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The Dark Monarch

 

Faye Pomerance, Sphere of Redemption (1967)


Symposium at Tate St Ives: Magic & Modernity in British Art
Saturday 21 November 2009, 10.30–16.00

Contributors include: the exhibition curators ( Martin Clark - Artistic Director Tate St Ives, Michael Bracewell - writer and critic, Alun Rowlands - artist, writer and Head of Fine Art, University of Reading).

They will be joined by Chris Stephens - Curator (Modern British Art) & Head of Displays at Tate Britain as well as exhibiting artists Jeremy Millar , Mark Titchner and Clare Woods.

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Alongside the symposium there will be a screening of The Incredible String Band Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending introduced by the film's director Peter Neal and followed by a discussion with Adrian Whittaker . Adrian Whittaker is a music historian and freelance researcher who edited the definitive Incredible String Band biography, Be Glad - An Incredible String Band Compendium (Helter Skelter Publishing, 2003), as well as supervising a number of ISB CD reissues. He is currently collaborating with Michael Bracewell on a feature for The Wire about The Moodies, an obscure music and performance outfit from the early Seventies.

Other creative responses to the show include the screening of a new collaborative film Dominion by author Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne , which in fifteen minutes evokes the mysterious shape and forms of the sea.

Philip Hoare is the winner of the Samuel Johnson prize 2009 and is the author of six works of creative non-fiction, including Spike Island, England's Lost Eden and most recently Leviathan or The Whale , 2008 with the accompanying BBC2 Arena film The Hunt for Moby-Dick .

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A new composition by experimental band Cyclobe integrates cutting-edge electronic music with a strong feeling for the English landscape. The work, The Woods Are Alive with The Smell of His Coming is a hymn to Pan, composed and performed by Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower with contributions from Mike York, Cliff Stapleton and John Contreras . Recorded at Strange Hotel, on the South East Coast of England, 2009.

'Nowhere can it be so black as on the edge of a moor, above the western sea, near the rocks where the ancient worshippers used to sacrifice. The darkness of menhirs.' - D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (1923)

‘Everywhere there was a brooding presence over the hills ... emanating desolation, loneliness and destruction: the Dark Monarch who wrecked men's lives, smashed their ships on the rocks and cut off terror-stricken fingers to snatch at the jewels of eternal life.' - Sven Berlin, The Dark Monarch, Gallery Press (1962)

The Dark Monarch– which takes its title from the infamous 1962 book by Sven Berlin – explores the influence of folklore, mysticism, mythology and the occult on the development of British modernism. Berlin's novel is a fictional critique of an artist colony.   It captures the topographical forces that tether the dark manipulation of the symbolic forms. Amidst its recalcitrant chapters there is a tension between a progressive modernity and the otherness of a romantic knowledge. It is this tension, focusing on landscape encoded with mystical notions of history as both geological and magical, that the exhibition seeks to traverse.

The Dark Monarch critically examines magic as a counterpoint to liberal understanding of modernity's transparency and rational progress. The exhibition will attend to the ways in which magic's forms of faith and scepticism, revelation and concealment supplement each other. Here, magic is designated a conceptual field- shared with notions as fetishism, witchcraft, the occult, totem, mana and taboo- that was predominantly made to define an antithesis of modernity; a production of illusion and delusion that was thought to recede and disappear through secularisation.   The works exhibited confront the sentimentalist, poetic or voluntaristic tendencies that were once excluded, tendencies that were harnessed by romantic visions that become fundamental to the vagaries of aesthetic ruination. The Dark Monarch contends that magic belongs to modernity revealing the correspondences and nostalgias by which the magical can come to haunt modernity.

