William Blake - Visionary Anarchist is a group show in the Freedom Gallery of work inspired by Blake. The Gallery space is upstairs in Freedom Bookshop, the long established anarchist bookshop in Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX (next to Whitechapel Art Gallery). The exhibition continues until September 30th.
Blake's Peckham visions (discussed here before) feature as a key point of reference, including John Riordan's great illustration 'William Blake and the Angels of Peckham Rye':
A poem by John Crow, with crochet by Katy Kaos, also alludes to this: 'On Peckham Rye I walked with Blake, I asked if we could see, Where he once saw the Angels, Bespangling a tree. But Blake he smiled, then on we strode, And never saw the tree. Conversing with Angels, In Eternity'.
An issue of Papakura Post Office zine produced for the exhibition includes some more related reflections in an essay entitled Blake's Absence by John Cunningham:
'Walking around Peckham Rye Common in 1767 the young William Blake glimpsed a vision of angels glittering in the branches of a tree. In the UK PLC of the 21st century this would be the imaginary jittering of an imbecile, a child that might prove not only unfit for future work but would probably be unfit for anything much except remedial education, therapy and pills. Even in Blake’s time Mommy Blake had to dissuade Daddy Blake from thrashing him. Angels seem wholly absent from Peckham Rye in 2012, unless one is occasionally conjured up from the skunk smoke of bored teenagers or the desperate yearnings of the Sunday leisure time of middle class families. Needless to say, angels are more likely to respond to the former than the latter...
X: Do you think Blake actually saw an angel on Peckham Rye Common that day in 1767?
Y: I don’t know, it’s hard to put oneself in the field of vision of a ranting non-conformist like Blake. If he did I like to imagine that through the cross hatch of messianic time Blake glimpsed the slightly demonic angel that the painter Paul Klee dubbed ‘Angelus Novus’. Claws, staring eyes, out stretched wings: an angel that the Kabbalistic Marxist Walter Benjamin thought of as being a witness to the ongoing catastrophe of capitalist history. The ‘angel of history’, condemned to always be looking back
at the accumulated debris but awaiting her chance to become one with profane time and redeem this through destruction. It’s in Benjamin’s Theses on History'.
(more posts on Blake)