INTRODUCTION

Inspired by the striking black and white photographs taken by Eileen Agar on her travels in Ploumanach, France (previously featured in Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy) Meet & Make visited National Trust’s Brimham Rocks to photograph the local rock formations right here in Yorkshire.

The group were asked to view the landscape through a surrealist lens; letting their imaginations roam, searching for shapes of creatures and characters inhabiting the rocks as they walked around the site.

Nick Singleton a local photographer led the group providing one to one support and advice in the changing weather. Working in pairs, the group were given an SLR camera each and were also invited to use a black and white film camera, much like Eileen’s beloved Rolliflex which became her ‘constant companion’ throughout her life.

Hundreds of photographs were taken throughout the day, collated together, and used back at the gallery to inspire further creative sessions such as acrylic painting, collage and activity sheets for visitors in Artspace.

National Trust approached Meet & Make to exhibit their work and the group have co-curated the resulting exhibition Sculpted by Nature.

The exhibition closes on Friday 30 September at Brimham Rocks.

EILEEN AGAR

Eileen Agar (1899–1991) was one of the most adventurous and prolific artists of her generation. Throughout her seventy-year career she synthesised elements of two of twentieth-century western culture’s most significant artistic tendencies – Cubism and Surrealism – in a diverse and kaleidoscopic practice which moved freely through drawing, painting, photography, collage and sculpture.

In 1936 Agar travelled to Ploumanach, France where she was struck by the coastal rock formations. Emphasising her belief that the Surreal is formed by nature, Agar described the rocks as ‘sculpted by the sea, that master worker of all time, as if nature had arranged a show of sculpture in the open air.’ Keen to document the extraordinary rocks, Agar travelled to the nearest town to buy a camera. She purchased a Rolleiflex square-format camera from this point on photography began to assume a greater role in her practice. Her photographs show her curious eye and reflect the subjects which endured throughout her career.

Helen Little- Curator

Eileen Agar's rock formation photographs hung in a gallery

View of Wharfedale from Brimham Rocks

What are You Looking At by Peter

People say that they can see a dolphin and a whale swimming over each other in this image. I have seen a face staring out from the picture, perhaps it’s a human? Perhaps a Meercat? Whatever it is, it has big bushy eyebrows! Can you see anything different?

The image is a black and white landscape photograph of Wharfedale from Brimham Rocks with one of the horizontal large rock surfaces in the foreground. The photograph was taken with a Zenza Bronica camera during a rainstorm.

Eileen Agar was both a Surrealist and an experimental Abstract artist, so I hope that my photograph reflects and celebrates these artistic tendencies.

Hope & Strength by Joanne

I named my photograph Hope and Strength, the tree growing out of a rock signifies hope that it will still survive despite adversity, and it must be strong to grow such tough roots.

Ever since I was widowed in 2020 I often find it helpful and inspirational to be out in nature and to me the tree growing out of the rock gives me the hope and strength to carry on my journey.

Being creative and being active in such amazing groups as Meet and Make at Leeds Art Gallery also play a big part.

Rocks at Brimham
Inside the rock formations at Brimham

Coming if You’re Ready or Not by Fe

As soon as I saw this rock formation and space, it took me right back to my childhood of hide and seek, finding dens and secret hideouts.  Memories of endless hours of fun and imagination I spent with my friends, or even solo came flooding back in my mind.

My aim was to take a photograph for the viewer that was visually interesting on several levels and would also stimulate their imagination, as it did mine. I want them to explore the rock formation, enter the space from the forefront through to the background and to picture themselves in the space, release their imagination and let it venture where it cares to take them; just as we did as children.

As an aid to meditation, the viewer can visualise sitting in the formation space and absorbing the various subtle colours of the stones, leaning up against the cooling rocks and gazing through to the background.  To take a mental snapshot of this beautiful rock formation, carry the image with them and access it whenever their mind and soul needs the calm and relaxation or their inner child needs the fun and adventure!

The Man of the Mountains by David

You don’t need much imagination to see faces, people or creatures within the rocks. It must had been a similar experience for Eileen when she took her photos in France. I also did a few sketches of the rocks, it was easy to be inspired.

All 12 of our group got to take one photograph each with Nicks camera. As I turned around from where I was standing, there it was. It was if that piece of rock called to me, I needed to get closer and get a better look. I could hardly contain myself as I scrambled up the hillside to a better vantage point. And so, there he was, like some majestic mythical creature, standing on top of a huge reptiles back. This truly was The king of the mountains.

The man of the mountain. The man of the mountains Rode upon a giant reptile. He stood over 100 foot high and brushed the sky. The reptile was strong and very long. As it moved him around it sang a song.

Rocks at Brimham

Mirrored photograph of rock formations at Brimham

Mirror by Dave

Taking inspiration from the unique landscape, this photo manipulation is derived from the natural formations at Brimham Rocks. Cropping and mirroring the image, it creates a unique perspective.

The Lost Sea Captain by Cassy

When walking around Brimham I came across a lost captain, looking wistfully across the vast landscape, rugged and weathered, wearing his Naval tricorne hat to shield him from the stormy lashings of the harsh windy Moor, for hundreds of years forever trying to find his way back to the ‘salt chuck! No folk-lore sea shanty will be guiding this sailor back.

Rocks at Brimham

A Drop of Dew by Hellen

I chose this photograph because I loved the minute details of the tiny dew drops on the moss grass and the beautiful lichen that looked like snow, a close-up interpretation of the amazing Brimham Rock environment.

The kind loan of the cannon camera for the project enabled me to play with the focus and depth of field. Altering the perspective of the image was an interesting exercise, very different from using a mobile phone camera, the image can be interpreted as very large or minuscule.

It was a real treat to get out into nature with Meet & Make and take the time to experience and observe your surroundings as a group. 

Camel by Leigh

In this photo the rock is framed by the landscape, particularly the vegetation growing around it, which gave the rock some context. As in many of the rock formations at Brimham, this one presented a face – in this case it suggested the face of a camel, incongruous in North Yorkshire away from the deserts of its home. There is a beautiful patina to the rock surface, wrought by the weather and the dressing of moss and lichen. A proud beast held in the cold landscape of Northern England.

Rocks at Brimham

Rocks at Brimham

The Twins by Colin

When Eileen Agar looked at the Ploumanac’h rock formations in Brittany, France, she saw human and animal forms, just as local people have done for centuries. The human brain is hard wired to see faces in random shapes, and this is what I’ve done.

Are these dinosaurs, two Tyrannosaurus rexes, or are they Thunderbirds (The Pacific Northwest kind, not from Tracy Island)? They’re facing away from each other in a defiant pose, protecting their sibling from the outside world.