themed exhibition
centred on


through-the-season cycle
of prints and other media

with works by other invited artists
in response to this mythical character

April 2nd – 16th  2011

Christopher Browne     John Chipp     H. M. Clarke     Elizabeth Knight     Tamsin Loveday     David McDiarmid     Jo Price     “Ray” Reynolds      Laleh Yeganegy

and likely to contribute are:  Susan Anderson    Lynne Hudson    Olivia Keith
Revisit nearer opening date for finalised list

Media to include:  drawing    painting    bas-relief & wicker sculpture    print    book-works    digital photography    textiles

Although thought of as ‘typically’ English, The Green Man is of uncertain origin, occurring widely across Europe and far into the Middle East.  An archetypal form is a carved head, whose hair morphs into foliage before coiling back into his mouth, ears or nose.  With all the verdure surrounding him, he is clearly related to pagan tree-worship / re-birth rites, now lost to human recall.
Green Men images are often found in medieval church and cathedral carvings (often in prominent positions, and en masse):  e.g. Winchester Cathedral has so many (and some so subtle), there is disagreement over the exact number!  The early Christian church, apparently unable to break its flock’s devotion to this green idol, appropriated such symbols by replacing festivals, absorbing folklore and, to sanctify sacred sites, building churches.  Knowledge of ancient customs and ceremonies has been marginalised, so that today only vestiges of them survive, one of which is The Green Man.
Conflated in popular imagination with Jack-in-the-Green, [Sir Gawain’s] Green Knight, Robin Hood and similar folk figures, The Green Man has more recently been adopted by parts of the ecology movement, and reclaimed by pantheist religions;  in some eyes, the latest upsurge symbolises a ‘green’ Arthurian-style reawakening, honouring the king’s pledge to save his domain in its hour of need.

Green Man in Autumn

January Green Man

April Green Man
With little of that baggage, printmaker / painter ELIZABETH NASH has been exploring this intriguing evanescent figure for several years.  Her results, originally intended as a quasi-calendar of The Green Man’s various monthly guises, have extended organically to nearly twenty images, and beyond the original medium of print.
Before Southampton City Art Gallery’s foyer was taken over by the Council’s city development displays, the cycle was booked in to be shown there.  To ensure it got seen, “The First” stepped into the breach, and invited other makers to exhibit their creative responses to the theme.  The resulting show doesn’t purport to be an academic overview of its subject, being decidedly ‘heart not head’ in spirit.  Instead it’s an evocation of a shadowy, ancient talisman, symbolic of humankind’s indestructible links with the untamed, sometimes benign (but perhaps otherwise… )  Broad interpretations were invited, resulting in images ranging from the traditional Woodwose, via imagined aliens from Mars, to the “Walk” icon on a pelican crossing!

Green Man photo by Elizabeth Knight

Thorns by Tamsin Loveday

Woodwose by Jo Price

Some Views round the Exhibition

pdf file of flyer for this show

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