An exhibition with Alison Critchlow, in collaboration with the Wordsworth Trust and the University of Leeds’ ‘British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe’ project.
Co-curating this exhibition with the Wordsworth Trust was hugely inspiring. 'Weather Words' displayed nineteenth century manuscripts in a new light. The curatorial approach was one of simplicity and beauty, allowing manuscripts and paintings to engage in their own dialogue. Various methods were employed to encourage thoughtful curiosity and a subtle 'switching on' of the senses. It was on show at the Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere from 1st July -28th August 2017 and had an enthusiastic visitor response.
Two of Dorothy Wordsworth's journals were displayed with grasses and flower stems emphasizing the rhythm of the words and highlighting the inspiration for 'Flow' - the painting I made interpreting this extract from the journal,
"It was a sweet morning – Every thing green & overflowing with life, & the streams making a perpetual song with the thrushes & all little birds, not forgetting the Stone chats."
The sound of a song thrush played in the gallery and fresh flowers filled the room with scent.
'Flow' 150 x120 cm Acrylic on Canvas by Alison Critchlow
‘FLOW’ Acrylic on Canvas by Alison Critchlow
By looking at the speed and flow of the written words, the pauses for thought and sudden rushes of description you step into Dorothy Wordsworth’s world and glimpse through her eyes. It is in noticing the ‘gaps’ that a natural flow emerges. Rhythms appear on the page, an amalgamation of her imagery, deletions and smudges.
The marks and dashes in the painting bounce along on the current and find their own path. Like a dancer moving to music the paint finds the right speed, size and weight of marks to interpret the words. The twists and turns of creative thought go hand in hand with walking, watching, reflecting. An artistic collaboration across time; the merging of senses to form perception.
We are looking at a section of never ending movement that continues to flow outside of the canvas, just as Dorothy’s words live beyond the page. A shrill exchange between thrushes adds a high level conversation, a reminder of life lived alongside at another pace. There are subtle currents to be tracked through the painting. This is not about depicting a scene it is about feeling the pace of a person’s observations the speed of their thoughts and placing their creative mind under the spotlight. Just whispers floating past, or even echoes of a thought, memories of a line written in a little book 200 years ago…left hanging in the air.
Nineteenth century manuscripts were brought together with contemporary paintings to give a vibrant and reflective look at the British weather and its wide reaching effects on our psyche and our creativity. The exhibition panels explained,
'The paintings and writing on show chart the weather across time. A collaboration in which words inform paintings, paintings reflect words and the weather binds together human experience across the centuries.'
The wider context of this project saw me working with groups in Uldale and Shap exploring ways of painting the weather and Romantic ideas of the sublime. The Wordsworth Trust website explains,
"This exhibition has been created as part of the University of Leeds ‘British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe’ project. Funded through an AHRC Leadership Fellowship awarded to Dr David Higgins, this project is the first major investigation of environmental catastrophe in Romantic-period writing. We are delighted to work with Alison on this project, and her insight and ideas have helped us to interpret and display some of our manuscripts in a new light. The resulting collaboration by Dr Higgins with Wordsworth Trust has been producing some profound and ambitious activities with schools from Kendal and Leeds and community groups the breadth of Cumbria. Since January, Wordsworth Trust learning and community outreach staff have commissioned writers, poets, artists and photographers and together have worked with new and existing groups and schools to reflect on how climate change is affecting their lives."
Poetry and Paint
A collaborative enquiry into creative process. Working with local people and the West Cumbria Carers group Susan Allen, (Community Engagement Officer at the Wordsworth Trust), and I led a series of experimental workshops as part of the Trust's outreach programme.
We used an informal and lively approach to exploring creative process. The project culminated in an exhibition at the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere throughout August 2018. You can watch a short video about the project here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO8q5DCTvnE&list=PLJvHjPhm4PEaG8R8FAC9wof_n8IsMTtPf