29 Oct

Water landscape choping board blog

I once asked a few of the EnglaID researchers, what moments in their work had most moved them?, had made them stop, had surprised them ?.The answer from two people was that very simple human marks had affected them: a thumb print on a pot, a mark showing a grasp of a hand. These were the modest marks that had touched them.

Some months later while cooking at home, my chopping board broke in half. Something about this well used object, made me takes it directly into the studio, rather than throw it away.

The next day, while looking at the two pieces of wood, balanced against a white wall, I thought about how the chop marks equaled years of meals, giving the wood some direct emotional value.

A chop mark could be seen as a violent mark, made by a knife, but these marks never had that impression on me.

These were delicate and precise ‘touch marks’, they had transformed food, and maybe because of a particularly intense period of drawing outdoors, they also reminded me of landscapes.

Choping board long landscape blog

Each board was individual, but the landscape was not reminiscent of a particular place ,but rather in the same way that a child (or adult!) might see patterns, or images on wallpaper or in clouds, the grain of wood and the fine chop marks suggested themselves as landscapes.

So, a series evolved, kind friends donated boards, not always an easy thing to do. These are precious, everyday objects baring marks of countless family celebrations, or more mundane moments around a table, and they were hard to give away.

The beautiful circularity of using these boards to describe landscape ,is that they originate from the land. What was once a tree in the landscape becomes a kitchen board, now made into a drawing of land, and then into a gallery exhibition space. The last twist is that the gallery: The Old Fire Station, where these works have been showing, happens to open directly onto Gloucester Green market, selling vegetables, cheese, fish meat, about to be transformed into a meal using a chopping board..and on..and on..

Chop-Marks- blog

A great many thanks to all at The Old Fire Station and all at EnglaID, for their support in this work.

Chop Marks

The Old Fire Station

40 George Street

Oxford OX1 2AQ

Until November 8th (closed Monday and Sunday)


Plant biographies in Horatio’s Garden

13 Oct

When you look at a plant in a garden , What do you think ?Do you think , how does that structure work, why has it evolved like that ? or probably, less practically , just.. how beautiful.. but maybe other thoughts creep in.
A garden is by definition a gathering of plants, there is and has been human activity behind this gathering. All that human activity has made the moment you look at the plant possible. What if you thought about other human activity going back further in time associated with that plant, a plant biography? (A plant autobiography!?)
These were some of the thoughts occurring to me, sitting in Horatio’s Garden at the beginning of September.


Steven , with one of the residencies collaborative works, showing calligraphy and maps made by him over three weeks.
The reason for sitting in the garden was to develop ideas for a month long artist and archaeologist residency by EnglaID researchers , Letty Ten Harkell , Sarah Mallett and myself , in collaboration with people associated with Horatio’s Garden.


Letty Ten Harkell talking to Denis and other patients.

Horatio’s Garden is part of the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, it is named after Horatio Chapple, who came up with an idea of a garden next to the unit, having talked to the patients over a summer when he was a volunteer there. Tragically, Horatio was killed at the age of 17 by a polar bear .The outpouring of love and donations ,has resulted in this extraordinary idea ,being realized into a garden, directly attached to the spinal unit.
In September 2013, Zena Kamash and I had looked at the landscape surrounding the garden, and researched its history, its archaeology and produced a drawn , photographed and mapped response of how it was in 2013.
This year, September 2014, I wondered if part of this methodology might be applied to individual plants.
Most garden plants, on an initial search, turned out to have travelled miles to arrive in the garden. If you start looking at origins, this very English garden (and other English gardens) seem anything but English.
‘after the retreat of the Ice Age, Britain had the distinction of having the smallest range of natural flora of any country in the world, yet by the start of the twenty first century, it contained the widest range of any nation on earth’ (1)
Was this wide floral range the result of the much documented Victorian cultivators and plant hunters ? In the small sample of five plants that we choose, this turned out not to be the case. The most remarkably varied stories behind each plant were revealed.

New Zealand Burr

Collaborative work , New Zealand Burr.

