Sunday, June 16, 2019


Colin Sackett has kindly sent me a copy of Printed Landscapes, an anthology drawing on his earlier books, some of which (like River Axe Crossings and The True Line) have featured on this blog previously. Its cover, as you can see, is plain Manila - no picturesque views here.  In a set of notes, positioned near the middle of the book rather than at the end, he says of this body of work, published since the early 1990s, that
the subjects are commonly about geography, its interpretation and abstraction on the printed page. The locations are often places of familiarity and association, from across southern England, while the book has to do with making connections between its modalities. As with places, or types of places – its subject as such – the reading is intendedly multi-directional.
A few examples can be seen on Colin's website - I've reproduced below an image from 'Geeooggrraapphhy', which comprises overprintings of four maps from London's Country, By Road, Steam and Fieldpath, a guidebook from 1923.  Another work inspired by an old book, The Coast of England and Wales in Pictures (1960), quotes test from the 167 picture captions that describe the coast.  I was pleased to see plenty of cliffs in this - it reminded me of a collage of words to describe the Ligurian coast that I made once here, using words from the poems of Eugenio Montale’s poems in Ossi di Seppia.  W. G. Hoskins, L. Dudley Stamp and Geoffrey Hutchings are all re-purposed in Printed landscape to draw attention to the ways in which places are framed and studied.  In 'Directory' some entries for 'Farmers' from the 1998 Yellow Pages are given, followed by aerial views of farms with their phone numbers.  It made we wonder whether telephone directories are still a thing or have they finally disappeared?  And also of that famous J. G. Ballard quote, that the Los Angeles Yellow Pages was "richer in human incident than all the novels of Balzac". 

Abinger, Albury, Gomshall, Merrow Downs, Shere, Wotton.

One of the entries I particularly like is 'Collection', which reproduces card labels that used to come with bunches of watercress (a shame they couldn't be reproduced in colour).  'Each label,' Colin writes, 'tethered the cress to a typical and identifiable landscape: a clay and chalk valley with water from a spring, or raised from boreholes, channelled to flow gently across wide beds of seeded concrete and gravel.  Seen from above, these planned rectilinear forms impose upon and contrast with the undulating topography on the ground.'  Living in London I don't often think about where watercress grows before it makes it into a salad.  I most associate it with the old Irish story of The Madness of Sweeney (Buile Shuibhne), an outcast who lives on a diet of little else.  Of course watercress labels no longer exist, as we buy the product from supermarkets sealed in plastic.  This collection of 'printed landscapes' has therefore become an archive of signs that remain 'fixed to the activity and geography of their time'.

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