(soft pastel on medium water colour paper, 36cm x 33cm (60cm x 58cm framed))
In this piece, the vertical vantage point accentuates two elements of landscape pattern. The most obvious and the one which gives the overall structure to the picture plane is the pattern of large rectangular field boundaries. These are the fields of the extensive Keoldale sheep farm (3,000 ewes)in the far north west of Sutherland on 30,000 acres of hill ground from Sandwood Bay to the Kyle of Durness. This was established by the Duke of Sutherland in the nineteenth century with the loss of two former indigenous settlements going back to the Iron Age. The farm was leased to tennents from the south. Earth works of an Iron Age fort and numerous cairns can be found at Keoldale and the aerial vantage reveals the pattern of enclosures and cultivation ridges associated with one of the former settlements.
Not withstanding the real landscape that informs the work the pastel transcends this context and becomes a quasi-abstract construction of geometric shapes and juxtaposition of colour. Indeed the choice of colours although referencing the greens of the improved pasture of the in bye land, the yellows and golds of hay fields, bracken and reeds, and the purples of the heather moors and black of the peat lands, are nonetheless strictly non-representational. They seek merely to capture what David Blackburn has termed the ‘landscape vision’.
Technically the piece combines blended pastel pigments with ‘over painting’, layering the pastel colours, and with detailed pastel ‘drawing’