“unseen merely because they are not perceived”

From: Landmarks (2015), by Robert Macfarlane:

“ ‘Unseen’ is a word that recurs discreetly in (Richard Jefferies’) writing: the ‘bluebells in the hedge’ that are ‘unseen, except by the rabbits’; the plump trout that wavers gently in the current, holding its place in the shadow under the bridge – ‘unseen’ save by Jefferies. His use of the word anticipates that of the artist Paul Nash, who in 1938 wrote of the ‘unseen landscapes’ of England. ‘The landscapes I have in mind,’ said Nash:

are not part of the unseen world in a psychic 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; only in that way can they be regarded as invisible.

Unseen people preoccupied Jefferies, as well as unseen landscapes…”

Richard Moss wrote for Museum Crush on 20-10-17:

“…(Paul) Nash moved to Dymchurch with his wife Margaret in 1920 to recuperate from the nervous breakdown he suffered in the wake of the war. Inspired by the man-made coastal defences of the town, he found a ready-made abstract landscape, which he studied for a series of transformative paintings that he reworked until the couple moved to Iden in 1925.

For (John) Stezaker this landscape was a kind of “dystopia created by the technological clearing of war” with that sense of the uncanny that first began to intrigue him when he was a teenager.

“I remember looking at [Nash’s] Pillar and Moon which was in the Tate Gallery,” he says, “I used to go down to the Tate every Saturday and I remember thinking ‘what a strange painting’, because it’s divided in two by this kind of recessional line of trees between which is a pillar with a sphere on top and then the moon, and they’re the same size. There’s this thing about proximity and distance, and I found that really intriguing.”

Stezaker says the painting led him to look at the surrealists, “de Chirico and so on”, and helped him understand “what they were about”.

“I suppose I was drawn to that feeling of the uncanny, but like most young artists who go through art college [like Nash, Stezaker went to the Slade] we were almost immediately drawn into the American kind of way of thinking and of looking.

“But what I liked and what I’ve returned to in Nash is this idea of how he didn’t want to go along with any of those aesthetic avant-gardes. He was interested in representation and what a painting can do in the most abstract way. He always wanted to link it to what was represented rather than free it from what it represented. “

This, he says, is the key to how Nash related to surrealism. “He wasn’t just sold on the idea of pursuing it in the world; he was always trying to locate his sense of disquiet in relationship to what he was surrounded by, the world he lived in.

“That is what made him difficult to take I think, for a lot of the European avant-gardes at the time, they didn’t take him seriously because they thought he was a bit of a sort of soft-edged surrealist trying to bring surrealism in contact with the tradition of British landscape painting, which of course is what he was doing.”…”

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