In lockdown, out of lockdown, masks on, masks off, spikes here, spikes there, it's getting really tedious! We had felt reasonably secure in our unfashionable region of rural France and then the Parisiens came to kill off their elderly relatives and claim their covid inheritance. Now the British tourists and second home owners are arriving to spread the pestilence. The locals view them in much the same way they did the German army of occupation, the annual boost to the local economy is unusually far from their thoughts. Unable and unwilling to cross the Channel, I have been compensated with an abundance of photographs and tales of family excursions, extensive coverage of the South West, Somerset, Exmoor, Devon and Dartmoor. Much of this of course is home ground and some of it still sorely missed. During isolation these missives were both a joy and a poignant reminder of happier, less complicated times. With a looming lockdown birthday I thought I would use this moment to garner a little piece of that glorious landscape. I trawled, but could find nothing to fill my eye until Norman Ackroyd hove into view, it wouldn't be Somerset or Devon, I settled for Wiltshire where I lived way back in the seventies.
Norman Ackroyd is a brilliant draughstman and fine watercolourist but above all he is a printmaker par excellence, etchings that take your breath, every image a masterclass.
The art world teams with nuggets, the sculptor Kenneth Armitage worked on a great sculpture stand he dragged from the studio of Jacob Epstein. Norman Ackroyd produces his large etchings on a press built by Hughes and Kimber in London's East End for Frank Brangwyn in 1900, another great master of the copper plate, lineage or what.
So here I sit in the blistering sun waiting for my piece of Wiltshire to arrive, and the pleasure of hanging an Ackroyd. A Houseman moment I think.
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows
What are those blue
What spires, what farms are
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I
And cannot come again.
AGED AND AWKWARD