I made the following book as a result of spending a week at Little Dodnash Farm in Bentley, Suffolk as part of A Rural Idyll, an artists’ residency which was the brainchild of Ruth Richmond.
The book traces the changing light on the landscape over the course of the Spring Equinox last year, a poem from Rilke’s Stundenbuch (Book of Hours) and an extract from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England.
I went back to Little Dodnash just over a year after our residency. It’s funny how somewhere that was just a name on a map has suddenly become familiar with all sorts of associations. It was good to be out in the cold spring air and it was lambing time again and the little creatures were frisking about in the field as we walked. It was very green after all the rain, and blustery.
I wanted to show my composer friend Richard Bolley the Priory stone so that we can think about a possible collaborative piece …
I got up at 4.30 to watch the sun rise at the Priory stone.
Transcribed from my notebook
How memories sometimes surface unbidden.
The landscape as a depository for memory.
Is there any such thing?
A small unknown place on the map suddenly becomes a place of significance.
Ancient, buried histories.
Europe in ruins.
A metaphor for memory.
Tears, stains synonymous with memory.
A map of the interior.
The countryside around is synonymous with one man.
We see the landscape around through Constable’s eyes.
A kind of clarity – to be able to see the sun rise at one end of the escarpment and set at the other. The brightness of the stars in the sky at night.
The escarpment behind/in front of the priory provides shelter and also forms a curved horizon perfect for observing the journey of the sun from east to west
A natural clock
A warm wind
Grey, green, brown
Winter tipping over into spring
A wide expanse of sky
The sound of the wind in the trees
Intermittent scraps of blue sky
A patch of sharp yellowy-green from the willow in the farm garden
How alien I feel in the English countryside yet how I love it
A love of the other
Lambs running across the grass
Is it a kind of sentimentality?
Rootedness, the soil
Where do people belong nowadays?
Is it important to feel that you belong to a certain landscape?
Generations of landowners
The landscape as a repository of memory
Remember, remember the house where I was born
Stones from the priory used to build farmhouse?
A large beam from the priory used as a mantelpiece in the farmhouse said to come originally from a ship
The journeys things and people make across time and place
Something that is no longer physically present having a great resonance
Silence, the wind washing through the trees
The buffeting wind, sudden bright tears in the clouds
A riotous evening at the farm, inside bright lights, laughter, outside darkness, moon, stars
The relationship to light is different in the country
Artificial light suddenly takes on a human aspect signifying warmth, shelter, hospitality
The occasional beam from a passing car
Moonlight and stars
Time measured in a different way
In tune with nature
You notice when the sun goes down, the cold suddenly intensifies.
The horizon, the huge skies full of stars
Shadows scudding across the grass
Tiny specks of colour
Constable, the weight of history
The pull of the earth
The weight of a place
Deep purple-brown trees against china blue skies
How to respond to a landscape/a way of life in a few days?
Not to try too hard making it work
A circular walk from the Priory stone through fields and back through Dodnash Woods.
The heady vanilla scent of a gorse bush
Tiny specks of colour from spring flowers
Deer amongst the trees, almost invisible
Hawthorn – bright fresh green
The pungent, rich, earthy, watery smell after rain
Blustery, cold, rain
Two geese on the priory pond
Sudden bursts of sunshine
The grey/brown of the bare trees brought to life by the grey skies
No lambs born last night
“I associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. Those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful….”
In a letter from JC to a friend.
If some of those place names were familiar it’s because we were just down the road from Flatford Mill in Constable Country on the borders of Essex and Suffolk. Apparently controversy still rages between those counties who both claim him as their own.