‘Layers Unlocked, Bury St Edmunds 2020’

We particularly wanted to work on a piece that matched the dates of the second lockdown in England exactly. The restrictions imposed have focused us all, as a nation on what is on our doorstep and we decided to settle on the market in our town of Bury St Edmunds as a very pertinent subject for collaboration. Glimpsing our market Square just prior to these latest restrictions, we imagined the layers of history unfolding before us; as if unlocked again as we became locked.

We have explored layered urban environments in London before but in Lockdown the aperture of vision came closer to home and Bury St Edmunds our local market town has become our focus. Different era’s and drama’s, building frontages and products on sale shift in and out of focus on the same plot of land and become a story in themselves that we wanted to explore with the silence of the Pandemic as context but very much continuity being the story.

We accessed archived images of Cornhill and the Buttermarket from the late Victorian period to present day and together with our sketches, we began to overlay the composition with the characters who have walked our streets and the business facades that have framed one of the centre points of our town. Moyses Hall, the astounding building in the far left hand corner of the square has been the corner stone for 900 years. It has stood for centuries, bearing witness to plague, upheaval and change, as well as trade, celebration and commemoration. We have had a market in Bury since James I granted permission for it to be held twice a week in the 1600s and it is a back bone to Bury St Edmunds.

Once the layering began, we soon realised the importance of leaving some areas clear, both to evoke a sense of social distancing that we are abiding by these days, but also to punctuate the painting with pauses which is so essential with an intricate painting. We have aimed to suggest strong rhythms throughout these spaces; connecting the past and present, crowding and isolation and our individual approach to the collaborative process.

As with most of our work, we enjoy twists and surprises and here the buildings and market stalls began to suggest larger figures…. even St Edmund makes an appearance!

‘Layers Unlocked, Bury St Edmunds 2020’
Watercolour, ink and pencil on St Cuthberts Mill Bockingford rough paper 76 x 56cm

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