The Northamptonshire peasant poet John Clare said of his poems that he didn’t write them so much as “find them in the fields”. Similarly based herself, artist and printmaker Carry Akroyd works intimately with nature and landscape, including elements as she finds them rather than as they could be idealised. Back when there were more American airbases in the area, jets and vapour trails would often appear in her work, “because it was there”. The amazing thing was that this mechanisation did not jar with a bucolic scene, but became as much a part of it as anything else. In this book, you’ll often find queues of heavy traffic along the major roads that cut through the region.
The core of this collection of some 210 prints and paintings is Carry’s series of 16 lithographs based on Clare’s work and incorporating some of his words. There is, however, much more, including landscapes from further afield in East Anglia as well as Wales and Scotland.
Carry’s images are rarely straightforwardly pictorial and include elements of abstraction that place wildlife and insects in their habitat, but out of proportion. Edges are often jagged and roads wind through patchwork fields that do indeed look almost stitched together. The result is a sense of location and habitat much more than of place, but the atmosphere is perfect. Of the Fens, she says it’s “a land that lends itself to abstraction”, with its flatness and huge skies. This she often portrays from a high viewport than cannot be obtained from land, but requires the wings of the birds that ride the wind overhead.
As well as working with Clare’s poems, Carry is also influenced by them, and it’s impossible to ignore parallels between a man who found words in the fields and an artist whose work comes out of, rather than looking into them.
I have known Carry Akroyd’s work for thirty-odd years and it’s a genuine privilege to be able to review this magnificent book, the quality of whose reproduction is the work of a publisher who takes real care.
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