During July I went to see the Paul Nash exhibition at the Sainsbury Visual Art Centre in Norwich which is on until 20th August, 2017. I knew Paul Nash was best known as a war artist, in particular I associated him with the First World War but he was also a war artist again during the Second World War.
The exhibition starts with his brutal 1stWW landscapes and explains how he preferred to use symbolism to depict the devastation of war. From these paintings the exhibition then moves into his earlier dream like works, still of landscapes, influenced by the poetry of William Blake and the pre-Raphaelites. The exhibition also covers his work between the wars - during the 1920’s he suffered from depression and emotional shock as a results of his war experiences. During these inter-war years he explored other art movements such as abstraction, surrealism and modernism. “He was a founding member of the British modernist group Unit One which included painters, sculptors and architects such as John Armstrong, Barbara Hepworth, Tristram Hillier, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Edward Wadsworth” and the exhibition includes works by some of these artists.
Again at the start of the 2ndWW Paul Nash was appointed as a war artist and there are two large paintings in the exhibition, “Dead Sea” which depicts the vast wreckage of fighter planes at the Cowley Dump near Oxford as turbulent waves in an ocean and the second painting, which I believe is “Battle of Germany”, shows an aerial view of a town before being bombed on the lefthand side of the painting, the central section shows white spots representing parachutes coming down and then the devastation of an aerial attack on the righthand side of the painting. The exhibition then moves to the landscape paintings that he was working on leading up to his death in 1946.
Definitely an exhibition worth going to see and made me reflect on the work I had done for the EAST “Between the Lines” exhibition - from looking at the work of artists such as Paul Nash and poets like Edmund Blunden I felt that using symbolism and landscape helped me deal with a very difficult subject.
When EAST hired the Zinc Art Centre in Ongar last year for a workshop I created this free standing, three dimensional landscape inspired by Paul Nash’s landscape, “Wood on the Downs” painted in 1929. It’s not a finished piece but just part of a journey. I also used his trees as a template to create this wood from layers of tracing paper - again it is not something I intend to take further.
My second visit to Norfolk in July was to Cley Next to Sea, as part of the Cley17 contemporary art exhibition, I saw this wonderful piece of work by Mike Dodd called “Stranded” constructed from tree branches and twine - I though perhaps it represented the bleached bones of a beached whale. Again the exhibition is on till early August.