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David Jones: Dialogues with the Past

David Jones, “Mother of the West” (1942) Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne. (Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum)

Thursday 21 July 2016, 9.00AM to 23 July

In 'Past and Present' (1953), David Jones claimed: 'The entire past is at the poet's disposal'. The interweaving of this 'entire past' with the present moment fundamentally characterises Jones's art and thought, from his visual reimagining of historical figures, to the etymologically rich allusions of his poetry, to the unusual philosophy of history manifested in his essays and letters. The analysis of Jones's visual or poetic works often reflects the act of excavation: the unique layering of images, words and ideas, the resonant symbolism and shades of meaning. the blending of cultural traditions and dynamic interweaving of whole civilisations.

As 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme which profoundly shaped Jones's imagination and thought, it provides an ideal moment to reconsider the entirety of Jones's engagement with the many, various, elusive and intertwined 'pasts' through which he conceived history and culture. It will be an opportunity to explore Jones's own style, subject matter, allusive practice and intellectual questions including the role of 'memory', 'inheritance' and 'history' in art and life, while also reflecting upon Jones's own past and contemporary moment.

The commemorative aspect of the conference, which participates in the greater remembrance of the First World War, will include several exciting events that explore Jones’s biography, visual art and poetry. On the first evening, 'An Artist's Retrospect' will premier a rare film interview with Jones from 1973 (Treehouse), only rediscovered and digitalized in 2015. This opportunity will allow delegates (and members of the general public) to glimpse Jones in his art-studio, follow his friend and fellow artist Arthur Giardelli round an exhibition of Jones’s paintings in The National Museum of Wales, and hear Jones discussing his own sacramental theory of art, his belief in the dual nature of visual and literary creation, and his fears for the future of art and culture in the mechanized present. On the second evening, a performance titled, 'Echoing Sacredness and Sound: Sources of the Audio-Visual Imagination of David Jones,' to be held at St. Wilfrid's church in York city-centre and free to the public, will place musical pieces and readings of ancient poetry which influenced Jones’s own artworks alongside readings of Jones’s poetry and the display of several high-quality reproductions of his paintings. The event will celebrate and explore the connection between music, poetry and Jones’s artistic creation by focusing on artworks such as his Vexilla Regis (1947) which takes its inspiration from both the Gregorian Chant hymn by Venantius Fortunatus and the Old English poem, 'The Dream of the Rood'.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Tom Dilworth (University of Windsor), Adam Schwartz (Christendom College) and Paul Hills (Courtauld)

Registration opens February, 2016.

The CFP submission for this event is open until 31 January, 2016. For more information, please see our website: and for any enquiries, please email us at:

Organising Committee: Anna Svendsen (York), Jasmine Hunter Evans (Exeter) and James Harland (York)

Location: Berrick Saul Building, University of York