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, a duck pond beyond the gate where my brother and I launched catamaran boats whittled from elder sticks. The village was a place apart – a road petering out on the edge of the moor, smelling of cows and cow parsley, deep ditches fringed by pollard willows and a huge sky. This is the place my life started.
Andrew Walton has spent the past two years retracing the Moor of his childhood. Otmoor remains a ‘place apart’. Recorded in the Doomsday Book, it is a wild and quiet refuge, a nature reserve with wooden walkways that ensure an uninterrupted haven for the rhythms of nature that play out under high skies – the breath of murmurations overhead, and haunting calls of water birds. A landscape of myth and has been the impetus for Walton’s paintings and poems by David Attwooll. Walking friends of many years, painter and poet have created work that explores and celebrates an ancient landscape.
Walton’s work is playful. He is completely fluent in different styles of painting that he selects to achieve his goal. He is master of paring down, so although at home with a classically contemporary, figurative rendition of views across the moor in oil on board, he shifts seamlessly to an abstracted translation at whim, celebrating the broad stretch of a generous horizon and the rustle of wind in reeds, in no more than a few lines on flat fields of colour – minimalist paintings in oil on canvas.
Walton’s portfolio of Otmoor is a treasure trove. Capturing the ever-changing beauty of the moor, he pitches us from daylight to dusk in oils and watercolour, and across moonlit reeds hatched on paper. He is as strong in monochrome as in high colour, articulate in abstraction as in figuration, a truly gifted and inquisitive artist with his heart immersed in landscape.
Andrew Walton – Otmoor: Moonlight & Myths
21 April – 30 May 2016
6 King Street, Oxford, OX2 6DF