinese garden and an area containing many traditional and rare children’s toys and games before being allowed through the gates and onto the shingle surround. The simplicity of this open shingle space in front of the structure is quite attractive not only visually . . .
. . but also for those who want to play instead of absorbing factual info – 44m high, 7 storeys and each ring with 16 columns – with the main function of the pagoda being to follow the routes and actions of the hunting parties within the woods and forests of that era. The ladies, I imagine, were not invited to ascend and view – staircase is far too narrow for wide skirts!
. . .
The banister rail on the ground floor is cast iron . . . . . .
. . and mahogany on the higher levels. Looking through to what were the original garden areas – now fields – it’s relatively easy to imagine the scale of the gardened grounds.
Below shows a proposed ground plan showing the château outlined in red and the central axis to the water features with the pagoda (largish dot) to the right. Also a bird’s-eye view showing the formality and precision of the garden layout.
Peering down from the highest landing . . .
. . . and up to the domed ceiling. Ah, the craftsmanship of the past. Mr Swatton could do it but not many others nowadays.
There are just a few signs of garden features – just enough to feel the character and ambience.
‘A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,’
Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers écouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l’atelier qui chante et qui bavarde;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d’éternité.
II est doux, à travers les brumes, de voir naître
L’étoile dans l’azur, la lampe à la fenêtre
Les fleuves de charbon monter au firmament
Et la lune verser son pâle enchantement.
Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;
Et quand viendra l’hiver aux neiges monotones,
Je fermerai partout portières et volets
Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.
Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,
Des jardins, des jets d’eau pleurant dans les albâtres,
Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,
Et tout ce que l’Idylle a de plus enfantin.
L’Emeute, tempêtant vainement à ma vitre,
Ne fera pas lever mon front de mon pupitre;
Car je serai plongé dans cette volupté
D’évoquer le Printemps avec ma volonté,
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère. Charles Baudelaire Paysage
More chasteness to my eclogues it would give,
Sky-high, like old astrologers to live,
A neighbour of the belfries: and to hear
Their solemn hymns along the winds career.
High in my attic, chin in hand, I’d swing
And watch the workshops as they roar and sing,
The city’s masts — each steeple, tower, and flue —
And skies that bring eternity to view.
Sweet, through the mist, to see illumed again
Stars through the azure, lamps behind the pane,
Rivers of carbon irrigate the sky,
And the pale moon pour magic from on high.
I’d watch three seasons passing by, and then
When winter came with dreary snows, I’d pen
Myself between closed shutters, bolts, and doors,
And build my fairy palaces indoors.
A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,
And all the Idyll holds of childhood’s spring.
The riots, brawling past my window-pane,
From off my desk would not divert my brain.
Because I would be plunged in pleasure still,
Conjuring up the Springtime with my will,
And forcing sunshine from my heart to form,
Of burning thoughts, an atmosphere that’s warm.
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)
July 4, 2013
Under grey skies on Romney Marsh. This view is from the road that runs through the shingle to the cluster of buildings erected around the old lighthouse. All now dwarfed by the power station. I am particularly fond of this view of this barren landscape – only to be found on this side of the road.
Directly opposite on the other side of the road sits Prospect Cottage, home of Derek Jarman until mid 1990’s. Each year this humble shack receives a new finish. In the grainy light, the poem by John Donne, on the exterior facade is only just visible. A few folks had set up their stools and were busy capturing the composition of house within garden and, within setting, in water colour. There are no boundaries to land in this environment and you can move restfully around the ‘garden’ of the cottage to view, admire and breathe it all in. Most of the planted species are indigenous and native material will also pop up from wind blown or bird dropped seed.
The impact of the surroundings completes the picture – in an informative way and also strangely in an enigmatic visual sense. This was a unique ‘garden’, now much copied and mostly badly.
In the 28 years since the initial visit, I have witnessed considerable changes to the habitations along the road. Over the last 5 years, almost complete gentrification has happened. Expensive vehicles are parked outside the neat refurbished houses. Fluffy garden areas are now established – all looking totally false in contrast to the original at Prospect Cottage.
