Wytham Woods Days

There have been days of light
There have been days of wind
There have been days of cold fingers
There have been days of leaf-dance
There have been days of silent watching
There have been days of flying crows
There have been days of chill wind
and warm breezes. Continue reading “Wytham Woods Days”

Frames of reference

Painting Wytham

The experience of landscape and how to interpret it has been a major preoccupation for many years. In the 1960s as a student I made large abstract canvases which were in fact about space. It was the time of the first moon landing. Since then I have travelled a bit. To Canada, to India, to Spain, and here to the Lake District and Cornwall. I have made paintings and drawings in all these places. The vast scale of the Rocky Mountains, the heat of Spain, the colour and smell of India, the cold of the Lakes in December, all have presented me with the strange problems of how to get something out of these very different environments. But I always return to my home turf. One I have lived in for almost all my life. This year I began what I had hoped to be a project painting in the same location for most of the year. To this end I overhauled my gear and began work in the chill of early February high over Oxford looking down from Wytham Woods, a stretch of woodland covering a hill to the west of Oxford, owned by the university and the site of 70 years of ecological research. Continue reading “Painting Wytham”

Frames of reference

Landscape – Paul Nash – Wittenham Clumps

I was in a room with many people. They were mostly grey haired and quietly dressed in the way of National Trust members. One or two young men stood intently looking. The room titled We Are Making A New World is the gallery in the Tate exhibition devoted to Paul Nash’s WW1 paintings. It is quiet except for the gentle tap of feet or the occasional mute whisper. The mood is that of a chapel of remembrance. As though the only person with a right to speak was Nash. The silence of these works is awe inspiring considering the ear shattering noise that would have dominated the scene, as well as the stink of shit, rotting flesh, tobacco smoke and cordite. We are silenced by the works hung on these walls. The older visitors seem to be wrapped in memories passed to them by fathers and grandfathers who had seen this for themselves. The young men I take to be artists come to understand how this great artist had made these images, witness to such pointless violence. Continue reading “Landscape – Paul Nash – Wittenham Clumps”

Frames of reference



I was born just after WW2. My parents had moved to Noke when they married in the early 1940s. We lived in a tiny cottage, totally lacking modern amenities. No electricity, water from the well and an earth loo in ‘The Elm Barn’, a shed with a grand name, all set in a third of an acre of orchard. An artist’s retreat from the hurly burly of war torn London. This was my world. Apple trees to climb, a stream to splash in, and a duck pond beyond the gate where my brother and I sailed catamaran boats whittled from elder sticks. Continue reading “Otmoor”

Frames of reference



I walk through the back streets of Pimlico. Old buildings remodelled, roads resurfaced. Signs changed, decayed. The city is in flux. Its natural state. Each time I walk this route old things have gone. New things arrive only to become worn, textured, old in turn. Continue reading “Schwittering”

Frames of reference

Folly Hill Return

Faringdon skbook

July just before the Olympics I sat on Faringdon Folly Hill. Bright sun. Clear colour. White Horse Hill in the distance. From the west a ripple of coloured bands. Wavering smoke rainbow. Drawn through the Vale of the White Horse by a squadron of the Red Arrows as they practiced for the Olympics. Paul Nash battle of Britain paintings enacted just for me. Continue reading “Folly Hill Return”

Frames of reference

A Book By Its Cover


There is something about books of a certain period that I find special. This book cover is for a novel from my grandmother’s youth though not owned by her. I bought it in a junk shop some twenty years ago. It is from that time when a book was special. All books. Before paperbacks. I have a collection of books that belonged to my grandmother. Often given to her by her father, inscribed on the flyleaf with a message and expressions of affection. Dated from the 1890s. These books were made to be cherished. Read and re-read and kept for a life time. Passed on from generation to generation. Therefore the covers are an expression of the reverence held for these containers of our imaginings. The paper though yellows and becomes brittle. Spines crack, pages loosen. And there is the smell. Old paper and dust. It sets off memories of secondhand bookshops and the marvelous experience of browsing. Writing this I am nostalgic for Hay-on-Wye and the strange pleasure of more books than it is possible to understand gathered in one small town. So. One old book, a trigger for thoughts streaming off to all points of the compass.

Andrew Walton / The Rowley Gallery

Editor’s note: Mention of inscriptions and expressions of affection reminds me of a blog devoted to Book Dedications.

Frames of reference