Postal pick-me-up

Months and months ago I put in a pre-order that I then promptly forgot all about… Then, last week, a lovely surprise arrived at the door; D managed to pass it off as an early birthday present until I remembered we’d ordered it together!

Anyway, the new Mark Hearld workbook, published by Merrel, is a delight. It beautifully encapsulates the versatility and joyfulness of Hearld’s work, and the vibrancy of good printwork.

It’s particularly inspiring to read about the ways an artist-designer applies his artistic vision to all areas of his life, a kind of aesthetic saturation – “Art is a passion or it is nothing”, Roger Fry said, which could be the motto of the Bloomsbury inner circle and, indeed, so many other wonderful 20th century designers and painters. It’s what makes artists artists, I suppose, rather than just people who can draw…

Immersed though he is in his own coterie (though I suspect he’d object to that notion), Hearld strongly resists the idea that he’s involved in an artistic movement. Simon Martin, who writes much of the book’s text, notes:

He has organized other exhibitions, including Mark Hearld and Friends… featuring the potters Anna Lambert, Terry Shone, Ann Stokes and Paul Young, and the illustrators and printmakers Christopher Brown, Jonny Hannah, Michael Kirkman, Ed Kluz, Angie Lewin and Emily Sutton, Hearld’s partner. The latter group has been described as the ‘New Bardfield’ – a reference to the village in Essex where Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious lived in the 1930s. Yet, while there are common bonds of friendship, shared studio spaces and an admiration for the work of such mid-twentieth-century British artists as Bawden and Ravilious, Hearld feels uneasy with the suggestion of ‘revivalism’. (p.15)

The one odd note Martin concludes from this is his suggestion that there’s a collective “conscious reaction to the anti-aesthetic of ‘Britart'”. I’m just not sure what Britart has to do with what Hearld and co are doing – it feels like a ‘must mention’, and it does Hearld and co. a disservice. Can we really only understand the significance of their rural, pastoral, nostalgic, natural subjects in contrast or response to the self-styled ‘contemporary’–pitting the ‘modern’ against the ‘anti-modern’, with no points in between? More to the point, these artists are now beginning to get the attention they deserve on their own terms, for the timeless, contemplative quality of their work.

In all, though, this is a generously stuffed-full-of-images book, and Martin’s text, with Hearld’s additions, is lucid and utterly absorbing. Beautiful.

The book and the bright Autumn weather we’ve had this week are almost compensation for the chores I’m avoiding by writing this!

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