I was reminded of the object/landscape conflict today at the Yale Center for British Art , where I love to digress. Today, I wanted to take a closer look at British modernism, which tends to be overshadowed by its French and German siblings. Today, I had also just read a manuscript by Guy Sanders and a memorial on A. H. S. Megaw (by Hector Caitlin, BSA 102  pp. 1-10); so I had gotten myself into a royally British mood. At Yale, I was delighted to discover a painting that best explores archaeological conflict, John Nash's Mineral Objects from 1935. I have not yet located a color image of the painting, so I include my quick sketch at the top. John Nash (1889-1946) is considered to be the founder of a distinctively British form of Surrealism. He explored the uncanny relationship between subject and object by positioning mock-monumental objects against the landscape of his southern England. Mineral Objects shows two pottery lathes set on a rolling coastal landscape at Dorset.
Nash is here using British archaeology the same way that Giorgio de Chirico or Aldo Rossi used Graeco-Roman archaeology for their Mediterranean provocations of memory and melancholia. The two conical pottery lathes are constructed from a type of shale quarried at the cliffs of Kimmeridge, which is now protected as a Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. In prehistoric times, the black stone was used for bracelets and adornment. When it was discovered, it became known as "coal money." In the Roman period, the shale was crafted into conical lathes around which pottery was spun. In Nash's painting, the manufactured gray geology becomes monumental and is juxtaposed with the rolling landscape. The two engage in a relationship that beautifies both but illumines neither. The archaeological find and the gigantic landscape are one and the same but irreconcilable. One is smooth, colorful and varied, the other is geometrical, phallic, but small.