Search results for 'port meadow'

Port Meadow, Oxford , a drawing

26 Apr


This is a drawing made over several days of Port Meadow in Oxford, where , according to a map ( sent to me by Chris Gosden)  there is some Iron age activity on the East side of the river bank.  I drew, on top of a step ladder, to get a better perspective , of this very flat land.  Crows and horses are regular visitors to  the Meadow , it struck me that they always have been, I wondered if they have evolved a lot since 1500 BC ?


It was a very hot day ( 3 weeks ago !) , this is a photograph taken on top of the ladder at midday.


Reinvented Land

27 Jul

Port Meadow spring 2015

‘Lie awake at night even in our composed Britain and think how the land about you is changing every hour, as surely as your own body and as irresistibly.’ ( Jacquetta Hawkes, A Land )

As an artist observing landscape, while at the same time working with archaeologists, I have been made aware of past  changes made by humans  in a landscape . As I observe and draw the ground before me, there is a sense of  human trace, of layers of human marks . Could you say , therefore, that there is a tension between what landscape has been at different stages and what it is now? this tension is maybe felt by all of us in different ways , but is it emphasized , the more information that is known about this perceived land ?Are we observing this landscape with a single viewpoint ,or are we observing the land from  several view points , by engaging with this knowledge ?

As an example , while drawing , I am aware that the hedgerow and path that I see now , has been carefully planned and planted, it has not always been there; there was a different perceived space, in a previous time, but in the same geographic location.

plot 3

Cripley Meadow Allotments , Oxford , no 3

plot 2

Cripley Meadow Allotments, Oxford , no 2

plot 1

Cripley Meadow Allotments , Oxford, no 1

This feeling is understood however , at the same time as seeing the land as it is now, so it is almost like you are seeing ( thinking) on two ( maybe several ) levels in the same moment of observation.

The closest I can parallel this way of thinking visually , is to play that almost child like activity , of inventing pictures from clouds, from scratches on a wall, or on wood grain. You suddenly see a face , a tree, something recognizable but in a different material. You then switch from seeing the tree, the face, back to seeing the grain of wood or cloud again, this feeling goes back and forth.

Looking at landscape ( as opposed to clouds and grain of wood) does not result in the same output but the similarities lie in the process of constant vacillation from one state to another. The act of drawing landscape is an exciting puzzle , it seems.

Harlow 1

Harlow, Roman Temple site.

Recent discussion on identity  with the EnglaID team , has lead me to try and think how this approach can be applied visually to identity and landscape. My recent thoughts on these links is to look at memory and , in particular , the act of revisiting a known space or land , after many years.

How many of us are struck by two notions when we do this : the small changes that have occurred in our absence , for instance : a new shop, a road, the absence of a line of trees ; and the details within that space that have somehow remained ? The latter can resurface from surprising sources . Details that have been mentally buried but now vividly recognized : a concrete post that leans a little, a mark on a pavement, the same daisy patch.

Grafted onto these two realizations, that of constancy and that of change, is a measure of ones own identity , which has evolved with time but is still ones personal identity , just as the landscape that you have revisited is the same space , but with other layers of reinvention.

Indeed, is human identity quite often measured alongside changes in a land ? when these changes are slow and moderate , the human identity seems in sink with the land  , but when in contrast , the land is so reinvented that the previous state is not recognized , is this when humans feel that some part of their identity has been attacked , or reinvented for the better, depending on the previous state ?

‘If you can imagine the one family continuously occupying the same land for 40,000 years or more, using it not just to sustain life , but as a place to worship, where every tree , rock, and water hole has significance, you will get some understanding of the importance of land to indigenous people.’ ( Tania Major, Kokoberra people 2010 )

‘ The history of the earth’s crust , then, has a rhythm. Denudation weakens it , the mountains are rucked up and the molten layer below forces itself towards the surface, then the storm dies away and denudation begins again. If the movement could be speeded up , as in a cinematograph, we could see a rise and fall as though of breathing.’ (Jacquetta Hawkes, A Land )

No Rest

9 Feb



‘The big difference between the ideas of Aristotle and those of Galileo and Newton is that Aristotle believed in a preferred state of rest, which any body would take up if it was not driven by some force or impulse. In particular he thought that the earth was at rest. But it follows from Newton’s laws that there was no unique standard of rest ‘.

