You don’t need to read the following paragraph if you are happy to regard this painting as an abstract, made up of different shapes in different colours with a particularly attractive line in lemon. Clearly there is a pattern, not least as implied by the title, but this need not be especially significant. I am personally content to regard this, one of my favourite paintings, in such terms.
But, in another perspective, this is very much an archaeologist’s view of an imagined, but ideal, landscape: it consists of a sequence of different land arrangements, one on top of another, with fragments of earlier arrangements surviving into later ones. The idea of an ‘axial’ nature of these arrangements, either side of a river, is taken from what is now a common-place of the southern English landscape as well as on higher terrain to the west and north in Britain, that is that from the mid-second millennium BC onwards large tracts of countryside were laid out in cohesive systems of axially-arranged fields, trackways and settlements. Dartmoor contains the best-known exemplars of this phenomenon, not least because three and a half thousand year old land-divisions still survive as lines of stones and stoney banks stretched across the landscape for all to see; but very similar arrangements, physically different but of similar date though characteristically invisible on the ground, are also now known on the Chalk of the Wessex downs and the gravels of the Thames valley. So the pattern of the imagined structure in this painting is based on much scientific evidence in general; when composing the work I had in mind particular examples in western Ireland. It hardly needs to be added that the structure of the painting – two quarters at the bottom and a half across the top – is classic Barbara Rae.
The painting, which is not for sale, has built up its own little autobiography in that its image graced the cover of a government report on potential World Heritage sites in the UK and also the cover of the academic journal Landscapes Vol. 13, no. 1 (Spring 2012). NFS