'The wind in the sycamore and ash, Plas Uchaf, Llangollen' by Kurt Jackson
"Places not architecture", to paraphrase Anna Keay at the opening of Inspiring Landmarks, was the first of Landmark’s objectives highlighted at this most extraordinary exhibition. The second was bringing to the fore what people do at these places.
It is not often that a body such as the Landmark Trust, whose primary raison d'être is to preserve historic buildings, is in the enviable position of putting on an exhibition of (mainly) two dimensional works, or at least works not being placed firmly in one location. But what an exhibition has come of this opportunity.
Three artists, Prue Cooper, Kurt Jackson and Ed Kluz, have come together in mutual admiration of the Landmark places they have visited and have expressed their experiences of them in varying media: Cooper using slipware, Jackson using mixed media on canvas, paper and wood, and Kluz using both scraperboard and collage. Each artist is familiar with the Trust's work and their properties, each artist reacting in differing ways.
Prue Cooper creating one of her witty platters
Cooper's tactile materials, iconic architectural image and (often witty) phrases come together to create an artwork that works equally well as usable crockery or hung on a wall. Either way, the message and meaning is heartfelt and touching.
Jackson's paintings speak of experience and "birdsong", as curator and Landmark's Historian Caroline Stanford eloquently expressed. Jackson's experience of Landmark places tell of fleeting moments, sunlight on stone and wind through foliage - the living side of places whose history pre-dates the visitors themselves (and the visitors before them).
Kluz's scraperboard creations, which arguably employ the most traditional approach to capturing architectural works by using a technique not dissimilar in appearance to etching, are frantic and vibrant without the use of any bright colours. Using mostly straight lines, Kluz depicts buildings and nature in harmony and the use of the monochrome medium accentuates light and dark magnificently.
What the trio have in common is that each chooses techniques where the physical marks of the artist leave visible traces. This is a very tactile art that allows us (the viewer) to go further than understanding or interpreting the subject of the artworks; able to feel and acknowledge the traces of the artist evident across the canvas/scraperboard/slipcase work.
Old Campden House reconstructed, with the East and West Banqueting Houses on either side, by Ed Kluz
In the same way as you might run your hand over an apparently smoothly cut stone and notice the subtle indents of the mason’s tool at Clavell Tower while staying there, or feel the chisel tooling or the plane's marks when running your hand along an ancient beam at Purton Green, you can see the marks these artists have left behind.
To abstract this idea further, this exhibition, for me, highlights the impressions we might make when we stay at a Landmark or the impressions they might make on us. "Inspiring Landmarks" - the title of the exhibition – acknowledges the duality between Landmarks inspiring us and Landmark Trust’s own inspiration that shapes these historic places.
Having spent time studying phenomenology and how architecture affects each of us on a daily basis, both consciously and unconsciously, I enjoy the opportunities for reflection that this exhibition brings. We are forced to think not only of how Landmarks have inspired the brilliant works of Cooper, Jackson and Kluz but about how the heritage and architecture around us affects us most deeply.
Along with highlighting how Landmark locations inspire creativity, Anna Keay suggests that this is in part down to the lack of technology in the properties. Although we might lament that it takes a remote house, a lack of internet connection and a removal of television to force us to be more creative, I actually feel that this might inspire us to try and seek creativity in our own lives; to appreciate our surroundings and, although we may not be capable of artistically capturing those moments ourselves, to enjoy the work of those whose artwork captures those moments and feelings for us.
Young Landmarkers were invited to a private view of the exhibition on 3 July
I am most fortunate to have both visited many Landmarks but also to be a member of the Young Landmarkers, and I would be failing in my duty as one who has experienced these properties first hand if I did not implore you to experience these remarkable places for yourself…to experience the tactile nature of the buildings, hear the birdsong that Jackson captures and walk through the nature that often surrounds the buildings themselves.
Create art, compose music, read, write and simply be.
If this exhibition highlights anything, it is the creativity that Landmark properties encourage, celebrated through the talented Prue Cooper, Kurt Jackson and Ed Kluz.