Fair & Foul: Ruskin & the Grotesque

10 January – 8 April 2018

An exhibition investigating the Grotesque by artist Jill Rock.

Fair & Foul is an investigation into the grotesque at Brantwood, Coniston. The grotesque is always a contested issue. In Stones of Venice Volume 111 Ruskin makes a detailed analysis of the ways that grotesques are portrayed, relating them to society. In the final analysis he decides that there is a form of the grotesque which is the mark of a vigorous culture. That is to say that he would not necessarily consider the unmediated obscene or violent as wholesome grotesque, merely obscene and violent. Ruskin’s view is of particular relevance in our time of ‘violence in the Age of Spectacle’ where we are bombarded with images in the media which engender fear and then apathy. Maybe in Ruskin’s analysis where the grotesque is mediated through beauty and a degree of humour we might find some way to a healing process in our present time of terrorism. He coined the prophetic phrase The Divinity of Decomposition as he surveyed the horrors of the urbanisation of Victorian London, reflecting on its affect on the imagination of people and artists in particular. It is of interest that it is said that Ruskin’s analysis of the grotesque is much in line with contemporary psychology.

In Fair and Foul in the Blue Gallery at Brantwood, Jill Rock through the medium of painted fragments of wood, many from the Brantwood estate, has set up an exhibition which could be seen as a dialogue with Ruskin’s analysis of the grotesque.

‘In my mind Ruskin is a man of ideas who has become increasingly relevant as society draws closer to many of the concerns he expressed in his writings some 150 years ago. I do believe that my realisation of the importance of the grotesque in art began in 2003/4 when I spent a winter as artist on the Brantwood estate. Since then I have gathered a collection of Grotesques which have given me much delight and food for thought in the painting and I would wish that they give the same in the viewing. To understand the intricacies of Ruskin’s descriptions of the grotesque is labyrinthine and for myself the best I can do is identify with the ‘playful grotesque’ which Ruskin sees as coming from the serious mind at play – whether this is true of my work or not I continue to ponder. I will be holding workshops, and artist talks in the studio at Brantwood on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, February 14th. 15th. 16th during opening hours 10.30 to 4pm, free and open to all ages.’

Jill Rock MRBS FRGS works with the nature and culture of a place, in this case Brantwood and Ruskin. She has worked and exhibited her work worldwide, including UK, Germany, Italy, Holland, France, US, Brazil. Chile, Argentina, Lebanon and Hong Kong. She has had solo exhibitions in Brantwood, London, Rome and Argentina.


Further information:
  • Open daily 10.30 am to 5.00 pm
  • Admission is included in the house & garden ticket; House & Garden: Adult: £7.50; Child: Free (aged 5 – 16); Student: £6.00; Infant/Junior School Groups: £1.20 ; Secondary School Groups: £5.25 (Free for adult helpers and teachers); Garden only tickets cost: Adult: £5.20; Child: Free; Student: £4.30
  • Location Brantwood, Coniston,  Cumbria  LA21 8AD
  • For more information please call  015394 41396; email: enquiries@brantwood.org.uk