The native planting where man doesn’t interfere still retains a quite specific feel and I fell in love with it all over again.
Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys and sour ‘prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the King will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shoulds’t thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me?
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, ‘All here in one bed lay.’
She’s all states, and all princes, I;
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here, to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere. John Donne The Sunne Rising
June 27, 2013
In the Domaine de Chaumont – sur – Loire, there is an annual international garden festival which I ‘ve visited about 6 times since it opened 20 odd years ago; mainly to see the show gardens. Since the beginnings, other areas of the park have been developed to offer visitor facilities and to contribute to the big idea of making Chaumont a Centre for Art and Nature devoted to the “relationship between nature and culture, artistic creation and the impact of landscape, our heritage and contemporary art” – from the brochure. This year, I found it difficult to respond to and enjoy most of the show gardens (post to follow), but what I did enjoy was the selective siting of installations within other parts of the parkland as well as the creation of another landscape for more permanent conceptual gardens – the Prés du Goualoup. L’archipel (top image) designed by Shodo Suzuki is here and is . . .
. . . a development of his original Zen garden from early years of the festival (above). One comment was that the recent creation looked a little like a golf course. Land form is always difficult to integrate into large areas of flat grassland and maybe the strong principles behind this form of garden were sitting uneasily within this landscape – certainly with spreads of pretty wild flowers. I did find it calming however, which is important.
The installation by Rainer Gross – Toi(t) à terre – visible from the Loire and offering views of the river from the parkland. This blackened wood form appears to have gently rolled down and settled itself in a discarded manner against one of the park trees . Great scale . . . . .
. . . and the partner, Toi(t) en perspective, hangs from the giant trees. Shapes inspired by the conical chateux towers, specifically Amboise, just along the Loire.
Patrick Dougherty designed these airy forms which looked like willow and indeed parts appeared to be sprouting. Tactile, curious and fun.
More serious work from David Nash – static, monumental, confident and not inviting – which isn’t a criticism just an observation. The cedars however, are monumental as well as retaining their graceful habit and character.
Within the renovated stables complex – stupendous 19th C indulgence – sits Spirale Végétale. Patrick Blanc created a green wall here many years ago – once seen never forgotten – where the workings were visible and so helpful to all who marvelled. He’s back again with this giant curving leaf form open to the sky. Many times copied but always falling short – his planting is his mark and my pix are poor!
By the Hayloft Gallery, one of the old farm buildings, a touch of contemporary amongst a wealth of quite beautifully renovated traditional elements. Corten steel to give you a rusty, grid pattern on your backside and uncomfortable to boot. So, the implication is not to perch.
By the greenhouse, wiggley -woggley lines of box domes which are rather charming especially as they sit in the angular built environment – an image used in a previous post.
Le Jardin de Yu Kongjian – Carré et Rond – re sited permanently in the new Goualoup area offers a curving boardwalk over water in an eyes down sort of way. More interesting in an eyes up way though is Nuage Permanent by Nakaya. The inside of a cloud within the birch grove. An imagined imagery controlled superbly.
Aujourd’hui l’espace est splendide!
Sans mors, sans éperons, sans bride,
Partons à cheval sur le vin
Pour un ciel féerique et divin!
Comme deux anges que torture
Une implacable calenture
Dans le bleu cristal du matin
Suivons le mirage lointain!
Mollement balancés sur l’aile
Du tourbillon intelligent,
Dans un délire parallèle,
Ma soeur, côte à côte nageant,
Nous fuirons sans repos ni trêves
Vers le paradis de mes rêves! Charles Baudelaire Le Vin des amants
Oh, what a splendour fills all space!
Without bit, spur, or rein to race,
Let’s gallop on the steeds of wine
To heavens magic and divine!
Now like two angels off the track,
Whom wild relentless fevers rack,
On through the morning’s crystal blue
The swift mirages we’ll pursue.
