It was a real pleasure seeing John Cape's atmospheric and evocative paintings again.
The paintings that make up This Common Wild are set in the Quantock hills in Somerset where Cape's family, the Palmers, made their living collecting brush wood and heather from the hills from which they made brooms to be sold in nearby towns. They were part of a small community known as Broonsquires who lived in simple shelters, relying on access to common land for their food, firewood and materials for brooming. The Enclosure Acts of the first half of the 19th century removed access to the land on which they depended and effectively brought to an end their way of life.
'In discovering the stories of the Broomsquires, their lives and eventual exile from the land, I was struck by the symmetry of the story of Eden and this small place in the Quantock hills. It was in Nether Stowey in the 1790s that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had conjured up his own Eden, Xanadu, which for me seemed a perfect evocation of this idyllic life before Enclosures and titles. The Palmers therefore became my Adam and Eve, their lives, customs and celebrations easily imagined on my walks through the surrounding woods of Nether Stowey. From their lives I also began to look at other Edens and other Eden stories, and realised how important these stories are to understand the importance of a relationship with the natural world that is not about possession. I had glimpsed Eden in these simple lives and communities and these paintings are my attempt to reimagine this relationship with the natural world'.
Dusk Wood Village
Dusk Hill Village
Woodman's Cottage (acrylic on canvas)
The Broomsquire's Cottage
A Broomsquire (acrylic on linen)
The Journey (acrylic on linen)
Gathering in Mothlight
Wild Horse, Full Moon
Goose on the Common
Roosting in the Woods
Evening Moon, (acrylic on canvas)
* * *
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
from Kubla Khan
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.