Stephen Hawkins , A Brief History of Time p19


Rodchenko : Oval Hanging Construction no12 1920 Wood

When an artist observes a landscape, they may notice that everything within that landscape is moving at a different rate, each cloud, tree, river.

They may reflect that even a standing stone is moving to some degree with the earths rotation,  the rocks underpinning the landscape are moving in their slow geologically way too.


Van Gogh Starry Night with Cypresses 1889 ( drawing lost in World War 2)

 If the artist were to then observe a single plant, maybe to simplify things, they might observe that even within parts of that plant, there is movement at different speeds.  A sprig with buds, a fully matured plant, a seed head, may all move differently, maybe due to their different height or volume, and the different strengths of breeze or wind around them. A flower head may  move towards the sun within a day, gently closing as the light fades.

Echanacia 1

Miranda Creswell Echinaeca 2014, plant biography Horatio’s Garden

Within all this, the artist cannot help but move themselves as they are observing. They breathe, the head knods very slightly, their neck twists. Despite, and maybe because of these complexities, the artist resolves to make some work, which results in a kind of a code to what has been experienced, and thought about.

 As an artist working alongside the team of researchers for EnglaID, I am interested as to whether the idea of ‘no rest’ could also be applied when observing archeologists working and the materials that they work with.

Norest englaid meeting

EnglaID Meeting 2014

  When the researcher looks at vast amounts of gathered information , (to take one part of the very varied work that can be described as archeological ): there seems to be no fixed platform from which to do so. They could say: At this moment in 2012, I can analyze this amount of data, but my analysis will be finished in 2016. Meanwhile the data will have been added to: so I will be making an analysis about sets of data from 2012 even though in 2016 these data bases might have changed, been added to.

The data is not jumping around physically but has evolved over time, it is not fixed and changes as it is observed in different times, could this be described as ‘movement’ of some kind?


Gerhard Von Graevenitz; Series 4 (15) 1971

Just as even the individual plant will be moving its different parts at different rates, even within the different data bases, there are different individual ways of gathering information, which have been gathered at different times but put into a single data base by very individual people. (1) 

Morphing data sets

Miranda Creswell : Morphing Data 2013


John Constable Rain Storm over the sea 1824-8 Royal Academy of Arts

These observations could show some of the impossibilities of the task of making observations from a ‘solid’, ‘stable’ base .

 I do not think this is a negative, constant change or movement is exciting . We seem to  grapple with complexities in a positive way , with what is all around and also part of us.

(1) CooperA and Green, C. 2015. Embracing the Complexities of OE Big Data 1 in Archaeology : the Case of the English Landscape and Identities Project.  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.

wind sky norest

 Miranda Creswell ,Early Evening , Port Meadow 2015


Miranda Creswell , Didcot drawing  2012



Cezanne, a Modern Field of Vision

12 Jun

‘Picasso was a rare prodigy, Cezanne was not a prodigy, his art was a hard earnt skill, that took a long time ‘ David Hockney (1)

Cezanne was not , it seems, an artist prodigy, he excelled and won prizes at school for classics and literature, but it was his close friend Zola, who won the art prizes: yet , it could be said, that despite slow beginnings, his influence on the visual world resonates to the present day.

‘Fragmentation of continuous surfaces and the tying in together of the resultant flat fragments into harmonious configurations- this , in a hundred different guises,has provided the 20th century painters with their typical mode of pictorial structure, and it stems directly from Cezanne’ Patrick Heron (2)

The ‘tying together of fragments’ and what Patrick Heron goes on to describe as the breaking up of :’ the single perspective scheme, which had dominated painting since it was perfected in the Italian Renaissance’ are two concepts stemming from Cezanne that could be useful in discussions of issues of scale,  in complex big data projects such as EnglaID.

