The Artist of the Future Age: William Blake, Neo-Romanticism, Counterculture and Now

William Blake (1757 – 1827) : the enigmatic and inspirational , visionary artist and poet was reimagined during this conference as a kind of time- transcending ‘ influencer’ , a counter-culture spark , revolutionary and predictor of future visual arts developments.

How did I come here?

In Summer , following a thread of enquiry into mysticism , I worked with the Blake originals at the Whitworth, drawing, painting, researching, questioning, reflecting, seeing and listening. I wrote about my experience in the post Curators, Collections and Conversations. During this time, the curators at the Whitworth recommended I attend this conference at the Rylands Library as it had some of the leading Blake scholars and specialists including: Colin Trodd (The Univeristy of Manchester), Sibylle Erle ( Bishop Grosseteste University) , Martin Myrone (Tate Britain) and also the poet Michael Horovitz in converation with Bryan Biggs ( The Bluecoat , Liverpool).

Who now remembers Edward Young?

I arrived early and was whisked into the bible room with the special collections curator to have an eyes on experience with some beautiful original works by Blake and those influenced by him such as Jeff Nutall in Bomb Culture.

The most striking and powerful book for me was a copy of Night Thoughts written by the poet Edward Young . When asked, the curator told me the etchings had been hand coloured in water colour by Blake. According to the Blake Archive the book has 537 watercolour illustrations.

Young, Edward, ‘The complaint, and the consolation; or, Night thoughts’ (London: printed by R. Noble, for R. Edwards, 1797)

The curator asked us ” Who now remembers Edward Young?” which made me consider the power of the art and the fact that even though Blake was a poet these were not his words, yet the work visually speaking is held in his name.

There is no substitute for proximity to the original hand of the artist. What struck me was the sheer volume and quality of the watercolours. Some of the repetition of bodily poses , arms reaching upwards, others down appeared almost like an intersecton of realms. Figures were prostrate, kneeling, reaching, expressing; they seemed both classical and mythic. Colin Trodd in conversation with Miriam Dafydd Deep England: Blake & Neo-Romanticism (1pm1.20pm) later described Blake’s work as a “body-centred art” and as “a series of hieroglyphs” which resonated with me as the figure is part of the essence of his work and occupies a liminal space at times between realities. This thought had connections with my own developing use of figures in visual art, in the context of abstraction.

Questions and concepts continued to develop and blossom as I later worked in the studio.