Myths and Legends

The Wanderer

“I left that place in wretchedness,
ploughed the icy waves with winter in my heart;
in sadness I sought far and wide
for a treasure-giver, for a man
who would welcome me in to his mead-hall,
give me good cheer”
from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Helmsman

Helmsman
Vinyl Engraving • 1986 • 115 x 135mm • edition of 75 • £240 Buy

What with his practical printing, design skills and lifelong love of literature, it was a natural progression in his career as an artist to produce his own books. The success of Peter Grimes and the acquisition of a Jardine press, a small treadle platen press, led to a collaboration with poet Kevin Crossley-Holland in the production of the first Jardine Press publication The Wanderer. Crossley-Holland’s translation of the mournful Anglo-Saxon poem of exile is beautifully produced, containing eloquent and striking vinyl engravings, especially Helmsman by Dodds, which along with the hand set type, was hand printed by him on the actual Jardine press in 1986.

[text by Elly Robinson, from James Dodds & the Jardine Press, Jardine Press Ltd and David Messum Fine Art, 2006, ISBN 0-9552035-1-1]


Wild Man of Orford

Rowing

Rowing
Woodcut • 1995 • 230 x 230mm • edition of 75 • £250 Buy

Catching the Wild Man

Catching the Wild Man
Woodcut • 1995 • 280 x 280mm • edition of 75 • £250 Buy

Food

Food
Woodcut • 1995 • 280 x 280mm • edition of 75 • £250 Buy

Merman, Airborn

Merman, Airborn
Woodcut • 1995 • 280 x 280mm • edition of 75 • £250 Buy

Face to Face

Face to Face
Woodcut • 1995 • 280 x 280mm • edition of 75 • £250 Buy

“Skin…  looking closer under the hair
they see it is made of overlapping scales
leaf on leaf…
a green man from head to toe!”
Allan Drummond

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the production of Britten’s Peter Grimes, the Aldeburgh Festival commissioned a new opera from the composer Nicola LeFanu and Dodds’ former collaborator, librettist Kevin Crossley-Holland: The Wildman. This news was of immediate interest to Dodds as it was to be based on the Wild Man legend.  Anything to do with nautical folklore, especially the Green Man, was dear to his heart and to cap it all, this was set in East Anglia.

The story tells of a maritime green man caught in the fisherman’s nets at Orford, six miles down the Suffolk coast from Aldeburgh. He is imprisoned in the castle, horribly mistreated but fortunately escapes back into the sea. An early representation of the green man can be seen on the font in Orford church, a frequent venue for some of the Aldeburgh Festival events. The tale has much in common with that of Peter Grimes, being the story of an outsider who “invokes fear and hostility in stout Suffolk Hearts”.

Crabbe had described Aldeburgh’s inhabitants as:
“A wild amphibious race
With sullen woe displayed on every face
Who far from civil arts and social fly
And scowl at strangers with suspicious eye.”

This was an obvious must for a new publication for the Jardine Press. Dodds commissioned Allan Drummond to rewrite in verse the saga originally recorded in 1200 by Ralph of Coggeshall in the Chronicon Anglicanum. To illustrate Wild Man of Orford, Dodds created a series of nine woodcuts ~ an appropriate medium for such an ancient legend. Using the rope motif as a symbol of an umbilical cord which ties us to our watery past, the woodcuts start with an almost mediaeval depiction of a boat Rowing and end with Face to Face with a modern fishing boat in the background. The Green Man from mediaeval times, with vines growing from his mouth, was translated into Wild Man Airborne, the vines becoming water. Later, yet another wild man surfaced; the huge Wild Man of the Sea (cut in cork) with his compelling and deeply penetrating gaze. The vines this time had been replaced by the fruits of the sea: water, seaweed whales and boats. This image was used on the cover of the second edition of The Wild Man of Orford in 2002.

Dodds was thoroughly at home with both the medium of wood and the subject matter as well as empathising with the hero. (In an East Anglian Daily Times review of the book, Ian Collins praised the powerful woodcuts and by happy accident identified Dodds as the original Wild Man personified.)

The Wild Man exhibition at Aldeburgh that summer was based on the book and the woodcuts.

[text by Elly Robinson, from James Dodds & the Jardine Press, Jardine Press Ltd and David Messum Fine Art, 2006, ISBN 0-9552035-1-1]



Black Shuck

Night Trees

Night Trees
Linocut • 1999 • 210 x 285mm • edition of 75 • £240 Buy

Scots Pines

Scots Pines
Linocut • 1999 • 200 x 295mm • edition of 75 • £240 Buy

“And Shuck, the Hound of Odin
The black dog of the fens
Who pads across the shadows of the years
Will spring out on the traveller
With burning ember eyes
To haunt the ancient roads where he appears”
Martin Newell

blackshuck

For hundreds of years the sinister ghostly dog, who came ashore with the Vikings, is said to have haunted the fens, churchyards and coastlands of East Anglia. Who better to write an epic poem following the phantom dog’s tracks than Martin Newell? Dodds commissioned him to write it, while producing some appropriately foreboding linocuts to accompany the text, somewhat reminiscent of Edward Bawden’s Hound of the Baskervilles. Although set on dry land with little opportunity for boats, the images Night Trees and Scots Pines once again demonstrate Dodds’ sensitivity to trees in the landscape.

[text by Elly Robinson, from James Dodds & the Jardine Press, Jardine Press Ltd and David Messum Fine Art, 2006, ISBN 0-9552035-1-1]


Goddess Surprising a Boatman

Goddess Surprising a Boatman
2-colour linocut • 1993 • 275 x 185mm • edition of 75 • £290 Buy

Flying Boat of Clonmacnoise

In 2007, Jamie’s highly successful exhibition at Messum’s in Cork Street: Fore and Aft was accompanied by a sumptuous catalogue with a foreword again written by Adam Nicolson. Nicolson makes the connection with a poem by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney: Lightenings VIII, in which he tells the story of the Flying Boat of Clonmacnoise, where several monks are gathered together discussing the practical, wordly affairs of the ancient monastery and, looking up, see a ship sailing over them in the air, high above them inside the church, its hull revealed to view, sailing above them as if it were at sea.The anchor is snagged on the altar rail and a sailor climbs down to try in vain to free it.The Abbot tells the monks to help him:

“They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.”

Heaney says that he takes the story: “to be a kind of dream instruction… a parable about the necessity of keeping the lines open between the two levels of our being… one where we proceed with the usual life… and the other where the visionary and the marvellous present themselves suddenly… we must be ready for the routine and the revelation.”

This story and the words by Heaney were later to inspire two powerful works by Jamie. Not only did it reflect the connection he was making between his practical knowledge as a shipwright and his life’s work as an artist, but it appealed to his love of mythology.

[text by Elly Robinson, from James Dodds & the Jardine Press, Jardine Press Ltd and David Messum Fine Art, 2006, ISBN 0-9552035-1-1]

Out of the Marvellous

Out of the Marvellous
Oil on Linen • 2008 • 36 x 42″

Flying Boat of Clonmacnoise

Flying Boat of Clonmacnoise
Inspired by ‘Lightenings viii’ by Seamus Heaney. Linocut • 2008 • 510 x 365mm • edition of 100 • £390 Buy

Noyes Ark

Noyes Fludde
Woodcut • 2013 • 24.25″ x 39″ (615mm x 990mm) • edition of 50 • £780 Buy