The five plants that were chosen were:
Dahlia ‘Honka White’
Aruncus dioicus ‘Horatio’
Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan”
Verbena bonariensis , Tall verbena
New Zealand burr :Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’

Here are two examples of the plant biographies:

Dahlia Honka White:

Native from Central and South America, these plants were first grown by the Aztecs as a food crop. It was also used to treat epilepsy, while the hollow stems were used as water pipes. These traditions died out after the Spanish colonization.
It was introduced to Europe in 1789 by Abbot Antonio Jose Cavanilles, the director of the Royal Gardens in Madrid. In 1798, the Marchioness of Bute , the wife of the English ambassador in Spain, sent some seeds to Kew Gardens in London, where they flowered the following season but were unfortunately lost soon after.
The flowers proved very popular in Europe and they regularly appeared at various European courts in the early 19th century, thanks to various Royal Gardeners everywhere sending seeds to each other.
The plant’s native American name was ‘Cocoxochitl’ but upon reaching Europe , it was named after the Swedish biologist Anders Dahl.
Dahl believed that the plant could become popular as a ‘new’ vegetable. The trend never caught on, which is why you’ll find Dahlias in your garden and not in your plates.
Sarah Mallett

Sarah Mallett Horatio'S Garden

Sarah Mallett , Vicky and and others discussing the origins of  Dahlias.

Verbena bonariensis or ‘pretty verbena’ is related to the Englishverbena officinalis , which -in medieval times – was thought to have medicinal and magical qualities, as a cure for the plague and as protection against witches and demons. It was also associated with good luck in warfare, and gun flints were sometimes boiled in an extract of verbena officinalis to increase their potency – or so it was thought!
The introduction of its cousin, verbena bonariensis , into Europe occurred in 1726, when two brothers, William and James Sherard, brought it back with them from Buenos Aires. James Sherard was an apothecary in Eltham in Kent, and also an accomplished violinist and composer. He was good friends with the famous composer Handel. However, in the 1710’s he began suffering from gout, and turned to botany as his main hobby. In the summer of 1716 he wrote the following words:

“Of late, the love of Botany has so far prevailed as to divert my mind from things I formerly thought more material”

James Sherard ‘s personal garden in Eltham became one of the most famous gardens of its time, noted for its rare plants.
Letty Ten Harkel


Collaborative work, Verbena

The residency developed, with myself drawing each plant, this is not my usual subject matter, and so it was a challenge!
Letty Ten Harkell and Sarah Mallett, brought the research into the garden, sitting at a table with books from Oxford libraries. Dan Stansbie helped with research in Oxford.
By doing this, many conversations came about between, patients, their relatives, volunteers who were in on those days, on the origins of plants and the human stories around them… Suddenly collaborative work was being made, as the space in the garden seems to allow and support: Steven was making maps and calligraphic headings, Graham was designing pressed flower pictures, Olivia photographed, I drew, Sheila was organizing art sessions and providing materials. Tina, the head gardener was advising us.
A long list of volunteers and gardeners and patients helped with their knowledge of working with plants, sometimes over years,Denis,  Daphne, John, Victoria, Andrea, Camilla and more..

Graham pressed flowers and clouds

Autumn Flower Picture by Graham, ( note the New Zealand burr on the bottom of the picture)
All this resulted in five collaborative images, which at first glance do not seem to be made by so many people, a true collaboration.

Aruncus Horatio

Collaborative picture , Aruncus Horatio.

The end of the project was crowned by an Indian summer lunch, and the five framed works placed actually in the garden. Sixty people attended and even five on beds, coming to be in the sunshine, that is Horatio’s Garden.
A great many thanks to all at Horatio’s garden, their support has been phenomenal and started conversations in Oxford on plant biographies.

Plant Biography self 2014

Myself, at the Sunday event .

(1) Tim Smit , foreword of The Origin of Plants , Maggie Campbell-Culver (Eden Project Books 2001), p 15.

Larkrise letters, asking questions

31 Jul

opening letters (6)

Anwen Cooper and Miranda Creswell have just finished a project at Larkrise Primary School in Oxford. An inspiring time for both the EnglaID team and two classes of Year 3 pupils and their supportive teachers : Miss Edris and Mrs Micallef.

The simple idea was to write a letter directly to an archaeologist working at University of Oxford, with a question, and get a personal reply back.


