In December 2013 I accompanied the La Boisselle Study Group on a reconnaissance of the First World War battlefields where I was given access to the British front line tunnels at La Boisselle. While there I had the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the countryside of the Somme.
On the 1st July 1916 the British army suffered 60,000 casualties, of whom 20,000 were dead in fields like these around the Somme.
Up in the air, the landscape revealed its stories. I saw the scars and battle wounds reaped upon the soil, still visible almost one hundred years on; a huge mine crater, front line trenches, smaller craters from exploding shells and chalk patches in ploughed fields were the top soil had been obliterated.
Today the former battlefields of Belgium and France are productive, agricultural landscapes, patchworks of farming and environmental enterprises that, on the ground, show little evidence of the earlier trauma.
A series of present day paintings from similar vantage points to those painted by Paul Nash and William Orpen are in production. I will make direct comparisons between the destruction depicted by Nash, Orpen and Masefield and the landscapes as they are today.
I am painting using reference photos from my trips to these landscapes during the period between 2013-18. The paintings will serve as a contemporary memorial for those lost in the War, be a tribute to the works of Nash, Orpen and Masefield, present a comparative perspective on landscape regeneration and become an educational resource. They will also promote the work of the La Boisselle Study Group and The Friends of Lochnagar.
You can see my progress here
as I regularly update this page.