The British Council Collection is a global modern and contemporary art resource that shares work by UK Visual Artists, through international collaborative exhibitions and projects, to build connections and understanding worldwide. It is no stranger to global crises, having lived through the Second World War and many other such fragile geopolitical moments.
We feel it might have a few tricks up its sleeve with how to cope with the current situation and so, without further ado, we present 'please Calm Me Down Collection’.
This selection looks at nature. At a time when many of us are self-isolating at home without access to green spaces, our Head of Visual Arts Programme Jenny White takes us on a meditative journey using works with a natural theme to help us heal and rejuvenate.
Peter Kinley, Leaves, 1977 - 1978
‘I have often talked about art as one way of surviving… of making life possible.’ Peter Kinley (1926–1988)
Imagine going outside, allow yourself to feel the first hit of the sun. Suffused in dappled sunlight, Kinley's oil painting Leaves evokes a breeze moving gently through trees, reminding us of infinite possibilities. Our re-connection with nature begins, our senses are sharpened and rebalanced.
Leon Underwood, Harvest Corn, 1943
In Leon Underwood's (1890 – 1975) Harvest Corn, we are lying down in a meadow, feeling the grass beneath us and gazing upwards at the sky as we surrender to the warmth of the sun. The warm ochre colours of this woodcut convey a sense of shimmering heat, and the assured nude form has a vibrant physicality. The fields stretch out into the distance, perhaps informed by Underwood’s flights over the English landscape during the Second World War. The scene must have seemed a fantasy almost out of reach at the time it was made in 1943 but also, perhaps, a symbol of hope.
Andy Goldsworthy, Snowball in Trees, 1980
Snowball in Trees by Andy Goldsworthy (1956 – ) records a sensory point of human intervention in nature. We feel the crisp cold snowball created by the artist and balanced momentarily on the dry branches. It will soon melt to take another form, reminding us of nature’s endless powers of regeneration and renewal.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Upper Glacier, 1950
Nature’s sheer hugeness can be overwhelming, yet strangely calming. This is the sublime inspiration for Upper Glacier by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912 – 2004) who visited the village Grindelwald in the Swiss Bernese Alps mountain range and recalled: ‘The massive strength and size of the glaciers, the fantastic shapes, the contrast of solidity and transparency, the many reflected colours in strong light … This likeness to glass and transparency, combined with solid rough ridges made me wish to combine in a work all angles at once, from above, through and all around, as a bird flies, a total experience’.
Hamish Fulton, Song Path (Two Walks January 1992 and January 1993), 1993
'My art is a passive protest against urban societies that alienate people from the world of nature.' Hamish Fulton (1946 – )
Fulton is a walking artist who imagines a new relationship with nature. He leaves no formal mark or intervention on the land through which he travels but aims to condense his experiences. In his work Song Path (Two Walks January 1992 and January 1993) human experiences and emotions blend seamlessly with the landscape in a circular flow of energy and song – person and environment become one.
Recommendations from Further Afield
Staff at Kettle's Yard – a house and modern and contemporary art gallery in Cambridge, UK – have captured soothing images of rainbows cast on the objects collected and carefully placed throughout the gallery by their founder Jim Ede. Read more here.