A visit to the library To read Paul Nash's "Writings on Art"

Wednesday Jan 25, 2017

Paul Nash's Writings on Art had been reserved for me at the Art Library, part of Leeds Central Library. My head was still full of images and phrases from my trip to London last week to see the Paul Nash retrospective at Tate Britain (as well as The Radical Eye, Sir Elton John's collection of modernist photography at Tate Modern).

'My' bus stop at Hyde Park corner, Leeds

Both exhibitions served to expand my notion of modernism. I felt my own vision refreshed. This short photo-essay is a record of my journey into Leeds city centre, to visit the Art Library to read more by and about Paul Nash.... and then when I had exhausted that resource, to Waterstones, to look for more enlightenment.

Geometry and form, narrative and abstraction.

[For any photo grid, click on any image to see it expanded]

The city re-organises the planes of the visible; assembles them into strange collages.
Construction, reconstruction, adapting and re-adapting: those are the dynamics of urban life. Deliveroo is a new development, using an old technology (the bicycle) and new (smartphones) to develop a new form of 'career'. Is that the future for those smartly outfitted schoolchildren? Right: a committee meeting in one of the bars much-loved by a younger set.
Leeds Central Library occupies a fabulous old building with extraordinarily ornate stairways. Downstairs is the beautiful Tiled Café which had been completely 'lost' and forgotten for decades.
Upper photos: in the corridor on the first floor. Lower photos: the beautifully airy main library.
A stunning collection of books. The first photo shows nearly all of the photography and photobooks collection (including a wealth of treasures). The other photos show books in the glass cabinets along the corridor.
Leeds City Art Gallery is undergoing re-development. Outside the vapers congregate.
Architectural decoration: neon shop signs and strange ornate statues. That smoker outside the Headrow (pub) on the Headrow (street) looks like he might be pissed on.

With Paul Nash's Writings on Art under my arm, I headed for Waterstone's. Isn't it amazing that they offer tables, and comfy chairs and almost complete quiet? And I chatted to one of the staff, who had been happy to be given an artist challenge.

Scenes from the second floor, Waterstones.
"What better life could there be -- to work in the open air, to go hunting far afield over the wild country, to get my living out of the land as much as my ancestors ever had done." (Paul Nash)

For more than a decade I have had a preoccupation with a clump of trees locally known as the Billing (Rawdon, Leeds). Only recently I discovered that Paul Nash discovered his vocation as a landscape artist when, in September 1912, he started to draw his own clumps (the Wittenham Clumps, Oxfordshire).

"There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed." (Paul Nash)
Paul Nash had an intense relationship for a few years with Eileen Agar (1899-1991). The bottom two frames show one of her remarkable collages, including leaves and found objects which almost obscure the outline of a human figure (which can be better seen in the detail right).
Nash's painting of Gloucestershire was donated to the Durban Art Gallery in 1940.

Another strange co-incidence, Nash's painting in the Durban Art Gallery, which I visited as a child. I feel he still has much to teach me.

Writing in Country Life, May 21, 1938, in an article on "Unseen Landscapes", Nash wrote:

"The landscapes I have in mind 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'." (Paul Nash)
Top left: looking down Albion Street before leaving. Top right and bottom right: through the shop windows, Hyde Park corner, Leeds. Bottom left: at the busshop, Hyde Park corner, Leeds.

The link below takes you to my photo-report from yesterday, out and about in Headingley and at Golden Acre Park, all the time thinking of the strange ideas and distinctive palette of Paul Nash and his friends.

In a future visual essay, I will collect more of Paul Nash's subtle reflections ... perhaps to be illustrated by some of my photographs from 2017. I would welcome any comments...

lloydspencer at mac dot com

Created By
Lloyd Spencer

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