Its a grey and damp day at Arlington Court, but its busy with visitors. It feels like autumn is over, the colour from the trees is now on the ground, trampled in to the beginnings of mud under foot.
A room in mourning and the leftovers of such days are surprisingly vivid even with the visitors strolling through the small dark bedroom.
You can see more pictures from Arlington Court on my Flickr here
Its getting late in the year for visits now, the houses and gardens might start to close early and the gardens are usually going through a dramatic change from summer to autumn and then through to winter but actually this can be the best time to visit (less people, more fallen leaves). Mindful of visitors gardens are usually planted in such a way that the grounds are still beautiful and interesting, its true of Knightshayes too.
Its a slightly strange and eclectic collection at the house, and the building and downstairs nudges a particular kind of nostalgia in me, particularly the kitchen area and the library. So although its not a big house compared to some other NT's, I feel small and clumsy. Even the smell around the place is a bit school like for me. But there are some great details.
Finishing up with a picture from the kitchen garden, I think I caught the last of the colour happening and its a nice way to end, now the days are getting shorter again. You can see more pictures from Knightshayes on my Flickr here.
Its a bright, crisp autumn day at Saltram and although the gardens are probably more colourful in spring or summer, the planting seems just perfect for this day, with some blooms giving their absolute best last effort. Its in contrast to the inside of the house which is dark and slightly oppressive but not unpleasant. The house is packed full of painting and where there are less paintings there is intricately patterned Chinese wall paper and wall fabrics, painted mirrors and surfaces dotted with figurines.
I'm not sure if its conservation techniques, the time of year or my imagination but the house was dark. Shadowy corners harbour paintings, portraits under glass reflect the viewer but only just and theres a solomn feel to the place.
I hadn't planed to go to Saltram, theres a few NT sites I want to visit before my membership runs out, so looking at the list of what I had left to see and being not to far away, I picked Saltram for a Sunday afternoon. Saltram happens to be full of Italian inspired art and its Rome thats been on my mind for a whole now.
How great to happen across Popolo, theres lots of Rome inspired work in the house which was a happy coincidence because I have recently visited Rome and since returning I have been working up a few ideas I had while I was there, I've been documenting some of it here.
You can find more pictures from Saltram on my Flickr here.
Strange & Romantic took place at Exeter Phoenix in 2017. A solo show of paintings inspired by the works within and history of the National Trusts Killerton House. Now that the show has ended its a good time to reflect on the work and its origins. As the posts here on Limerence indicate I have spent a fair bit of time visiting National Trust properties while soaking in the paintings, buildings and stories of the past and as I collected all of these images and experiences of visiting them, it seemed that to make a project directly related to one of the visits would be ineviteble but i was always unsure as to what form it would take. Portrait Of A Lady at Nottingham Castle 2015/16 had gone some way to bring the unknown woman in a historical setting to the centre of my work but could have benefitted from a more specific thread through the piece. Strange And Romantic was an example of a specific story from a specific time and place in history that as a visitor to Killerton House I could learn more about and integrate into some other areas of concern within my work.
The title, Strange And Romantic, refers to Anne Acland’s description of the life of Harriet Fox Strangeways (1750-1815) a portrait of whom hangs at Killerton House, painted by Joshua Reynolds at the time of her marriage to John Dyke Acland. Lady Acland was known for accompanying her husband and then caring for him while captured during the American war of independence. I was interested in the adventure of the story, though romanticised in hindsight, Lady Acland kept a diary of the events, some entries written by her, others perhaps not and on the whole sparse in emotion. There is something slightly sterile about it. The weather conditions are recorded, the diary feels like a list. The painting depicting part of her journey is far more evocative than the diary. The painting by Pollard can be found at Killerton House. My version is at the top of this post.
Within Strange & Romantic were key paintings regarding the story as well as paintings inspired by the larger collection at Killerton House and, almost as a 'Part 2' to the show, portraits of 1000 imaginary women as a counterbalance to the stories which are known, these paintings represent those which are not. This theme has carried through from Nottingham Museums Portrait Of A Lady.
