This is the second of this type of painting I have created; the first is hanging in the committee room at the HQ of the Council for British Archaeology in York. The objective in both was to give a fairly realistic impression of the landscape as recorded on a colour vertical air photograph. In this case, the landscape is indeed realistic, but it does not exist on the ground. It existed entirely fancifully in my mind, and now exists only in the painting and images of it.
I say ‘fancifully’ but this imaginary view derives from my looking at thousands of vertical air photographs and spending many happy hours looking down on ‘real’ landscapes from a light aeroplane, a hot-air balloon and, in one never to be forgotten episode, a glider (shades of Peter Lanyon; which makes it perhaps worth noting that at least one flight in all three types of flying machine ended in, to a greater or lesser extent, a crash).
Imaginary may be but this painting is nevertheless ‘authentic’ in that every detail on it can be seen from the air (and not necessarily from the ground). It is packed with archaeological and historical data; yet it is called ‘English countryside’ because it is typical of so much of the English landscape. While painting it, I had in mind the sort of landscape characteristic of west Norfolk and much of Lincolnshire, but it could just as well be of almost any gravel area along a river valley in the Midlands or on the Chalk of Wessex.
I am not going to locate all its man-made features so see if you can identify, mostly showing as soil- or crop-marks, the Neolithic cursus, the Bronze Age burial mounds, the prehistoric field system, the prehistoric rectangular enclosure, the Iron Age ‘fort’, the Iron Age trackway, the enclosed Iron Age settlement, the Roman fort, the Roman road, the roadside Roman settlement, the deserted medieval village, the medieval strip field, the medieval strip lynchets, the 18th century farm, the Enclosure fields, and that compelling locus of traditional, white-clad communal ritual, the cricket ground.
‘Fanciful’ indeed, you may well think: ‘no one square mile of rural England could possibly contain so much ‘heritage’.’ To which the answer is ‘Look around you, dear Reader, fire up your curiositie, and the chances are you will discover that the space around you is not just defined by horizontal and vertical dimensions but contains a tangible time dimension too.’