(soft pastel on medium water colour paper, 33cm x 24cm (65cm x 59cm framed))
This pastel was the first attempt to explore the vertical viewpoint applied to the Hebridean landscape (in this instance the isle of Berneray). It is a straight forward representational piece that had the purpose of examining the extent to which this viewpoint revealed a sequence of occupation and cultivation that was barely visible from the ground.
The experiment was successful in the sense that the outlines of buildings that today hardly rise above the surrounding vegetation are clearly visible. These are the dwellings of the period that pre-dates the agricultural re-organisation of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the so called blackhouses with their thatch or turf roofs, now long gone. They are often surrounded with the stone footings of their enclosed kailyards, while beyond the buildings themselves the remnants of the accompanying cultivation in rigs or lazy beds are seen. These ridges, dug and turned by hand using a spade or foot plough are best preserved today on the rising land to the bottom left of the picture because today it is largely undisturbed pasture. Elsewhere, though invisible at ground level, traces of this phase of cultivation are still discernable.
The elongated fields of the linear crofting townships imposed in the early nineteenth century overlay this earlier pattern. Unusually, but not untypical of Berneray and parts of North Uist, the row of later whitehouses with their gable ends and chimneys and more substantial roofs that constitute the existing township, are situated within the fields and not along the road.
The potential for a more abstract and idealised treatment of the pattern revealed is perhaps more evident in the under painting of this work.