Thursday, September 30, 2010

La Hougue Bie, Jersey

La Hougue Bie is the most amazing archaeological site with evidence of building activity from 3,000 BC onwards. For anyone interested in megaliths I would highly recommend a look at the website
The lower level of the site's Museum covers the highly varied geology of the island whilst the upper levels work chronologically through the islands history from a Rhinoceros skull, through its earliest human inhabitants to a hoard of coins from the Roman occupation. There are also fascinating displays of objects including a Bronze Age hoard (above) and polished stone axes (right).
At the core of the site is a Neolithic passage grave that is now surmounted by a medieval chapel (left). The cruciform passage grave is over 5,000 years old and, with its largely intact mound, is considered to be one of the finest examples in Europe.
The eastern side slab of the grave's northern side chamber has at least 24 cup marks on its eastern face. This is the only rock art in the structure and despite the fact that their significance is long lost the time invested in their making testifies to their importance to the people who placed their dead in this special place.
Like the Christian chapel above the passage grave is aligned on an east west axis, in this case to allow the sunrise at the equinoxes to penetrate to the heart of the chamber complex.
The original structure of the chapel dates from the Norman period. The original building is now divided into two chapels and a rotunda with a ring crypt beneath.
The Jerusalem Chapel has two very feint ceiling paintings of angels from c. 1520. Quite different to the rock art below but undoubtedly equally significant to those who worshiped there.
Although there is no longer any evidence of its presence the chapel was extended around 1792 to form the Prince's Tower - a private dwelling in the form of a miniature Gothic castle. The Tower fell into disuse and was demolished in 1924.
The site does much educational work and includes a reconstruction of a Neolithic house, a group of querns for grinding grain to flour and a replica log boat. A German Command Bunker, elsewhere in the grounds, houses a memorial to the slave-workers of the second World War.

St Brelade's Church and Fishermen's Chapel

This lovely old church sits at the western end of St Brelade's Bay, Jersey. Originally founded in the 6th century as a small monastic church it has been a centre of Christian worship for 1400 years. The main building began life in the 11th century under the guidance of the Bishop of Coutances and the original wooden chapel was rebuilt in stone.
In the 14th century the original tiny chapel (to the left of the main church) was appropriated as a burial place for a prominent family and the east wall decorated with a painting of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, flanked by 14 kneeling figures.
Elsewhere on the ceiling are further paintings, these are thought to date from the 1350 to 1450 period. Near to the east wall is a scene depicting Christ riding on a donkey. (above)

Further down the chapel, on the opposite side, are more scenes including another Annunciation from which the Angel Gabriel is best preserved. (right)
In the days when the vast majority of the congregation were illiterate these paintings would have helped to tell the story of the gospels.
The chapel became associated with the fishing guilds in the late medieval period and has continued to be known as the Fishermen's Chapel.

St Brelade's Bay, Jersey

I've just enjoyed a brief holiday on Jersey, staying on the southern side of the island at St Brelade's Bay. The weather was generally kind to us although it looked quite menacing at times. I just love the sea when the light catches it like this - very Kurt Jackson!
Jersey has a wide range of geology which includes swathes of pink granite (I'm told that the pink is feldspar). Here at the back of the bay the granite has been eroded to expose the much softer rocks behind. The roots are of a Monterrey Cypress which is clinging on tenaciously.
My stay coincided with a full moon close to the autumn equinox and produced quite extreme tidal ranges. At low tide these rocks were exposed, from the hotel they had and unnerving similarity to the shape of a submarine - many of which patrolled these waters in the last war.
At the western end of the beach is a sheltered harbour and the Parish Church.

The old tree trunks that are embedded in the old harbour wall are, to my eye, wonderfully weathered and a testament to the resilience of wood in such exposed conditions. I've no idea how long the trunks last but they seem to be fairing better than some of the man made objects in the vicinity.

Harbours are always a good hunting ground for two of my favourite things - old rope and rusty metalwork. I was not disappointed here, chains of all sizes were gradually being eaten away producing some wonderful colours and textures.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kurt Jackson - Dart

Kurt Jackson's latest exhibition, at Lemon Street Gallery Truro, is an exploration of the river Dart from source to sea. The gallery website also has an essay by Jackson discussing the background to the series of works.
Agatha Christie's Fine Trees - this image is being used on the publicity for the exhibition and gives a real feeling of the still calm of winter, chill but with a stunningly clear light.
Across to Sharpenham - Another scene from deep winter but here the feeling is quite different with the steep valley sides offering a sense of shelter against the elements. It also features the play of light on water for which Jackson is justifiably famous.
Two Bridges, silence, snow - Snow can utterly change the landscape, for town dwellers it's a magical dusting if icing-sugar sparkle. For those living and working high on the moors it's a different story bringing access problems and worries about the safety of their livestock. Here Jackson offers wilderness with a hint of the snow's transformative powers.

Fishing Dam Pool for Salmon - This one really caught my attention, I've known many places like this with the gentle sound water mixing with grasshoppers and bumble bees in the background.
Catkins from the banks of the Dart - A beautiful little still life that perfectly captures the joy of seeing the first catkins waving gently in the breeze; signalling that spring is on its way.

Gale Force - Totally different to the inland pieces this one
is looking out to sea, from the mouth of the river, into the teeth of a gale that is whipping the sea into a foaming turmoil as it crashes ashore. Exactly the sort of weather that I love to watch whilst safely tucked away behind glass (getting softer as I get older, was a time when I loved to be out in this sort of weather!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

MA Exhibition UCA Farnham

This years MA show at UCA Farnham was another diverse mixture of disciplines and ideologies that will have appealed to a wide audience. A few of my personal favourites appear below.
Tom McDowell - Jewellery - Tom sets out to challenge the traditional formality of jewellery wearing. He transforms children's drawings of creatures, imaginary or real, into quirky but highly wearable art that brings a smile to those who encounter them.
Alex Archbold - Glass - Alex uses cast and kiln formed glass in sculptural pieces of architectural and public art that explore the boundaries between two and three dimensional forms. Her recent project to design a large window for the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge was shortlisted for the commission. The work is cast from impressions of books and papers and relates well to the layers of history that are stored in such a repository and the transparency that archivists strive to achieve in their work.
Melissa Ryland - Ceramics - Melissa's work deals with the concept of memory and how everyday objects go unnoticed by most but may have a deeper resonance for some individuals or audiences, sometimes offering an expression of presence through absence.

Beverly Ayling-Smith - Textiles - Beverly is exploring melancholia with a focus on the emotional dimensions of the words grief, loss and absence. For me this particular piece spoke of the emotional baggage that we carry with us, the grief unspoken and locked away in a cage that we can never risk losing but are reluctant to open. The barbed wire shrieks its message loud and clear - touch at your peril. By contrast the delicate, almost invisible, interlacing of human hair speaks of the genetic markers that we carry within us, often unseen or denied but integral to out being.
Louise Anderson - Textiles - The essence of Louise's work is about the passage of time. The weaving and dying processes that she employs take time and patience; planning and precision, and yet the outcome can still be excitingly unpredictable, producing unique results. Edges are important to Louise as they frame the time that has passed in the making of the work.

Bruce Marks - Glass - This installation from Bruce explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, surely one of the finest lines that we can ever encounter. The work juxtaposes the apparently fragility of the lacelike glass structures with rust coated spikes that might, at any moment, rupture the bubbles of illusion and destroy the safety net of domestic sanctuary.