Gardening a.m. and painting p.m. make an excellent pair: my herbs are in a much better state than a week ago and painting is progressing well too. ‘Sizewell A and B’ are now in position, the AEA will doubtless be relieved to know; the roughly 1 m sq ‘Becker Country’ may indeed be finished: it is now ‘cooking’.
‘Cooking’ in my painting parlance describes that phase in a painting’s evolution when it may be finished and is now just sitting there being looked at every day until the moment when, walking into the studio, one either knows for certain that it is finished or, more usually, sees that it isn’t but, with a bit of luck, knows what to do to move it forward. The title is lifted from David Thompson’s essay ‘Becker’, the Suffolk artist in his book of the same title (The Wildlife Art Gallery, Lavenham. 2002, p. 32): “There are a few square miles of coastal East Anglia which could well be called ‘Becker Country’. ” Though not very well-known, even in East Anglia, Harry Becker (1865-1928) was a gifted draughtsman and brilliant painter who created works melding acute and sympathetic observation with a vigorous, impressionistic style. He settled in and around Halesworth in east Suffolk and, either side of the First World War, drew and painted the ordinary in the daily lives of the local farm-workers, their families and their countryside. The world he depicted, indeed illuminated, the world of unremitting manual labour on the land, the world of horses as rural power-source, was highly unfashionable artistically but it is of course a world which has now totally disappeared. Becker is therefore of historical as well as artistic importance, an aspect of his work not fully explored in the Thompson book. He unknowingly anticipated the oral record of that horse-based world made a few miles down the road at Blaxhall a couple of decades later by George Ewart Evans.
Growing awareness of Becker’s significance in recent years has now been formalised in what is in effect an appreciation Society, Inspired by Becker (IBBS). One of its functions is to organise an annual exhibition, not of Becker’s work but of contemporary work inspired by his oeuvre. This year is the third such exhibition and, along with many other mainly local artists – and there’s a lot of artistic talent in East Suffolk! – I have been invited to submit up to three works. ‘Becker Country’ is one of them; the other two, much smaller, have also been painted specially for this occasion. One of them, ‘Quails’ eggs 1: crushed’, is exhibited in The Gallery, the first example on this web-page of a painting going straight from easel to Gallery. One merit of this e-medium is that I don’t have to wait for the painting to dry before it can be exhibited.
This note reminds me that I have not yet written anything about exhibiting: another story for another day.