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This week's blog is written by Curator of the Jerwood Collection, Lara Wardle, who tells us more about our John Piper and Jack-in-the-Green display.

It is nearly the end of April and preparations are underway for Hastings’ annual Jack-in-the-Green Festival (Friday 29 April – Monday 2 May 2016).

The Old Town is decorated with coloured ribbons and foliage and on Bank Holiday Monday a parade of dancers, drummers, sweeps and 'bogeys'  follow 'the Jack' (a symbolic representation of spring) from the Fisherman’s huts to the top of West Hill where he is slain in order to release the spirit of the summer.

This year Jerwood Gallery will not only be decorated on the outside, but will also be celebrating the festival on the inside through its current artistic programme. 

The John Piper and Jack-in-the-Green display in Room 3 (until Sunday 8 May) features John Piper’s (1903-1992) foliate head works, in different mediums, alongside contemporary photographs of Hastings’ annual Jack-in-the-Green Festival by local photographer, Chris Parker. 

Foliate or ‘leafy’ head works are one of the most distinctive themes that run through Piper’s work and are based on the traditional figure of the Green Man, a symbol of renewal and rebirth, found in the architecture of many medieval and nineteenth-century buildings.  During the mid-1930s Piper travelled widely in Herefordshire, Oxfordshire and Yorkshire taking photographs of Romanesque sculpture.  He also wrote about the importance of these wood and stone carvings in his October 1936 article, ‘England’s Early Sculptors’ in The Architectural Review.  

From 1953 onwards Piper embarked on a series of ‘Foliate Head’ works within a variety of mediums, including: paintings, prints; stained glass, tapestries, textiles, ceramics, book illustrations, stage designs and even designed decorations for wells. 

Piper frequently collaborated with talented artists and craftsmen who specialised in particular genres.  On display are examples of these collaborations, including some of the ceramic pieces that Piper created with the potter Geoffrey Eastop (1921-2014). 

Running concurrently is In Focus: John Piper – An Eye for the Modern (until Sunday 8 May). This exhibition explores Piper’s commitment to modernism and the way he wove abstract techniques through his work during the 1930s.

Image © Mike Fear