Rebecca Chesney | Hope's Whisper | 07 - 29 July 2012
At times - I hear the renewal of Hope's whisper - but I dare not listen too fondly - she deceived me cruelly before. A sudden change to cold would be the test - I dread such change but must not anticipate. Spring lies before us - and then Summer - surely we may hope a little.
From a letter written by Charlotte Bronte concerning her sister Anne's failing health.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte all used detailed descriptions of the weather to emphasise the dramatic and emotive aspects of their novels. When visiting the moorland around the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, it is not difficult to imagine that the weather the Bronte sisters experienced at their Yorkshire home, must have inspired their globally recognised writing.
In October 2011 Rebecca Chesney set up a solar powered, digital weather station at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth to collect weather related data such as rainfall, wind speed, air pressure and temperature. The weather station is running for a full year whilst Chesney also undertakes a residency at the Parsonage. During this time she has been reading letters and novels by the Brontes and researching historical weather records to try and cross-reference similarities and differences with the present day weather readings. To complement the scientific data being collected, there are also 10 local volunteers who are noting down weather comments everyday for the duration of the year. The sum of the scientific data and personal reflections will create an archive of weather information specific to the Haworth and Thornton area.
Using the weather station records and her time at the Parsonage, Chesney has developed a series of drawings on graph paper that parallel specific quotes from Bronte writings. Although based on pure scientific data, by referencing Bronte texts each drawing creates rhythms and patterns of an imagined landscape with layering hills, crags and valleys, church spires and building outlines. With the use of handwritten historical weather records from the 1800s, Chesney has also developed a series of screen prints relating weather patterns to key dates during the Bronte sisters' lives and deaths. Each image is an over-layered mass of data, unreadable in its intensity and suggestive of the severe and devastating impact that weather had on the Bronte's health.
From drizzle and mist to storms and gales; thunder and lightning to sunshine and rain the Bronte sisters' novels reference the same changing weather conditions that continue today. Through historical research into their lives and writing, present day weather recordings and collecting personal accounts, Chesney discovers the permanent impact that weather has on life and literature.
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