To explain this ,and going back a little to what Cezanne appears to have touched on : If we imagine a landscape , either as a photograph or as a painting, it is more often than not:

-Entirely in focus and

-Everything leads to a single view poiny , i.e : there is a single perspective.

Here are some examples of this :Image

in a photograph Image  and in a painting : Betrothal of the Virgin ( Pinacoteca di Brera ) 1504 , Raphael.

Here there is a single perspective , and everything is in focus , ( note the horizon through the window of the central focal point).

Image This is a photograph of cows resting on a hot summer’s day , Port Meadow , Oxford. Being a photograph , and not a pair of eyes, you are able to look through the lens to focus , not only on the central cow , but on the one behind her and to the side. Yet, when a person draws or looks at a landscape for example, this level of ‘all over focus’ is impossible to do. While drawing landscapes for EnglaID, I was trying to make small and narrow observations, which linked to other small observations to make up the whole picture.

Cezanne, I believe, in the way he painted , devised the first  method to do this , with the added ingenuity of presenting a cohesive whole.

Rilke , the poet, writes on Cezanne’s small marks or observations, describing them as “if mirroring a melody’.


La Montagne Sainte-Victoire ca 1904-06

by Paul Cezanne , The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum

In this oil painting , apart from the dashes of paint that seem to symbolize intense observations, Cezanne uses color to unify different zones. There is a lot of green in the sky , in the middle ground and the mountain. Cezanne has used the trees in the foreground ,to almost staple the middle and foregrounds together. Your eye can zoom into small details but these details do not feel separated from the rest of the picture. This is a good example of how Cezanne transfers and unifies different scales, can parallels be looked at in different fields of work ?


Rocks at Bibemus

Rochers de Bibemus

ca 1887-90 Paul Cezanne

watercolour and graphite on off-white paper

The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum

When anyone observes small sections of landscape , they are aware of the near surroundings through peripheral vision, has Cezanne in this beautiful watercolor of Rocks at Bibemus , used peripheral vision to be aware of other parts of his picture , did he start with the deeper blues and go around the picture, almost mapping it , before going on to another color ?

As Emile bernard describes : (3)

‘ His method was remarkable , totally different from traditional methods and extremely complicated.He began on the shadow with a single patch , which he then overlapped with a second and a third, until these patches, which produced screens, modeled the object by means of color’.

The quarry at Bibemus , is on the western side of the much-painted Monte Sainte Victoire, here materials extracted from the quarry were used to build houses in Aix, and the cabin in the quarry where Cezanne stored his materials and spend occasional nights.

Anwen Cooper’s blog on the Isle of Wight , 29th of October 2013 , resonates here:

‘Also striking was how materials were gathered from across the island’s landscape in architecture in Roman Villas and in more recent farm buildings.The Isle of Wight landscape and Islands relationship with this landscape were apparently condensed with its buildings.’

cabin at bibemus

Cezanne could be said to have made everything in his pictures connect , and by not using outlines that separate objects or observations in the picture plane; by not putting things in a box.


Forest Interior

Sous Bois

Watercolor and graphite, with touches of gouache , on buff wove paper

ca.1890 Paul Cezanne


The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.

Cezanne manages to transfer scale however, without losing the sense of detailed observation ,on the way to the feeling of the whole.  How can this be possible in a big data project?

My conclusion is that Cezanne’s way of looking , is obviously not a direct and practical answer for archaeological research ; but what his example does do, is to illustrate the importance of not isolating the detail in its own scale. Using Cezanne’s late  paintings of landscape may be a way to discuss these issues.


