Autumn; the waning time of the year. A time of endings, decay, darkness. The trees shed their dying leaves, the nights draw in, the air becomes colder, harsher. Mist begins to curl in the early mornings, the flowers of summer wither and die away, the winter flus begin to surface and sweep the land and heavy, iron clouds replace the golden sun of the season before.
Historically, Autumn was the time that our ancestors believed the spirits of the dead were closest to us and evil, supernatural beings stalked the night of Samhain, The Feast of the Dead.
Its easy to see why many people dread when the leaves begin to fall, as on the surface our third quarter of the year seems a rather dreary season; its arrival sounds the death knell for beloved summer and it carries none of the festive cheer of early winter. However, Autumn carries many hidden charms. The falling leaves turn a fiery spectrum of colours before leaving the bosom of their tree to whirl wildly in the miniature vortexes that the winds create.
Mists slither and curl, distorting the world so that a familiar scape can suddenly look new, leading one to appreciate afresh a landscape that usually wouldn’t arouse the slightest curiosity. Their vapours create dews that bead spiderwebs with delicate pearls, creating natural artworks in the most unexpected places.
The arrival of darker, colder nights can also provide a new appreciation of home comforts and a time of reflection. Time to look back on the memories made over the spring and summer.
If my work could be most associated with a season it would most definitely be Autumn, both aesthetically and conceptually. Visually, many motifs associated with this time of year crop up; spiderwebs, trailing ivy, tombstones, skeletons, insects, mist and cold clear nights regularly make appearances, as do themes such as witchcraft, death, decay and the uncanny.
My work is an appreciation of the darker aspects of life; there is beauty in the decaying and the dead. I continue a long British tradition that concerns itself with idolising the macabre.
I am influenced by the work of the stonemasons who carved memento mori on tombs, the aristocrats obsessed with creating their own Gothic follies in their back gardens, Gothic writers such as H P Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as visual artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke.
In short, my work could be described as a celebration of the Gothic, both modern and historical. I attempt to encapsulate and answer the question of “What is Gothic?” through my pieces via preserving old “Gothic” techniques and motifs and marrying them with more contemporary ones.
But, the question remains, “What is Gothic?” To me, the British Isles, and in particular the isles in the Autumn, are very Gothic indeed; a damp, cold, predominantly grey and dreary climate; a rich history that melds pagan and Christian beliefs, traditions and practices into one rich, unique story; a national predisposition towards melancholy and gloom; castles, cathedrals and ruins peppering the landscape…not to mention our literary and artistic output.
In his study of ‘the origins of the English imagination’, Albion author and expert on England’s cultural landscape Peter Ackroyd writes that ‘the ghost story is recognised to be a quintessentially English form. It has been calculated that ‘the vast majority of ghost stories (around 98%) are in English and roughly 70% of them are written by English men and women.’
Astounding credentials on the mythical “goth scale” indeed.
In addition, Britain was also the birthplace of two of the darkest subcultures in the world; heavy metal and Goth. Both of these subcultures influence my work, interests, appearance and lifestyle heavily, so it seems natural to not shy away from their influence when creating visual work.
Britain’s history, climate, landscape, art and media plays a big role in inspiring me to continue creating work. I believe with so much darkness around us today and in the past, it is worthy to celebrate it, particularly in a time of disposable culture that increasingly either crushes or swallows anything different to it.
So in this Autumn season, time of waning, decay and reflection, not to mention the season of Halloween, why not embrace some good old British darkness?
Find Jodie here: instagram.com/leviathanartjodie