Featuring major loans and works from the Tate Collection, by historic and contemporary artists, the exhibition will realign the influence of early modernism, and the reappearance of neo-romantic and esoteric references, on a significant strand of current international arts practice. it will examine the development of early Modernism, Surrealism and Neo-Romanticism in Britain, as well as the reappearance of esoteric and arcane references in a significant strand of contemporary art practice. The exhibition will include a key work by Damien Hirst, the first time he has been shown at Tate St Ives, as well as works by important modernists and surrealists including Graham Sutherland, Paul Nash, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ithell Colquhoun; Neo-Romantics such as Cecil Collins, John Piper, Leslie Hurry and John Craxton; as well as emerging and established contemporary artists including Cerith Wyn Evans, Mark Titchner, Eva Rothschild, Simon Periton, Clare Woods, Steven Claydon, John Stezaker and Derek Jarman. The Dark Monarch aims to be a constellation that evokes and fuses the real with the imaginary: automatic drawing, stone sculptures, botanical collage, esoteric busts, and appropriated imagery are manipulated with transformative effect across generations of British art. The exhibition will traverse historical points where artists relish in the degradation of the known and the perversion of a rational culture. The exhibition and related events will weave together interconnected fictions that form a landscape of broken connections. Signposting the way will be artworks colluding to form an entropic trail that define a restless territory of romantic knowledge; a knowledge that seeks to confront a lacuna, the absent fiction at the heart of Berlin's novel.

Curated by Martin Clark, Artistic Director, Tate St Ives; Michael Bracewell, writer and critic and Alun Rowlands, artist, writer and Head of Fine Art, University of Reading, the show will be arranged thematically rather than chronologically, representing artists and influences across generations.


The Dark Weekend
Your actions are my dreams by Linder
Saturday 31 October 2009, 14.00–15.30

Over the past three decades, Linder (b 1952, Liverpool) has used music, performance and collage as a vehicle for the examination of self through which she questions the commodification of the female form within society. This new work weaves the tradition of Guise dancing into a mythological assemblage responding to ancient customs and rituals of Cornwall and St Ives in particular. 

The performance takes place on Allantide, the eve of winter and beginning of the Celtic New Year. Collaborators include composer, Stuart McCallum (Cinematic Orchestra).

Your Actions are My Dreams ' was part of 'The Dark Monarch' and the title of the performance came from a WH Auden poem. Coinciding with the Cornish festival of Allantide, 'Your Actions are my Dreams' assembled elaborate costumes, traditional Guise dancers, musicians and a magnificent white horse in a spectacular procession. It wove the local tradition of guise dancing into a 'mythological assemblage' responding to ancient customs and rituals of Cornwall and St Ives in particular. It took place on Allantide, the eve of winter and beginning of the Celtic New Year. Linder's collaborators included composer Stuart McCallum (Cinematic Orchestra) and writer Simon Reed. The costume designer was Richard Nicoll and the mask designer Nasir Mazhar.

Linder by Morrissey, Interview Magazine, January 2010

The Dark Monarch Key, Sven Berlin, handwritten envelope containing the author’s key to the characters in the novel, May 1982

The Dark Monarch Key, Sven Berlin, handwritten envelope containing the author’s key to the characters in the novel, May 1982

The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art

Edited by Martin Clark, Michael Bracewell & Alun Rowlands
Published by Tate, 2009

216 pp plus cover and 8-page jacket, 75 colour & 40 black & white illustrations
Dimensions 230 x 170mm
ISBN 9781854378743

 
With essays from Paul Bayley, Toni Carver, Cecil Collins, Ithell Colqhuoun, Ilsa Colsell, Brian Dillon, Ed Halter, Jennifer Higgie, Philip Hoare, Paul Nash, Chris Stephens, Marina Warner and Morrissey.

With essays from Paul Bayley, Toni Carver, Cecil Collins, Ithell Colqhuoun, Ilsa Colsell, Brian Dillon, Ed Halter, Jennifer Higgie, Philip Hoare, Paul Nash, Chris Stephens, Marina Warner and Morrissey.

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Tate Film: Late Night Double-bill Royal Cinema, St Ives Witchfinder General (1968) by Michael Reeves (86 min) and Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck (2007) by Emily Wardill (12min) Introduced by Paul Bayley Director of The Florence Trust in London and Art in Churches Officer for Art and Christianity Enquiry.

Tate Film: Late Night Double-bill Royal Cinema,
St Ives

Witchfinder General (1968) by Michael Reeves (86 min) and Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck (2007) by Emily Wardill (12min)

Introduced by Paul Bayley Director of The Florence Trust in London and Art in Churches Officer for Art and Christianity Enquiry.

 
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