David Inshaw and Silbury Hill

There was a good article in The Guardian yesterday about the artist David Inshaw. I suspect like a lot of people I first came across the work of David Inshaw via the cover art of the Arden Shakespeare series in the 1980s, some of which we had at school. Theses editions had the covers provided by members of the Brotherhoodof Ruralists, a group of artists established in the 1970s by, amongst others, Peter Blake, a slightly unlikely figure for such an avowedly neo-Romantic movement. Inshaw is best known for his quasi-surrealist, slightly ominous landscapes and views – the Badminton Game is the best known (again, used as a book cover, for The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories). This first exposure must have been at more or less at the same time as I was first becoming really aware of the Wiltshire Downs and the landscape around Avebury and Silbury Hill, and the two are permanently linked in my mind. Although I always knew that much of his art derives from the area round his home in Devizes, it was only relatively recently though that I discovered that he has also regularly painted Silbury Hill. I first came across one of these pictures on the cover of Adam Thorpe’s wonderful little psychogeography-cum-memoir OnSilbury Hill  (remind me I must bog about Adam Thorpe at some point…), although this particular image Wiltshire Landscape- Silbury Hill is surprisingly un-Inshawesque, in that it’s a relatively straightforward landscape despite the slightly contorted topography and blood red sun.

More generally though, there is often a feeling of repressed tension about his images- the sense of a storm about to break. There is also a nice combination of realism and heavy symbolism that comes straight out of the surrealist tradition and plugs into that 1970s psychedelic pastoralism that strangely surfaced so regularly in childrens’ television of the 1970s and early 1980s.  I’ve previously written about the artistic responses to Silbury Hill/Avebury by slightly earlier Neo-Romantic artists, such as John Nash and John Piper so it is nice to see my two interests connecting (by a leyline?).

Published by David Petts

Assc. Prof Archaeology, Durham University - landscapes - old music/books - folk traditions - early med Britain - community heritage - post-medieval - views own @davidpetts1 outlandish-knight.blogspot.co.uk

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