How artist Jill Tattersall is marking the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings
PUBLISHED: 14:50 28 September 2016 | UPDATED: 14:50 28 September 2016
To mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings artist Jill Tattersall has recreated the constellations on that fateful night. Duncan Hall finds out more about her inspirations and life
“People have always looked up to the night sky. Cavemen to 21st century scientists have been asking the question: ‘What am I in the face of all this?’”
For the last 15 years Hove artist Jill Tattersall has taken inspiration both from her previous career as a lecturer in French history at Leicester University and an interest in natural patterns in her art. Her works have ranged from pieces inspired by starling murmurations, to her painting, En Prison, influenced by graffiti carved by Napoleonic prisoners of war, all created using paints, inks, dyes and pure pigments on her own handmade cotton paper.
But in recent years the 69-year-old has found herself looking up and creating a series of works combining the night sky and the style of early medieval cartography such as the 14th century circular map of the world the Mappa Mundi. The results have been astonishing – particularly when combined with historical events. Last year she created a reproduction of the night sky at the time of the signing of the Magna Carta. And this month Battle Memorial Halls will display her latest map of the night sky on the eve of the Battle of Hastings to mark the 950th anniversary of the conflict. The 4ft by 5ft painting is on canvas rather than paper owing to its large size, and is bordered by images inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, including ships landing at Pevensey Bay and Halley’s Comet which was seen as a portent of doom that same year.
“There is a wonderful source on the internet where you can find out what the sky looked like anywhere on any day, both past and future,” says Jill from her Hove Park Villas home. It doubles as her Wolf At The Door Studios, which is guarded by a large metal lupine sculpture outside.
“You can find out from the times of ancient Babylon to when you were born. In the case of the Battle of Hastings picture I’m just observing, I’m not describing. I did it by eye – so it’s art not science, it’s not totally accurate, but at the same time it’s not an estimation. There has always been astrology – people seeing shapes in the sky and giving them names.”
The idea of the Battle canvas came when she displayed some of her earlier Night Sky works at the Abbey Hotel in Battle last year. “I got really excited about Battle,” she says. “I had done the Magna Carta Night Sky for a planned exhibition which never happened at Lincoln Cathedral to mark the 800th anniversary last year.
“The night skies pictures make me think more about the essentials of life when things are changing and uncertain. You should enjoy the little things – looking at the stars.”
The painting is largely blue, with the stars and their constellations picked out with silver thread. “There is nothing like using silver,” says Jill. “It reflects different things in different lights.”
When she was younger Jill wanted to be a classical singer, but was also drawn to art.
“When I was young as a woman your career outlets were limited,” she says. “You could either be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. I had a rather chequered childhood travelling from England to Germany and Africa and back to London. There was an art teacher in London, Meriel Cardew [wife of the famous potter, Michael], who was inspirational. I wasn’t allowed to take an art A level, but she let me keep my art up.”
Jill was steered away from music and art, and into an academic career by her school and parents. But after having her second child she decided to take on a full-time funded art course at Lincoln’s Newark and Sherwood College. She held her first exhibition in 2002.
She has lived in Hove with her husband Tim Cordy since 2009. She regularly opens the studios for Brighton and Hove’s Artists Open Houses. “I did a lot of writing as an academic,” she says. “I still use a lot of text in my paintings. My work used to be very soft-edged, but I’ve found since I had my eyes lasered seven or eight years ago there is a harder edge to my work!”
As well as her latest Night Sky work she is receiving acclaim for her recent painting Murmuration, Before the Storm, which captures a wave of starlings over the sea. The painting is part of the National Open Art Competition.
Jill Tattersall’s Night Sky will be on display at Battle Memorial Halls, in High Street, Battle, from Saturday 8 October to Sunday 23 October. Visit battlememorialhall.co.uk
For more information and to see more of Jill’s work visit www.jilltattersall.co.uk
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