Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay
When they were growing up two New Zealand artists only ever saw John Constable's Hay Wain as prints above the fireplace and on placemats on the table.
In 1816, under the soft light of the early summer sun and as a warm breeze carried the sweet
smell of elderflowers, John Constable sketched the first drawings that would later become his
iconic The Hay Wain. In 1821 the painting was finished in Constable’s London studio, using his
vast collection of reference drawings to carefully construct the perfect view of rural life.
Willy Lott’s House, which the painting depicts, has undergone many changes over the
centuries since Constable first visited the site to sketch. To commemorate the 200th
anniversary of Constable’s time in Suffolk contemporary artist’s Estella Castle and Cat Auburn,
with curator Sarah McClintock, recreated The Hay Wain painting at the original site. On Sunday
the 4th September 2016, the artists carefully art directed the recreation with tools and
costumes, alongside people and animals and brought The Hay Wain back to life in Flatford,
Suffolk. Using Willy Lott’s House as a backdrop the artists worked with local people and local
businesses to source materials and actors to furnish the ‘painting’.
The exhibition takes its name from “Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay”, a book by George
Ewart Evans that classically pictures rural life in a remote Suffolk village. For the artists, and
the New Zealand based curator, this project draws on their interests in historical narratives,
authenticity, pilgrimage, isolation, and community.
The documentation of the event will feature in a new contemporary moving image artwork to
be exhibited in Bridge Cottage, Flatford, 3 – 16 October, 2016. The artwork will then go on to
be exhibited at galleries in London and New Zealand. For current information on the exhibition visit the web sites of Cat Auburn and Estella Castle .The event and exhibition have been made possible with the support of The National Trust.
The dog in the reconstruction is called Ellie and is owned by Richard and Hannah Miller of Hartest. Richard replied to a request on social media to provide a dog that looks like the dog in the Hay Wain and I'm sure you'll agree that Ellie fits the bill. On the day Ellie kept the onlookers amused by her antics in the millpond between shoots.