Paul Nash study Visit
Although I had heard of the Artist Paul Nash, I wasn’t familiar with his work.
This was my first student study visit, which I attended with as much interest in meeting other students who until now were just faceless names as seeing the exhibition. I wanted to break the isolation I have been feeling from studying alone. I love the course, I love art and obviously drawing but it does feel like a long hard road of study, blogging and exercises that can be lonely.
Unfortunately like many featured exhibitions there was no photography allowed however made extensive notes in my sketch books of images that inspired me as really wanted to get inspiration for the Landscape section of Drawing 1 that I will be studying at some point over the next few months.
I arrived early so sat outside and sketched Barbara Hepworth’s bronze statue 1959-1960 Figure for Landscape which I assumed to be two entwined figures whilst sketching and before reading the plaque’s title.
My aim for this blog post is to type up my notes from the visit avoiding reading further reviews from the visit to increase confidence in my own personal voice. I have focused on writing in this blog about the Drawings and Paintings that I viewed from the visit that either inspired me or were particularly memorable.
In the first Exhibition room were drawings done by the artist early in his career which were predominantly created with a mix of charcoal, pencil and water colour. I found the simplicity of the drawings really satisfying and gave an understanding that quite simple images within Landscape can be really effective. In Cherry Orchard 1917, I really like the composition layout and how the direction and placement of trees draws the viewer into the distance. There is an element of illustration to the drawings using a black pen to highlight the edges of the tree’s which is something I did myself in initial sketches I started for the landscape section of the course and disregarded. I will definitely revisit this in my sketches. I really enjoyed seeing the workings out by the artist, ghost lines and various different mark making that was in the drawings very reassuring and transparent to see.
Fig 1 Cherry Orchard 1917
Fig 2 Pyramids of the Sea 1912.
I really enjoyed the mark making, cross hatching and tone used in this image and again the multiple uses of media to create it, very inspiring. Although it has an element of surrealism it has an intense atmosphere that pulls you in again to the distant horizon past the two pyramids. I noticed at the exhibition that Paul Nash experimented early on with the shape and crescents of the moons which he revisits throughout his career.
Fig 3 Summer Garden 1913
Summer Garden again an earlier piece of Paul Nash’s work and although this image has an illustrative quality and that I am normally drawn to more realistic elements of drawings I have really enjoyed the mark making, depth and light within this drawing. I find myself re-examining different elements of the drawing to see how it was created. It is arguably a little overworked however despite the bright summer colours the atmosphere that is in a lot of Paul Nash’s work is still present.
Fig 4 Paul Nash Tree Group 1913 Chalk and Ink
There is a different angle to this drawing that is created with the use of shadows. The trees appear like people and without clarifying further suspect this was the initial experimentation of depicting people as Tree’s in the war paintings.
I didn’t fully engage with the Paintings that Paul Nash had painted from World War 1 and through being a war artist in World War 2 at the exhibition. Apart from the fact rooms were too overcrowded, I struggled to view the war images, it made me feel really uncomfortable which is something I haven’t felt before when viewing other war art and I just wanted to leave the room. I am anti- war and violence but have viewed photos and paintings from other wars and didn’t get such a strong reaction. It is clear from the exhibition that Paul Nash suffered from his involvement in the wars and that the images are interpretations of this and is especially stark in contrast to the beautiful drawings at the beginning of the exhibition.
Fig 5 Swanage 1936
In this Seascape the depth of the background appears like layers. It has a surrealist quality but it’s the use of the inanimate object that interests me. It’s out of proportion (larger) to the tree stump, but looks like it has always been there and that the tree should be that size. The ball also looks like it’s about to embark on a journey. I like how the use of this object changings the viewers experience of the Seascape painting.
Inspirational Quotes from the exhibition;
“Light and shade- In fact the basic material for creating structure harmoniously” – Paul Nash Room and Book 1932
“The Landscape I have in mind are not part of the unseen world in physical sense, nor are they part of the Unconscious. They belong to the world that lies, visibly, about us. They are unseen merely because they are not perceived”. Paul Nash Unseen Landscapes Country life May 1938
Fig 6 Flight of the Magnolia’s 1944.
I really enjoyed this part of the exhibition it seemed gentler and more peaceful that the images of war, I was particularly drawn to the painting Flight of the Magnolio’s, it has become my favourite painting discovered at the exhibition. The depth of the centre of the flower pulls you in to the composition. It makes me feel like I am part of the picture. I think I relate well to the image as the paint palate is synonymous of the colours used by the renaissance artists such as Botticelli’s in the Birth of Venus mad in approx. 1480. I also think the painting is rich in allegory with the magnolia being positioned above what appears to be the moon as symbolic. The flight of the flower is more important than the moon which is confirmed from reading this quote from the exhibition; “Equinox- It is death I have been writing about all this time… Death, I believe, is the only solution to this problem of how to be able to fly” Essay Arial Flowers (1945). Paul Nash died in 1947 not long after his exploration of flight and death it prompts the question for me that is the paintng a representation of a subconscious thought of knowing you are close to death. Or was Paul Nash’s involment in the war meant that he was always close to death.
After some reading on this painting I found the following quote about this painting ”When the war came, suddenly the sky was upon us all like a huge hawk, hovering, threatening. Everyone was searching the sky, expecting the terror to fall: I among them scanned the low clouds … hunting the sky for what I most dreaded in my imagining. It was a white flower. Ever since the Spanish Civil War the idea of the Rose of Death, the name the Spaniards gave to the parachute, had haunted my mind, so that when the war overtook us I strained my eyes always to see that dreadful miracle of the sky blossoming with these floating flowers.
(Nash 1945, pp.158–9.)
After writing the above I read the article on the Tate website about the Flight of the Magnolia’s and realised that I hadn’t noticed the space below the Magnolia as being the sea. I was so focused on the flower, but now I can see it clearly and that it helps the magnolia to appear in flight. It also makes reference to the painting of the sea of planes “Totes Meer” (1940-1941) which in German means Dead Sea.
Nash,p 1(945) Essay Aerial Flowers At:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-flight-of-the-magnolia-t07552(accessed 10/03/2017)
Fig 1 Cherry Orchard 1917 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-the-cherry-orchard-t01946
Fig 2 Pyramids of the sea 1913 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-the-pyramids-in-the-sea-t01821
Fig 3 Paul Nash Summer Garden 1913 https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=paul+nash+merging+of+a+dream++1912&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwidiY2utcnSAhXoJsAKHQ2GBCAQ_AUIBigB&biw=1280&bih=621#tbm=isch&q=Summer+garden+paul+nash&*&imgrc=rXt4tcKZ-pDsxM:
Fig 4 Tree Group 1912 http://www.theartsdesk.com/visual-arts/paul-nash-tate-britain
Fig 6 Flight of the Magnolia’s1944. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-flight-of-the-magnolia-t07552