One of the most frequently found terms in contemporary painting is “abstracted landscape “. Its one of those terms which could mean almost anything, but this is an illustration of what it means for me.
This is a painting I made a few years ago after a moving visit to Wasdale Head. Wasdale is a small valley in the Lake District in North West England. It holds the remarkable lake of Wastwater - its surface two hundred feet above sea level and its bottom 50 feet below. The painting is of Wasdale Head, home to the Wasdale Inn and the starting point for many climbers of England’s highest mountain.
In the valley bottom is St Olaf’s church. Its roof trusses are reputed to come from Viking ships. Inside are small memorials to climbers who have died on mountains all over the world and many are buried in the graveyard. The inscriptions of their untimely deaths make very hard reading.
We came here because we have an old Turner print which was found in Masham and we were looking for the place where Turner made his picture. We found it. Afterwards we had quiet, reflective beer in front of the fire in the slate-floored inn.
Some places have so much personality a realistic painting of surface appearances would simply be not enough. So this became a landscape painting abstracted by experiences and emotions and, to help me find some of those things, I wrote a poem at accompany my sketches. The rest came from colour and movement and my thoughts as the painting came into being. I don't ask what the elements of the painting represent - they just came out that way. But I know it means to me the time we spent at Wasdale Head.
Deep into shadows under the hill
To the heart of the rain
And scumble of the falling water
To the bright-fired and slate-floored bar.
Wood smoke and fresh coffee
In the first chill of autumn
And then the path drawn upwards
Into the painting
Until the contour lines
And engraver’s furrows
If you'd like to see Peter Hicks - one the greatest of landscape abstractionists - in action, CLICK HERE