Autumn Art Lecture Series 2015: The Art of Nature


'Road Stones Line', China 2010, Richard Long

Art’s relationship to nature is ubiquitous and complex. Art is made in nature, with nature, and against nature. In the year that Bristol is European Green Capital, the University of Bristol’s annual Autumn Art Lectures celebrates this intimate, intricate relationship between the natural world and art.
 
The series will consider contemporary artistic responses to being in nature; urban and rural in the art of John Constable; vicarious nature and tamed nature in Chinese art and gardens; holy rocks and medieval encounters with the natural world; and reengagement with the rural in English art of the 1930s.
 
The lectures took place six consecutive Tuesdays from 20 October until 24 November 2015.
 
This series was organised in association with the University of Bristol Inside Arts Festival.
 

Speakers

Richard Long: ‘In conversation’

Richard Long, Artist and Helen Pheby, Curator 

20 Oct

6 pm, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
An opportunity to see the Bristol-based, Turner Prize winning artist in conversation with Dr Helen Pheby, Curator of Sculpture at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Biography
Richard Long has been in the vanguard of Conceptual, Minimal and Land art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967, while still a student. A photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. Through this medium of walking, time, space and distance became new subjects for his art. From that time he expanded his walks to wilderness regions all over the world. He mediates his experience of these places, from mountains through to deserts, shorelines, grasslands, rivers and snowscapes, according to archetypal geometric marks and shapes, made by his footsteps alone or gathered from the materials of the place. These walks and temporary works, where measurements of time and distance, place names and phenomena are vocabulary for both original ideas and powerful, condensed narratives.

Richard Long was born in Bristol, UK in 1945, where he continues to live and work. He studied at West of England College of Art, Bristol (1962-65), then St Martin’s School of Art, London (1966-68). In 1969, Long was included in a seminal exhibition of Minimalist and Conceptual works entitled, When Attitude Becomes Form, at the Kunsthalle, Bern, for which he made A Walk in the Alps that was documented by this first text work. After 1969, Long began making journeys and sculptures in wilderness places all around the world, documenting his walks with photographs, maps and text works. In the 1980s Long began making new types of mud works using handprint applied directly to the wall. He also continued to make large sculptures of lines and circles from slate, driftwood, footprints or stone often sourced from quarries near the exhibition sites.

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‘Look, stranger, at this island now’

Professor Frances Spalding CBE, FRSL, Newcastle University and the Burlington Magazine 

27 Oct

6 pm, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
Ever since Roger Fry‘s two famous Post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1910 and 1912, wave after wave of foreign influence washed over English art, determining the thrust and purpose of the avant-garde. By the 1930s, the received view amongst progressive intellectuals was that the best art, that which was ideologically the most sound, came from continental Europe. But in the late 1930s a shift of attention occurred. Certain artists and writers stood back from the imperatives of International Modernism in order to let in history, memory, a sense of belonging and of place. Suddenly a prevailing Francophilia found itself countered by a revival of interest in Englishness and English traditions. In 1936, W.H. Auden publishes 'Look, Stranger!' and in its eponymous poem commands those who had become estranged from their surroundings to ‘Stand stable here/And silent be’.

Biography
Frances Spalding is an art historian, critic and biographer, with a specialist interest in twentieth-century British art. She has published some 15 books, including a centenary history of the Tate. Between 2007 and 2015 she was Professor of Art History at Newcastle University. She left in August of this year, to take up the editorship of the Burlington Magazine.

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Dwelling among rivers and mountains: Landscape paintings and gardens in China

Dr Minna Törmä, University of Glasgow 

3 Nov

6 pm, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
Eleventh-century Chinese court painter Guo Xi divided landscape paintings into four types: paintings through which you can travel or do sightseeing and paintings where you can wander or live. This lecture explores the paintings created during the Song dynasty (960-1279) for wandering and dwelling, particularly in the format of handscroll which allowed the viewer to resort to woyou, literally meaning 'travelling while lying down'. In addition, it discusses how ideas from landscape poetry and painting were translated into three dimensional form in Chinese garden art of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Landscape representations, whether in poetry, painting or garden art, created auspicious environments for the mind to roam and rest in times of stress, illness or political instability.