The background to the letters,  was a series of workshops led by Anwen and Miranda, where a comparison was made between the river valleys of the Nile and the Thames in the mid 2nd Millennium BC , with ideas on how to look and draw  landscape ( that covers objects and human traces that have been excavated ). Then came the questions and letter writing and drawing on the backs of the envelopes . What is it about the envelope that brings out such good ideas and questions ?IMG_6970






( Dear Chris, did they make mince pies in the Bronze Age ? Oliver )

The school seems to be transposed onto the table of the Institute of Archaeology Common Room through these modest pieces of paper , similarly the Institute arrived in the hands of the pupils at Larkrise School by way of the personalised answer to each question.

opening letters (1)

Here are some of the replies :



and one with a drawing of a viking ship by Letty Ten Harkel


A very difficult question : where do you get your ideas from ?, which was left to Chris Gosden .


IMG_7015IMG_7014 IMG_7020


The researchers spent a great deal of  time reading and  answering the questions .


Some interesting outcomes have been that ,because of the handwritten nature of the replies, some pupils who find reading more difficult , took greater care and crucially, longer, to read,( almost double the time , according to their teacher) and then found  the reading experience surprisingly successful ; also archaeology  was being talked about until the end of term, ideas had stuck through the letters. The researchers at EnglaID are, for their part, still thinking about some of the questions : mince pies, rivers, ideas.. Anwen and Miranda have been asked to continue this methodology next year at the same school.

A great many thanks for all the support of the teachers at Larkrise School, and to all the researchers for answering the questions, and for the pupils of  Eagle and Flamingo class, for sending such delicate and beautiful letters through the post.



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.


West Penwith, Cornwall

8 Apr

Sitting for four days on a grassy wall at Carn Euny , overlooking the landscape of West Penwith, it was only on the last day ,

that I began , in small measures, to grasp this complex landscape.Image

in his book , the Writing of Art , Olivier Berggruen, likens Cy Twombly’s paintings and Leonardo da Vinci’s Deluge paintings,

describing how, at first they appear ‘chaotic’..with ‘traces of discontinuity, of losing control’, however after a while ‘these

paintings regain a voice that leaves an imprint, which is anything but disorderly’. Although this landscape could not be described as ‘disorderly ‘ or ‘chaotic’, it is complicated, is this the reason for its distinctive identity?, as Leonardo da Vinci wrote of his Deluge paintings : ‘there can be no voice, where there is no motion or percussion in the air’ (1)



A Deluge ,Leonardo da Vinci 1517-18

 Royal Collection.

The Carn Euny settlement and landscape abound both with’motion’ and ‘percussion’, partly from being situated in a peninsula with prevailing winds (C.Tilley described West Penwith as ‘virtually an island’ (2) ); but also from the feeling of a busy landscape, with visible traces of human occupation, which makes it, anything, but still.


photo by Anthony Edwards

Carn Euny is described by English Heritage on their web site as ‘ among the best preserved ancient villages in the south west ‘ whose ‘courtyard settlements’ are few in number, only about 50 in England. ‘Courtyard houses of this type are confined , geographically to a very small area indeed, clustering on the West Penwith peninsula at the furthest western extent of Cornwall as well as the Isles of Scilly. There are strong morphological and chronological links , however, with a range of domestic structures seen in northern Britain, including scooped settlements and homesteads recorded in the Northumberland Cheviots and dun related settlements and wheelhouses in the Western Isles’. ( http://www.english-heritage.org.uk )


Photograph English Heritage

The site has been occupied from the Iron Age until late Roman times, it is managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust. The lay out of the 

settlement is ‘ fairly haphazard’ ( http://www.historic-cornwall ), it includes the foundations of stone houses, and an intriguing ‘fogou’ , an underground passage.

The complexity of Carn Euny and the landscape could be said to arise from the traces of ancient mixed farming communities, these ‘ small co-operating clusters of households’ (3) worked the land using individually owned fields and also rough ground held in common; ‘projections based on Historic Landscape Characterization suggest that the extent of rough ground in the later medieval period, say about 1550, was probably very close to that in later prehistory .'(4)

Was I seeing a part of all this while I drew ?


