The Life and Works of JB Exhibit

In the words of Mick Orr:

'these two panels provide snapshot pointers to the life of Sir John Betjeman, from childhood through to later years.  Hopefully. They will interest all those who may be unfamiliar with the poet and his work.'  

The Life and Works 1

Designs © Mick Orr

Life and Works 2

Designs © Mick Orr

Professor Brian Catling read these words specially written for the event before the first Exhibit was unveiled by Keith Halstead, a member of HLF's Regional Committee.

One of the long lasting triumphs of John Betjemans's life and work lies at the crossroad of his cunning understatement and his passionate sincerity.

These two elements spark and chime like flint and iron sending off vivid sparks that illuminate every aspect of the world around him and give us insight into all our joys and dilemmas

There is much said about the musicality of his words, the way they ring and toll. Sequence and Merge. 

But not so much is said about their intense and unyielding visual power.

Artists only really have two languages to consult and use.

Description and evocation.

JB was a master of both. 

His description is relentless. The poems are filled with colour and surfaces, textures and the changing concentrations of light and shadow. In some of the Cornwall poems he saturates the page. Demanding that all our sight is used and nothing is missed, wasted or unseen. A great elation rings through these works that chant the life and properties of all he beholds.

These visual rhythms are built up and overlapped, so that intensity is created by their writhing layers in our singing ears.

The evocation comes another way. He takes us to the edge of places and then retreats just enough to leave us tottering slightly between the spaces of words.

He was master of the gaps between named things. The tiny melancholic pauses that ensnare our emotions while our shrewd excited minds follow his stepping-stones of meaning.

It is the same here today. This triptych of tablets works by offering islands of knowledge amid the wild convolution of the Park. They nail the facts with images of his life and the unfolding clarity of this visionary Park and give enough space in-between for us to breath in the moment of seeing and reading 

And feeling his presence at our side.