11 October - 5 November 2013, Glass Tank, Oxford Brookes
With drawings and paintings by Zoe
Benbow (Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at Oxford Brookes in 2010-11) and
poetry selected by Deryn Rees-Jones,
poet and academic (shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, 2012 and Welsh Book of
the Year, 2013 for Burying the Wren).
Water, sky, earth, coast. No landscape exists out of
context: like anything else landscape is as subject to the effects of time,
culture, power, ownership and ecology as it is to its
poetical, historical and gendered constructions. Zoe
Benbow’s pictures, made in situ, as she engages with, and places herself in the
reality of the landscape – its weather, and the shifting light which makes
impressions on the contours she temporarily inhabits rather than simply regards
– evoke what she has described as ‘an abstract geological landscape developed
from direct experience in remote environments’. The move towards abstraction
for Benbow is also a movement between conscious and unconscious worlds and she
has described her method as being ‘as much a meditation on a geology of
association and memory as of actual place’.
Set here in lively conversation with a range of poems by
British and American women chosen by poet Deryn Rees-Jones, important questions
are asked in the ensuing dialogue about the relationship between, and the
construction of, the female self and the natural world. Although the poems are
largely written by Benbow’s contemporaries, by way of context they are framed
by the work of three important poetic predecessors: Charlotte Smith
(1749-1806), Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) and Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). As in
Benbow’s work, all the poems, in their differing ways, address ideas of scale
and perspective, the relationship between the micro and the macrocosmic, and
the process of looking itself. The cumulative effect asks that we readjust the
focus of our eyes, and in doing so also find new focus in our imagination.
You can read more about Zoe’s work on her website,
and more about Deryn’s poetry and research on her page at the University of Liverpool.
To tie in with this exhibition, the Poetry Centre hosted
writing and painting workshops with Sarah
Corbett (whose poetry featured in the exhibition) and Zoe Benbow. It also
organized a reading by Sarah Corbett and Deryn Rees-Jones, and a panel
discussion about the exhibition with Zoe, Sarah, Deryn and the Director of the Poetry
Society, Judith Palmer. Where We Begin to Look first appeared at
the Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe in London in 2013, and the Society sponsored
the touring exhibition, which also visited Organic House, Hebden Bridge, and the Norwich Arts Centre.