Cezanne coming out of his studio ,1906

lastly, a quote from Joachim Gasquet (4) who recalls Cezanne explaining his method :

‘All right, look at this : ( repeated his gesture, holding his hands apart, fingers spread wide, bringing them slowly, very slowly together, then squeezing and contracting them until they were interlocked.) There must not be a single line, a single gap, through which the emotion, the light, the truth can escape.I approach all the scattered pieces.I join together natures straying hands, from all sides, here, there, and everywhere I select colors, tones and shades.I set them down , I bring them together..they make lines. They become objects-rocks, trees, without my thinking about them. They take on volume, value. If , as I perceive these, these volumes and values correspond on my canvas to the planes and patches of color that lie before me, that appear to my eyes, well then my canvas ‘joins hands’. It holds firm..its true , dense, full’.

The aim of all complex projects !

(1) David Hockney : Hockney on Art , conversations with Peter Joyce, p214 published Little, Brown Ltd, 1999.

(2)Painter as Critic , Patrick Heron : selected writings p217, published by Tate Publications , 1998.

(3) Souvenirs sur Cezanne, Emile Bernard 1926.

(4) John Rewald : Paul Cezanne, The Watercolors, preface, published by NY Graphic Society  1983.


Images of Cezann’s paintings courtesy The Princeton University Art Museum, photographs by Bruce White.

Bibliography :

Confronting Scale in Archaeology, Issues of Theory and Practice, edited by Gary Lock and Brian Leigh Molyneaux,published by Springer 2006.

Scale & scale – change in the early Middle Ages- exploring landscape, local society, and the world beyond. Edited by J.Escalona and A.Reynolds. 2011 , published by Turnhout, Brepols.

The letters of Paul Cezanne by Alex Danchev , published by Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Cezanne : a Modern Field of Vision lecture by Miranda Creswell, Ashmolean, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford.

Thank you to all at the Ashmolean for their support over the images and the lecture.


seeing, stepping

24 Oct

On a recent early morning run ,the path of which I know well,  I am amazed at how much I remember through my feet. Where a particular root or bump lies ,may be forgotten in the warm light of my kitchen , but out there, in the dark meadow ( Port Meadow , Oxford ) , each piece of rough ground , large puddle , comes to mind the second before I run over them. The land and ‘ bumps’ are judged by visual memory and felt with feet. This contact made me think of the strange allure of looking at pylons ,marching across a landscape , observing their ‘feet’ , or maybe legs straddling the land , which makes one understand the lie of it , in the same way as running does.

Embedded knowledge , an untapped resource ? held by runners, farmers , fishing folk , walkers , etc.. observing but crucially stepping over the land for many years.
 We are currently thinking of ways to do this , intertwining this knowledge with knowledge of archaeology , and maybe other ‘fields’ for a particular place.Image

New unexpected thoughts

22 Jun

As a way of focusing on the immeasurably large subject of ‘landscape’ , I have decided to draw a landscape a day ( for maybe only 10 minutes) , for a year..

a month on , I am still going.. surprised , each time by what the drawing pulls one into , what subjects it brings up, as if from nowhere, often as an afterthought : Image

The drawing above was made in a park, : I wrote next to it :

playing cricket, slight rain, park noises , laughter.

Looking at the drawing later, made me think about scale and time : human beings versus mature trees.


Shadows after heavy rain outside a window , thoughts on how a micro world can resemble a larger landscape, how small children make imaginary landscapes out of found materials.


A corner of St Cross College , Oxford: a sea of lavender and rosemary next to pillars , the idea of how plant life would take over cities, if only given a few years ..


Lastly , a small strange moment ,  :

Port Meadow ,

looking towards Burgess Fields,

just after a storm, in full sun,

a black cow behind a mound,

Wednesday , around 5 pm.







Last week I was…

18 Jan

Last week I was looking at how information is shown using colour in maps, we discussed this at our meeting, Using colours on the opposite sides of the colour wheel , are different pieces of information made clearer or is this just a design / artistic preference? the maps below show Port Meadow in Oxford ,the last map (with frame ) is the one I felt worked best . The frame is bright and a little large, but useful to ImageImageImageshow how ones eyes is directed to the map , with this simple device.

Chris Green made a good point , what happens if you are colour blind , I agree that this needs to be thought about when presenting visual data , so need to come up with some more ideas!