Back in Mousehole, where I was staying, the drawing revealed responses to what I had just seen, which included traces of the past, but there were also surprising similarities to elements of Celtic Art in the drawing : when the gaze does not settle for long in one part of the picture plane, a response to the curve, and everything interlinked.


Decorated bronze mirror, Iron Age, 100BC, from Trelan Bahow, St Keverne, Cornwall, The British Museum.

‘In building Cairns, rather then trying to replicate the forms of rocks and tors, people shifted their efforts to enclosing and appropriating the rocks and tors by building structures in and around them .’ (5) C.Tilley


Roger Hilton , January 1957, Tate Collection.


Inclined Oval Brown, Paul Feiler , 1964-65 Tate Collection


Black Circle , Terry Frost 2002

Did the artist Roger Hilton, Terry Frost and Paul Feiler come to this spot and look at this view ?  they all lived in different places but within 5 miles away, maybe they responded directly to the landscape but also to these forms’ in and around’ the rocks, made or managed by humans in the past.


Jeremy le Grice : Carn Euny 1968, Plynouth City Council Museum and Art Gallery.

On the last day , as I was about to pack up and walk away across the fields to go home, a feral looking cat popped up from one of the walls, looked at me directly, then disappeared, mirroring the small moment that I had a grasp of this extraordinary landscape.

No neat pattern, no explanation, or drawing could be said to  completely describe the landscape of West Penwith ,intriguing to archaeologists and artists. Maybe it is this just this , a puzzle, that gives this land , such a strong sense of identity.Image

(1) Jean Paul Richter , The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci , London, New York and Toronto Oxford University Press 1939, vol 2 p252.

(2) C. Tilley : Interpreting landscape , Left Coast Press 2010 ( chapter 9, p 427 )

(3) (4) : Peter Dudley : Goon, hal, cliff & croft , published by Historic Environment , Cornwall Council , 2011, summary p 8

(5) C.Tilley : Interpreting landscape, Left Coast Press , 2010 ( chapter 9, p 422).



The Peak district

4 Feb

‘Make a drawing, do it again, make a tracing of it , start again and do another tracing’



Returning to a drawing of Gibbet Moor in the Peak District ,after three months ,became a continual ‘retracing and starting again’, no different in a small way , perhaps , to archaeologists who return seasonally ,to an excavation for many years.

Climbing the hill to the same spot , bracing myself in the wind, questioning the reason for doing this , I was reminded of a chapter on ‘The Enactive Sign’ in Lambros Malfouris’s recent book : ‘How things shape the mind’,when he mentions  humans putting themselves into environments or settings , he writes : ‘Cultural knowledge and innovation are not intercranial processes; they are, rather, infused and diffused into settings through the development into settings of practical activity, and thus they are constituted by experience within these settings through the development of specific sensibilities and dispositions, leading people to orient and think about themselves within their environment in specific and often unexpected ways.’ ( Malfouris p116, Chapter 5)

Do some artists experiment by putting themselves into environments, deliberately hoping to produce, provoke,  these unexpected ways ?



In my case , there are several environments : working with archaeologists from the research project EnglaID in Oxford and a number of chosen landscapes. These landscapes are not , however chosen by myself: choice is removed in a deliberate way. The landscape has, in this case been chosen by Anwen Cooper , it is one of her case study areas . Gibbet Moor is interesting to her in an archaeological sense and she has known and walked it.



Returning to the same spot , having, in the meantime read , amongst other things , the English Heritage entry and description for Gibbet Moor , I learnt that looking South East , I faced a populated Bronze Age landscape : ‘ One of the most extensive and well preserved Bronze Age settlement complexes in the Peak District . It provides an important insight into Bronze Age settlement, agricultural and ceremonial use of the Derbyshire East Moors .’ English Heritage.

The ‘unexpected’ came when drawing for a further three days on Gibbet Moor, in the beauty of January light on the land, the threat of the cold and the wet but also , in a non defined , but striking sense of what had been in this landscape: by its absence , the presence of the previous ,felt extraordinarily acute.



Staring at the landscape

22 Nov

Unlike Turner, the heroic painter, who allegedly tied himself to a mast of a boat in a storm, ( according to art historian James Hall, this was most certainly a ‘romantic myth’), I recently sheltered , shivering unheroically, by one side of a wall on Gibbet Moor in the Peak District. I was forced to wait for a storm to blow through, before drawing the landscape on the moor. My only companions were several sheep, who were also bracing themselves against the wind.


