An Underswell of Divination

Osmond, Matthew (2017) An Underswell of Divination. The Dark Mountain Project, N/A. ISSN N/A

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Abstract / Summary

In the 1970s and ’80’s the poet Ted Hughes and the sculptor and printmaker Leonard Baskin worked together on a number of books of illustrated poetry. Among these, their first collaboration, Crow, trailed by its lesser-known sequel Cave Birds, quickly became iconic. Already a household name in the States, Baskin remarked ruefully at the time that his reputation in England rested almost solely on having illustrated the cover of Crow.
What was it that made Crow so contagious an image? Among the ways we might run with that question, I want to suggest here that what we meet staring back at us from Crow’s ponderous, guilty face may include a burgeoning sense of unease, or dislocation, that the writer Timothy Morton, some 40 years later, has spoken of as ‘the ecological thought’.

Far from a conscious preoccupation with ‘going green’, Morton’s ecological thought concerns the all-pervasive entanglement of our immediate experience within a slippery, centre-less ‘mesh’ – a strangely ungraspable web of relations wherein both other beings, and our own queasily interconnected fields of experience, only get weirder, more deeply haunted by a sense of otherness, the longer we look at them.

A verb that’s sometimes used to talk about what illustration does is to illuminate, as in to shed light on. As a way of talking about image-making, it’s a word closely associated with religion, of course, with traditions of the sacred. So what might it look like for a drawing to illuminate this creeping infection within our inherited notions of the human? And what sort of light, in particular, might such an illustration shed on the curious blank spot that grows, like an unthinkable numbness, on the other side of poor environmentalism’s 'must do better'?

With these preoccupations in mind, this article looks back to Hughes’ and Baskin’s collaboration – to see what their Crow, and his afterbirth Cave Birds, might have to say about all this.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Creative Writing
Arts > Drawing
Arts > Illustration
Arts > Fine Art
Arts > Religion
Arts > Symbolism, allegory, myth & legend
Writing & Journalism
Courses by Department: The Falmouth School of Art > Illustration
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Mat Osmond
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2020 09:02
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 16:24


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