These images were created last summer when exploring Keats life and connection to St Thomas Hospital. I have selected a few to share today to mark the bicentenary of his death. His life and work continue to resonate and inspire, offering a rich seam I intend to continue to explore.
"I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days- three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain".
Keats letter to Fanny Brawne written July 3 1819.
"The spring was always inchantment [sic] to me- I would get away from suffering- in watching the growth of a little flower, it was a delight to me - it was part of my very soul - perhaps the only happiness I have had in the world has been the silent growth of flowers"
A response Keats made a few weeks before his death Keats to Severin's report of the first signs of spring returning. (here)
"...then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink"
John Keats The Terror of Death. 1817
"That queen of secrecy, the violet."
John Keats Blue Eyes 1815
"Great spirits now on earth are sojourning:
...And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart,
And other pulses - hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings in the human mart?
Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb."
John Keats To Benjamin Robert Haydon 1816.
"Stop and consider! Life is but a day;
A fragile dewdrop on it's perilous way"
John Keats From Sleep and Poetry, 1816
"After dark vapours have oppress'd our plains,
For a long dreary season, comes a day
Born of the gentle south, and clears away,
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains"
John Keats After Dark Vapours, 1817.
February 23rd 2021 marks the bicentenary of John Keats death. During his brief life he wrote a series of much loved poems that still resonate today. Keats House has organised numerous online events (here,) and on the 23rd February the Poetry Society have organised a gathering of poets and Keats scholars for an evening of poetry, thought and discussion on Keats legacy and place in our imaginations. (here) Furthermore the Keats Foundation has made a series of excellent videos with Mathew Coulton reciting the Odes from Wentworth Place. (here)
Following on from the work I made last summer (see entry The Summer of Lockdown - Herbarium & John Keats, 7/11/2020 ) this small tribute to his Ode to a Nightingale, will feature in the 'Herbarium' exhibition celebrating World Book Night at the Bower Ashton Library 20th April - 30th June 2021. it is one of a series of ten mono-prints inspired by the line
"fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves
And mid May's eldest child,
The coming musk rose, full of dewy wine"
Utilising a letter fold structure from the early 18th Century, the piece unfolds to reveal the fifth stanza from the poem and a small silhouette of Keats. The Exhibition aims to spread some cheer and hope following such a difficult year.
Lockdown restrictions have meant staying local, so I have chosen to walk the same route over a number of weeks. This has offered an opportunity to specifically focus on my local stretch of estuary. I live within walking distance of the seafront where the river Thames meets the North Sea.
My walk takes me east toward the North sea and the rising sun. It is interesting to see how the sand and pebbles have shifted in this short time. In places steep shelves have begun to replace the gentle sandy slopes, and slipways have accumulated ever increasing piles of shells and sand. It serves as a reminder of how quickly water can alter the shore line, encroaching ever closer to the sea wall.
The coast here consists of a wide open expanse of mudflats. When the tide recedes it disappears over a mile but when it turns, comes in very fast. For the unwary, it can easy cut you off from the shore leaving you stranded on shrinking sand banks. Essex has sometimes been seen negatively in comparison to other areas of the British coast, but I love it, and agree with Ken Walpoles's statement
"some people would call it desolate but the fact that you have got the sea and the sky in a dynamic relationship with each other makes it pretty magical"
The wide horizons, and changing skies offer a variety of views. The low light of winter is especially beautiful. The mudflats attract plenty of winter visitors. I especially love watching the Sanderlings as they scurry along the edge of the water. They are a joy to watch when they take flight. Skimming low across the water their undersides flash white as they turn in unison, like a string of lights across the surface. Another winter highlight has been watching a curlew feeding just off shore. Having heard it call for several days, it was great to finally spot it wading in a shallow channel of water.
Dotted all along the seafront are distinctive poles. They become beacons for the crows, and seagulls. Capped with green cones, they warn of obstructions below the surface. To my mind they are like arrows sometimes pointing to the heavens, while on still days, ambivalent they point both up and down as their shadows are reflected in the water. Cemented in place the water continually eats away at the base causing some to lean askew, as if the task has become too much.
It is a timeless view which has seen so many travellers arriving and departing.
"The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowed with memories of men, and ships it had borne to the rest of home or the battles of sea."
from Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad )
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.