I painted, and sold, a Sutton Hoo painting in my early days, so retrospectively that now has to be ‘Sutton Hoo 1’. This one followed on ‘2’ which will appear in The Gallery shortly; and there is a ‘4’ ready to follow that too. 2-4 are all probably heading towards my exhibition in Halesworth Gallery, 30 July – 17 August.
Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon cemetery with its famous boat-burial, is only a few miles from where I now paint so I go there not infrequently. As a member of the National Trust, which owns the site, I + a guest get in free, so it is a good place to take visitors: such practical matters and its archaeological interest apart, it is a lovely place to walk, above the R. Deben, the exhibition is excellent and the restaurant can be quite expensively delicious.
Obviously none of that is in this painting; yet much of it is, for in my characteristic grid-like template, all done free-hand, are not only burial mounds, silver flashes reflected off the water and grassy paths between brown trees but also, and more importantly for me in this case, a sense of the place rather than a depiction of it. It is about being in what is now a pleasant place, yet with reminders in the darker hues of grisly things that have happened here before. And ‘before’ here goes back a long time, long before the Anglo-Saxons to c2000 BC – read Martin Carver’s book and/or join one of the guided tours if you want the details; it also comes up to the mid-20th century with Mrs Pretty’s house – she was the former owner who encouraged the new diggings of the mounds in 1939 – now open and on display in a curiously lifeless style, at least for this visitor. Life at Sutton Hoo before the Second World War comes over as empty and stale in comparison with the excitement and exoticism conjured up in the exhibition hall: there’s another painting in that idea, I suspect, perhaps ‘Sutton Hoo 7’?