Now softly poised upon the wings
That a sagacious cyclone brings,
In parallel delirium twinned,
While side by side we surf the wind,
We’ll never cease from such extremes,
To seek the Eden of our dreams! trans. Roy Campbell
June 23, 2013
In a village in Normandy, faded French Navy paintwork and glorious mixed tones of iris – I really don’t care about the chain link fence as the tones of the flags are so rich and complimentary. Cayeux irises maybe . . .
. . . and they’re in a garden in Rue de la Messe. Beautiful calligraphy on the road sign – it’s France, of course. Further south on the Loire, more constrained planting here by the donkey stables in the Domaine of the Château de Chaumont-sue-Loire. The box balls sit in corten circles lining the well raked path network.
And nearby in Blois, box and other evergreen shrubs are planted and clipped to form green pillows on the sloping bank between road and château.
In the small park opposite, the planting is older, maybe early 1900’s, but thoughtful in the composition of shape and form. The tree planting in France always causes me to catch my breath in wonderment . . .
. . on the higher level are the Jardins des Lice with combinations of plant forms spread below the avenue of limes. This is the only part of the three parts of the Les Jardins du Château de Blois which remains incomplete but what is here is well maintained.
The completed parts designed by Gilles Clément contain Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux. Below is the Jardins des simples viewed from the terrace above – one of my favourite town parks – a gem of the contemporary treatment of traditional elements. Simple structure, cherries, crab apples, box + yew and decorative infill planting with classical limestone. So simple, yet so effective – it’s all in the detail.
Another are that sits midway between Jardin des lices and Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux is the Terrasse des fleurs royales with the squares of iris – the flower of Franςois I – at the end of the flowering season now but still effective with the papery brown flags en masse.
Perfect planting of philadelphus to shoulder the gated entrance. And the view from Clos des simples zodiacaux to the established and mature trees below and, even more faded French Navy, showing me once again that style, finish and detailing are second nature here.
Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l’abîme,
O Beauté? ton regard, infernal et divin,
Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime,
Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.
Tu contiens dans ton oeil le couchant et l’aurore;
Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux;
Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore
Qui font le héros lâche et l’enfant courageux.
Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres?
Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien;
Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres,
Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien.
Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques;
De tes bijoux l’Horreur n’est pas le moins charmant,
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques,
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.
L’éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle,
Crépite, flambe et dit: Bénissons ce flambeau!
L’amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle
A l’air d’un moribond caressant son tombeau.
Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l’enfer, qu’importe,
Ô Beauté! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu!
Si ton oeil, ton souris, ton pied, m’ouvrent la porte
D’un Infini que j’aime et n’ai jamais connu?
De Satan ou de Dieu, qu’importe? Ange ou Sirène,
Qu’importe, si tu rends, — fée aux yeux de velours,
Rythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine! —
L’univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds?
Do you come from Heaven or rise from the abyss,
Beauty? Your gaze, divine and infernal,
Pours out confusedly benevolence and crime,
And one may for that, compare you to wine.
You contain in your eyes the sunset and the dawn;
You scatter perfumes like a stormy night;
Your kisses are a philtre, your mouth an amphora,
Which make the hero weak and the child courageous.
Do you come from the stars or rise from the black pit?
Destiny, bewitched, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disaster,
And you govern all things but answer for nothing.
You walk upon corpses which you mock, O Beauty!
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances amorously upon your proud belly.
The dazzled moth flies toward you, O candle!
Crepitates, flames and says: ‘Blessed be this flambeau!’
The panting lover bending o’er his fair one
Looks like a dying man caressing his own tomb,
Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty! Huge, fearful, ingenuous monster!
If your regard, your smile, your foot, open for me
An Infinite I love but have not ever known?
From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden? Charles Baudelaire Hymn to Beauty
May 31, 2013
‘Tracks, prints and paths’ is a phrase used by Robert Macfarlane describing Eric Ravilious’ interaction with the South Downs in Macfarlane’s book ‘The Old Ways’ but James Russell is the recognised authoritative voice on Ravilious. Many images from Ravilious in Pictures published by The Mainstone Press are appearing on the web just now so I thought to put together my limited narrative of the Footsteps of Ravilious day exploring the South Downs landscape that inspired him. An event organised by the Towner, where many of his watercolour drawings are in the permanent collection.
