Long time observers know I work on series of pictures. Some are relatively constrained to a few months or a year perhaps. Not so The Heart Of Rural England. Actually this title has only just been chosen as the first part of it started way back in the late 1990’s. Back then I was working on a series of canvas pieces that were mounted on board and based on imagery drawn from villages nearby my home. These were abandoned in favour of the series of canvases that became the project titled From The Earth Wealth shown at the Tarpey Gallery in 2011. During an interview for the Leicester Mercury I jokingly suggested I might go on from that project (featuring a painting by each place featured in the district of NW Leics handbook) to make a series for each of the other districts in the county. This lay fallow until around 2015 when myself and my pal Simon started on the documentation of the Charnwood Borough. In turn the canvases for each place in their handbook began towards the end of the following year.
The first – Loughborough – was completed in February of 2017 (by which time the photography for the next district – Melton – was just starting) but then progress on the paintings stalled. But though the wheels grind slow they do grind fine with the last handful of the Charnwood series (titled from a phrase in their handbook suggesting it is ‘the Playground of the Midlands’!) just drying as i write – so they should be all put to bed by year’s end. I’ve ruefully suggested before now that with the glacial progress to date there’s a good chance the project may out live its progenitor so in order to try and forestall that I’m now pushing on.
This starts with reviewing the images from part three (luckily most of which are already captured) that of Melton (with yet another title from their Handbook of ‘Painting The Town Red’) and ordering the necessary canvases. This will be followed in the new year – COVID restrictions permitting – with recommencement of the photography for part four – Harborough District – that we started on back in February of the current year but then never followed up – I cannot imagine why!
and there they are…the Marquis of Waterford and his pals up to ‘high jinks’ in the 19th century in the town of Melton Mowbray. Literally painting the town’s buildings (and apparently one of the toll keepers) in red. Yes…following on the heels of From The Earth Wealth a few years back and last years Playground of the Midlands it is onto the Borough of Melton in what has become a grand projet to visit, photograph and produce a painting for every place listed in a guide to each borough or district of Leicestershire. As with Playground I’m being accompanied by my friend Simon and once again I’ll refer you to his posts for the quality photographic images – my excuse for the low grade ‘snaps’ is my focus on using (and abusing) them to make photoshopped collages that serve as the springboard for the canvases. So our first trip out takes us out to Welby (hardly a place at all…the local Manor owner apparently shipped out the locals back in the day!) but the church still exists…although we had a few interesting moments locating it!
Then onto the somewhat larger village of Scalford, that was pleasant enough but lacked much liveliness although as always there were several interesting and novel visual ‘tags’ to take in. Enough at least to enable me to cobble together a collage that can spur on the painting process.
Having strolled around the village (larger than it might appear from the main road that runs through it, as has been the case with quite a few) we decide to move on to the lunch venue. I’ve described before how these are chosen – by zooming in on Google to the relevant area till the first knife & fork symbol appears – but this time I omitted to check that theRose & Crown in Hose actually opens for lunch and it didn’t!
So we double back into Long Clawson the last of our quests on this first trip out. We spot a fella appearing to enter theCrown & Plough the pub in its centre…so start hot footing towards the entrance – only for said fella to pass us saying it too is closed! Now glum chums we get back in the car grumbling about what is wrong with these inns only to turn the bend and spot the On The Sands cafe & deli. Hooray! lunch is available and very good too. So hardly painting the town red…more the surrounding countryside a delicate light shade of pink…or it might be except its January in England
Its over five years on since I embarked on my project entitled From The Earth Wealth. This comprised very nearly a year of visits to every place identified in the 1977 handbook of the District I live in followed by a series of paintings loosely based on these. The whole exhibited at the Tarpey Gallery in 2011 and the whole thing chronicled on this blog. At the time I jokingly suggested to an enquiring reporter that I might go onto each of the other districts in Leicestershire and complete the set.
Well here I am at the end of January setting out for Loughborough and beginning the exploration of Charnwood, the closest of those other authorities, with a view to doing it all over again. My guide this time is an old copy of their official guide, sadly undated, but I suspect published around the beginnings of the 1980’s. I’ve grouped the smaller villages in the guide together and with Loughborough and Shepshed have come up with twelve trips, roughly one a month, to complete this exploration. My pal Simon has foolishly agreed to come along this time and it is he who – confronted with twelve numbers – made the random selection of Loughborough itself (the biggest place by far and the administrative centre of the borough) as our first mission.
Why the ‘playground of the Midlands title? Well From The Earth Wealth is a translation of the NWLeics motto Ex Terra Opes but try as I may I’ve not found one for Charnwood…so I’ve plundered the opening paragraph of the guidebook where someone dubbed Charnwood thus.