Paintings from the 1000 Portraits purposefully sat opposite the painting 'Empty Frames' as a not so subtle, reminder of the faceless women from the past, from Killerton House, but all of the NT properties I have visited. It is this looking back into the past, particularly at womens faces, which has been driving my work of late. The title Portrait Of A Lady often used in my work is a reference to the unknown sitter and staple painting found in old houses and museums. Of course it is also suitably vague and we can project our own imaginations onto these open faces.
Bringing out the strangeness: Beyond Strange & Romantic I'm interested in allowing the historical elements of my work to continue to muddle themselves with other concerns (loves and deaths, mourning and loss) let the specific stories get a little lost within the work as all of the themes come together. And make, a little more seamlessly, the strangeness of experiencing history (when, a bit like amusement parks, we queue in our hundreds). But while keeping the female images central I'd like to make the historical parts of my work find themselves to be neither here nor there, of not contemporary or historical but some otherness. And this post has been my notes on how to go about finding that balance with historical strangeness.
Welcome to Killerton House, Exeter, with one of my favourite NT gardens, brilliant wildlife if like me you have recently been glued to BBC Spring Watch and a lot of portraiture.
There are always family photographs dotted about houses like this, so its not a surprise to see them but Killerton seems unusual in the amount, placement and subject of the family photographs displayed in every room. It goes some way to make up for the upstairs rooms being stripped of any personal furniture and turned into gallery and event space. The photographs, some from news paper cuttings, others reproductions, bring the family back to the house with a candid presence.
You can see more pictures from Killerton House on my Flickr here.
Welcome to Montacute House and its brilliant bumpy topiary. An optical illusion (I'm sure) meant that all I could see were massive faces in these neat and tidy lumps.
I was really keen to see the portraiture at Montacute and in particular the room of fake Holbeins turned out to be more of a treat than I expected.
You can see more pictures from Mantacute House on my Flickr here.
Its been a a few months since my last post, my NT visits slowed down to nothing while work and practical matters took precedence. There has also been an inevitable period of reflection. But my first NT visit of 2016 was St Michaels Mount, Marazion,Cornwall.
Welcome to a place that is an Island (for much of its day), when it isn't an island you can walk along the causeway to the beach. Its worth the wait. On top of the island is a castle, beautiful gardens and bellow that, some homes.
I can tell its been a while since I have visited NT's, I am very out of practice, I didn't note down any info, read many, or any, information labels and generally got carried away with the scenery and the romance of the whole thing. A castle filled with art and history, on top of a hill thats cut off from the world twice a day (more so in winter) looks jolly good to me.
You Can see more pictures from my trip to St Michaels Mount on my Flickr here.
A group of paintings about mourning, memorial, portraiture and love, from NT visits, film and imaginary portraits. Meanwhile in Nottingham....
Portrait Of A Lady opens at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery 19 September 2015 - 17 January 2016
Welcome to Attingham Park, the house sits in a flat simple green landscape, cows graze and deer roam close to the building. My favourite mirror still-life scenes are here.
Along with lampshades, chandeliers and portraits, mirrors are my favourite things in the NT houses I have visited so far. They set up mini scenes of the rooms they inhabit and its a good way to surreptitiously watch the other visitors look around the room and listen in on conversations. In this room Sickert's 'Lady In Blue' invited Jack The Ripper comments.
I have been making small films, mostly around roses, architecture and interiors and posting them on my Vimeo here.
Several 'Unknown ladies' at Attingham, rather nice examples.
You can see more pictures from Attingham Hall on my Flickr here
I visited Waddesdon Manor recently, Voluptuous and French in design and stuffed full of art. It does have a feel of a museum rather than a home, some NT's do and thats perfectly fine, I like the broad experience from one property to another.
There was a special display about mourning with mourning jewellery, a very spooky model of Queen Victoria in the room she stayed in, stopped clocks and letters and personal objects belonging to the Rothschild family but outside there is a beautiful rose garden, almost blown to bits by wind and rain this said more about mourning than the display of black cloth and hair brooches inside.
While I'm writing this post I am also thinking about another bit of writing about my own painting and how much these 'Portrait Of A lady' paintings (particularly those of unknown women) have influenced them. Its mystery, wistful expressions and imagining their love and loss that is huge part of the allure.
I'm really into palm trees at the moment. No particular reason, I just really like looking at them. Particularly ones in cities. I want to go to L.A. I am not going to L.A.
You can see more pictures from Waddesdon Manor on my Flickkr.