There was little else to do but carry on staring at the landscape, that changed , minute by minute. As I did this, I wondered what other folk look at landscape from the same spot, in a similarly concentrated way , ( in my case over 3 days in November, about four hours at a time). Ornithologists, archaeologists, artists spring to mind, are there others? It is a singular experience. One begins inadvertently to group shapes together to make sense of the landscape. The lie of the land is sometimes clearly seen , and then this understanding drifts, as one’s concentration does , or the weather hides everything in cloud and rain.

Bonnard , the french painter, wrote and drew in his diary what he named as ‘observations on painting ‘. Although he was preoccupied with painting his wife in the bath , landscape and how to paint its complexities was also important. On this subject , he wrote :

‘Dans la vision, l’esprit a une capacite reduite pour sentir un grande nombres d’elements plastiques par groupements, ou proches, on peut augmente cette capacite’

‘visually , the spirit has a refined capacity to feel a great number of plastic elements by grouping them, or nearly, one can increase this capacity’

Bonnard 22 April 1931

Recently , at one of the EnglaID reading groups, the reading of Champion ( chapter 7) by Tom Williamson , Robert Liddiard and Tracey Partida, brought up discussions around the subject of Historic Landscape character.

On the English Heritage web site , it is defined as :

‘Characterization helps to manage change in the historic environment by tracing the imprint of history. Piecing together information from maps new and historic, from aerial photos, and from the wealth of data that we already have about archaeology and buildings, it builds up are-based pictures of how places in town and country have developed over time. It shows how the past exists within today’s world. These fascinating insights into historic environment , however, are about the future , not the past. Characterization is not an academic exercise but a vital tool for developers and planners to make sure that a place’s historical identity contributes properly to everyone’s quality of life’. ( English Heritage Characterization Team is headed by Graham Fairclough ).



While staring at Gibbet Moor, I wondered whether, by grouping patterns together, regognising traits in the moor both close and faraway, being aware of surrounding landscape, I was making my own version of characterization. I also wondered, how does this work for an artist ?Is an artistic characterization of landscape valuable ? Is it one step too far away from ‘honest’ representation , whatever that may be ? does it over simplify ?

After three days on the moor, I certainly felt that to get a feel for and to represent this landscape was, in fact, to make a characterization of it. This is singularly difficult to explain, but in my case these characterizations are not direct descriptions, but more a series of reactions to the landscape.



An example of the many ‘characterizations’ observed on trip to the Peak District are intense patches of light against very dark tones: ‘nodules’ if you like. These patterns, felt unique to that region, seemed to extend , repeat themselves beyond the landscape ,into the sky and even back to a particular breed of sheep, grazing in front of me.

These patches became useful as markers across the landscape: I traced my pencil backwards and forwards between them like an eye , scanning, or even like legs walking over to the horizon, reminiscent of the painter , Paul Klee’s advice on taking a line for a walk.

As I stared at the landscape , the patches, nodules, disappeared in the gloom of the storm and then reignited when sunlight appeared again.

These artistic characterizations may bear no direct resemblance to archaeological characterizations of the landscape, their purpose being quite different. However , the process of lengthy scrutiny and ‘ characterization’ could be said to connect artist and archaeologists, both of whom work intensively with landscape  ,and maybe inform each of them ?

Anwen Cooper had chosen this spot as an interesting piece of moorland to look at , providing me with an article from Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society ( Bronze Age settlement on the gritstone East Moors of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire ‘ PPS 53, 393-418) 

In this he writes:

‘ The day has gone when excavation of individual sites, despite its glamour, is adequate in itself to explain prehistory. It is only when sites can be assessed in relation to their patterning within the regional landscape that meaningful answers can begin to emerge ‘.

I wanted to follow his argument, however even staring at the map , kindly supplied by Chris Green, the cairns were not very obvious in the landscape , to me.

I am returning in January , to take advantage of more low light. Meanwhile, together with Anwen and Chris, I shall gather other representations of this extraordinary piece of landscape, and hopefully return with an altered gaze.Image