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How I ended up on Titterstone Clee.

My road to the top of 'The Hill' as I call it, began on another hill, Bexley Hill in West Sussex. It was here that I grew up in a household of a writing mother (Ilse) and a painting father (Kit).

 

In the early 1980's I completed my BA in Fine Art at Central St Martins, where I studiously avoided landscape painting!  I suppose as the son of a successful landscape painter I wanted to escape from directly following in his footsteps.

 

I have painted many things in the intervening years - submarines, gestural abstracts and Toby Jugs included....... But now in my 7th decade I feel enough time has passed, and the draw of Titterstone Clee has set me on this new, but well trodden path. 

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Painting the air traffic control radar station in light rain and low cloud
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Working from life. 

"At the moment, it is fashionable to paint pictures where you can see what time it is, like on a sundial. I do not like that at all. A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people."  

Edgar Degas

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I take the landscape back to the studio. 

"It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is much better to draw what one remembers. A transformation results in which the imagination collaborates with memory. You will reproduce only what is striking, which is to say only what is necessary. That way your memories and fantasies are liberated from the tyranny of nature."

Edgar Degas

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A little more about the hill 

Around the Summit of Titterstone Clee (1,749 ft) is a complex landscape. It is home, most obviously to the NATS radar station with tracks air traffic within a hundred mile radius. This facility takes the form of a large sphere - white and close to the summit. A few hundred meters away is a much smaller sphere mounted on a tall steel tower. This is a Met Office weather radar station used to detect rainfall.

A much more ancient physical features is the remains of a Bronze Age cairn dating back up to  4000 years.

 

In medieval times coal and ironstone were extensively mined, the remains of these operations have left huge pits and mounds. The quarry workings of the early Twentieth Century have left crumbling but imposing remains of associated buildings scattered on the west side of the hill, reminders of the times when top to 300 men & women worked on the hill. 

Thomas Barker paints a landscape painting on Clee Hill

Painting the Radar station with car lights

Why the Laughing Frenchman? 

So much about art is the story. It's about where and who and why..... In this case I wanted to inject a little fun, a little subversion into the work. I wanted more than just another Shropshire landscape painting. If you look at my instagram page you will see a roguish looking gentleman with a moustache and beret, a glass of wine and a relaxed attitude to life. He is laughing because he knows how brief his time on the hill is and how he must make the most of it and of his surreptitious mischief.  

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