Abstract Art Into Landscape
Geoffrey Jellicoe


Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe

©Monica Pidgeon

For many years now I've been interested in the relation of abstract art to landscape. Is it, in fact, possible to transfer the abstract ideas of painting and sculpture into the natural world about us? Of course this is difficult because trees are trees and humans are humans and they don't like being made an abstract. But I think there are certain Fundamental principles in all art, as Joshua Reynolds said, and Humphrey Repton also agreed, that basically all art goes back to the same source. Egg you tap this source? I think one can. I was encouraged by the original statement of a Chinese master to his students on how to paint landscape. 'Conceive hills and minor hills as human behaviour'; that is to say, the larger hill would be the host, and the smaller bills would be his guests. And I have used this myself in the grouping of trees for instance. In the Classical world, trees were formal, regimented and so forth, because Man dominated Nature. New, in China this is something quite different, and the trees are grouped according to the informal grouping that you expect with people in conversation. And so, in certain parks, when one comes to arranging trees, one goes back to think 'how do humans behave.’ And then you find, curiously enough, that this effect on landscape appears to be very satisfactory. And I think that many landscape architects do in fact operate on this idea of analogy, quite subconsciously. what one is after is the appeal, to the subconscious in Man, as compared with the conscious. If you can do the two together, then you'll get an -art which is strongly reinforced. The two together are very strong.


Roof Garden Of Harvey's Store, Guildford, Surrey

©Susan Jellicoe

Now I will show you five examples of where I have actually put this conception of the use of the subconscious into practice. The first one was the roof garden of Harvey's Store in Guilford in Surrey. At that time, which was about twenty years or - so ago, the first Sputnik-had circulated the Earth and all people's minds were fas- I cinated by this new conception of outer space. The roof garden which the owners required should be very dramatic, I felt was a Sky garden and not an Earth garden raised at the height of 80 feet above the ground. For this reason, I flooded the surface of the roof garden, and then came the relation to the circles of planets circulating round, and the Sputnik going on its course. I have historical interest in this when I discovered that when Kepler discovered that the planets went in ovals rather than circles, some of the Baroque churches in Rome appear to have been designed with this influence. So I played about with circles which would unconsciously relate people to their bread way of thought and the influence of outer space. Now this is the plan of the roof garden, and you will see the curvatures and the islands in the water, and this has been very dramatic to the eye. when people adventure forth onto the stepping-stones they are subconsciously stepping forth into outer space. And they return after that tour, they return very satisfied with their adventure, not entirely knowing why. ‘

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