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. While there I was offered the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the countryside around Ovillers-la-Boisselle.
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 story as 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 made by shells and chalk patches in ploughed fields were the 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.
The intention is to produce a series of present day paintings from similar vantage points to those painted by Nash and Orpen; The Ypres Salient in the case of Nash, The Somme for Orpen. The idea is to make direct comparisons between the destruction depicted by Nash, Orpen and Masefield and the landscapes as they are today.
I will paint the landscapes from the ground and also from aerial photographs where the underlying scars on the landscape are still visible. The paintings will serve as a contemporary monument for those lost in the War, a tribute to the works of Nash, Orpen and Masefield, a comparative perspective on landscape regeneration, and an educational resource. They will also promote the work of the La Boisselle Study Group and other similar groups.
You can see my progress here
as I regularly update this page.