Agricultural landscapes were his love . . . . . and appropriately we started our day at East Dean Farm sitting by the pond that he used as subject matter. This view sets the scene well although now quite gentrified (someone has ‘lined’ the pond) and the farm is now used as a wedding venue as well as a rare breeds sheep farm.
On to the chalk cliffs of Newhaven harbour and the west pier, where the tumps in the landscape (shown below) were made to house lunette batteries that protected the sea defences from invasion by Napoleon.
My view out to sea and, below ‘Newhaven Harbour’ a lithograph that Ravilious tagged as ‘Hommage to Seurat’.
. . and reach the view of Muggery Poke, now abandoned, but a landmark for those who wish to fly . . . and float. All the four legs remain oblivious.
Ravilious experienced a busier use of the agricultural landscape. Mount Caborn in the distance.
Looking down from Bedingham Hill, signs remain of the old chalk pits and Cement Works no 2 that closed in 1968. Barges travelled up and down the Ouse carrying cement. Eventually this became a landfill site – the black pipes that release the methane are still visible before the gorse and scrubby hawthorn reclaim the area. Ravilious made some studies of the pits, the workings and the railway.
The sinuous path of the Ouse is quite beautiful . . .
. . . as is the river Cuckmere in Cuckmere Haven – watercolour by Ravilious. We drop down passing Coombe Barn and The Lay turning up the track where the fever wagons were placed. And arrive at Furlongs, the home of Peggy Angus, but owned by a Mr Wilson who managed the cement works. Angus and Ravilious were great friends and she remains an important figure in circle of artists and craft makers here at this time. Furlongs was the gathering point.
Ravilious considered that what he discovered during spells at Furlongs was fundamental : “…altered my whole outlook and way of painting, I think because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious … that I simply had to abandon my tinted drawings”.
One water wheel is still in-situ by Little Dean . . .
. . on to Firle where the lilac blooms were just breaking forth. And into the walled garden where plastic sheeting has replaced the green house glass. Military canes at the ready to support tomatoes and the almost exact point from where Ravilious made his composition for ‘The Greenhouse: Cyclamen and Tomatoes’.
As the exploration came to an end, I thought about the changes in the landscape 80 years on since Ravilious had captured and executed his visions. A good deal of the South Downs is a National park and there are 37 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. This wikipedia link is helpful in understanding the changes in agricultural practice here. And to close, this front garden of one of the village cottages packed with aquilegia and bluebells retains a sense of the past – cottage gardens are back in fashion.
Now a little bit of nostalgia. Below is a water colour drawing by Edward Bawden of his friend ‘The Boy’, Eric Ravilious in his Studio at Radcliffe Road’. They became friends meeting at the Royal College. Bawden, John Nash and Philip Ardizzone taught me at Colchester School of Art. Edward and John Nash, both small in stature, were impeccably dressed in tweed suits with waistcoats and perfectly knotted ties. I’m afraid we students were not dressed in a similar manner, after all it was the late 60’s . . . flares and mini skirts. They would spend quite a while just giggling at private jokes – a sweet pair. I’m embarassed to say that we didn’t really know who these talented tutors were but we did respect and appreciate the knowledge that they imparted and their sense of civility. Bawden taught me to carve perfect circles with a lino cutter but mine were never up to his standard!
This post has connections with Ravilious too. And invaluable reading: ‘Eric Ravilious Memoir of an Artist’ – Helen Binyon and ‘Eric Ravilious Imagined Realities’ – Alan Powers.
A sulky lad scuffs idly through the scree
head down beneath a kite cart-wheeling sky.
Daedalus seals his art to set him free,
pinions fulmar feathers waxed and dry
onto the golden shoulders of his son.
‘Swoop down too low, the sea will drown your wings.
The great sun which fires my tears and stings
Your eyes’, Icarus stumble into flight,
Stretching his wings through a May soaring day,
Higher and higher from his father’s sight.
He reaches for heaven; suns flame his way.
Feathered keenings close a reckless flight.
A falling lullaby of dripping light. Pam Hughes Rite of Passage.