New Exhibition 11th May 2011
An exhibition of new work including the paintings seen below will be at the Francis Kyle Gallery in Maddox Street London from 11th May 2011 to 9th June. Open Monday - Friday 10am - 6pm Saturday 11am - 5pm www.franciskylegallery.com
It has taken about five years to create this show of about 12 large scale oil paintings. The exhibition celebrates our English heritage with large scale paintings of old rites and folk rituals and ancient trees and woodland. Most of the paintings are about 200cm.
The picture here is of the famous Flora Dance in Helston in Cornwall where hundreds of the town's inhabitants dance through the town in early May to welcome the Spring. This is the children's dance and I show them dancing through childhood and adolescence to adulthood as they progres from left to right across the image.The painting is 130 x 200cm.
Cheese rolling 115 X 200cm
Cheese rolling has taken place at Coopers Hill on the Cotswold escarpment between Gloucester and Cheltenham on Spring Bank Holiday Monday for generations. The event is known to be at least 200 years old. A double Gloucester cheese decorated with red and blue ribbon is thrown down the hill and people chase after it, the first to the bottom of the two hundred-metre slope wins the cheese. The reputation of the event locally is that it is wild, dangerous and exciting. The slope has a gradient of 1-in-2 and in some places 1-in-1, its surface is rough and uneven and it is almost impossible to remain on foot for the descent. In my painting you can just make out the Malvern Hills away in the distance.
Gloucester Cheese rolling has become world famous and when I watched it in 2009 there was a crowd estimated to be about 20,000. The excitement of the event is heightened by the fact that there are few measures in place to ensure the safety of the spectators who watch perched precariously on the slope.
I know many people who have taken part in the race and lived to tell the tale. I remember as a child watching David Attenborough’s famous programme about the sky-divers of New Guinea who jumped from high wooden towers and were saved from death only by vine ropes tied to their ankles. The programme seemed so exotic and remote. It never occurred to me that anything as daring was happening on my doorstep. But here in Gloucestershire the annual Cheese Rolling is just as crazy and dangerous and does the same thing, giving young people the chance to demonstrate their prowess and courage.
It is a rare sight to see someone flying and it was the pose of the central figure in mid flight, looking as though he is about to zoom out across the landscape beyond the hill that excited me. The extreme poses of the figures and dramatic contrasts of scale hopefully communicate visually some of the drama, excitement and raw energy of this slightly crazy but wonderful race.
The painting below is an intimate view of the ancient Lower Woods in south Gloucestershire. In the early autumn wild autumn crocuses grow among the leaf litter.
Wild autumn crocuses
The painting below is based on the view from the the treetop walk at Kew Gardens.
Above the Trees 125cmx 210cm
Wild Martagon Lilies on Offa's Dyke above Tintern
151 X 180cm
It has taken me three years to put together this image of wild martagon lilies growing in a secluded wood on Offa’s Dyke above the Wye valley and Tintern abbey.
Martagon lilies grow wild across Europe and used to be more common here but the beautiful plants were sought out by collectors and the bulbs dug up to be planted in gardens. They are still grown commonly as garden plants and you can buy commercially grown bulbs. But they grow wild now in only a few places in England and this site proved very difficult to find. The first year I discovered it the lilies had already flowered and the flowers were already dry seedheads. I found them in bud a year later and returned for a third time on mid-summer's day to find them in flower at last.
Wild Martagons are pink or sometimes white, about a metre tall and look wonderfully exotic in an English context. The glade where they grow is dark with light filtering through the trees from above. There was a sense of discovering something magical, precious and wonderful. I hope the painting communicates something of this experience.
The painting below is a celbration of English woodland in Spring. So many of us walk out into the countryside each spring to see woodland such as this. This image is based on the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve at Midger Woods with fern fronds just unfurling and bluebells scattered about the woodland floor and wild garlic about to come into flower.
Spring woodland - ferns unfolding 130cmx200cm
These trees are standing near the Cotswold Way path above my home in Gloucestershire. It is the middle of winter when the trunks look at their best, a beech on the left and an ash on the right.
This magnificent oak tree is standing in the ancient Deer Park at Berkeley in Gloucestershire overlooking the Severn Vale. The deer park is an extraordinary landscape with a tangible sense of history and many trees such as the one seen here, ancient, broken but still vigorous.