Biography
Minna Törmä lectures on Chinese and East Asian art in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. Her major focus areas are Chinese painting in imperial times and history of collecting East Asian art. Her books include monographs Landscape Experience as Visual Narrative: Northern Song Dynasty Landscape Handscrolls in the Li Cheng - Yan Wengui Tradition (2002) and Enchanted by Lohans: Osvald Sirèn's Journey into Chinese Art (2013); in addition, she has published widely essays on landscape art and historiography of East Asian art studies.

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The Importance of Site-Sight

Ingrid Pollard, artist and photographer 

10 Nov

6 pm, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
Ingrid will present a series of photoworks that will seek to shape ideas of English landscape, history and how belonging is expressed. Using photography as a tool is a way to reinterpret the basic elements of energy=light, physics=chemistry and perspective=vision, adding control and manipulation of data. Her photoworks suggest the characteristics of the land itself, shaped by its energy, the elements, the sun and light. Whilst these photographic images do not so much reveal what is there, but record light itself.

She focuses on the issues of observation and the rendering of light and how this intersects with the issue of landscape; ownership; history; transformation and ideas of Britishness and belonging. Photography can hold a deeper kind of observation, a continuous process which involves the use of languages, of signs and images which stand for or represent things, this is not a simple or straightforward process.

Biography
Ingrid Pollard’s images are invested with a sense of belonging and are an act of belonging; be that through cultural, hereditary, practice, experience or through a landscape. Photography has played an important role in her work since the early 1980s, documenting black people’s creativity and presence in Britain. Pollard became known for her photographic series questioning social constructs such as Britishness and racial difference.

Ingrid studied Film and Video at the London College of Printing and gained an MA in Photographic Studies at the University of Derby. Ingrid will soon be undertaking a PhD at Westminster University. She has exhibited widely in Europe and America, including Tate Britain, The Victoria and Albert Museum (London); NGBK (Berlin); Caribbean Cultural Centre (New York) and Camerawork (San Francisco).

Audio recording to follow soon.

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John Constable, the ‘natural painter’?

Professor Stephen Daniels, FBA, University of Nottingham 

17 Nov

6 pm, The Priory Road Complex, Priory Road, Bristol, BS8 1TU
The recent purchase by Tate Britain of Constable’s great painting, ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ (1831) provides an opportunity to look anew at Constable’s landscape art. To what extent was Constable an urban as well as rural artist? How were his views of the natural world shaped by towns and cities as well as the countryside, including the urban culture of science as well as the rural culture of farming? This lecture explores Constables art of London, Hampstead, Brighton and Salisbury as well as his more familiar scenes of his native landscape of Suffolk.

Biography
Stephen Daniels is Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of many books, articles and exhibition catalogues on the landscape arts in Britain, particularly of 18th and 19th century England. His works include Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardening and the Geography of Georgian England (Yale UP 1999), Joseph Wright (Tate 1999) and, with John Bonehill, Paul Sandby, Picturing Britain (Royal Academy 2005). He is currently writing a book on the topographer and antiquarian John Britton. He was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy in 2010.

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Rocks as Relics and Rarities

Dr Lucy Donkin, University of Bristol ‌

24 Nov

6 pm, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
Whether stones from the Holy Land encased in jewelled reliquaries or geological specimens arranged in miniature landscapes and cabinets of curiosity, un-worked rocks have long been incorporated into works of art. The imagination has also found in nature images to rival those of human craftsmanship, and even interpreted antiquities as deriving from natural processes. Not only have patterned stones been seen to contain imprints of holy figures and skylines of ruined cities, but fossils and engraved gems were understood to be generated within the rock. The lecture will explore these encounters between the creativity of the artist and that of the natural world with reference to cultures of collecting and the relationship between art, religion, and natural history in the Middle Ages and Early Modernity.

Biography
Lucy Donkin lectures in History and History of Art at the University of Bristol. Her research is concerned with perceptions of place during the Middle Ages, with particular reference to Italy and the Mediterranean. Her published work so far has focused on sacred space, especially the creation, use and decoration of holy ground, and includes the co-edited volume Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West (2012). She is currently working on a new research project on the portability of place, exploring the spiritual and political connotations of moving earth to and from Rome.

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