Alice Stevenson


Walls and Patterns

In Ways to See Great Britain, I compared the experience of visiting Cerne Abbas: home of the the Cerne Giant and possibly one of the most attractive villages I have ever seen, with the abandoned village of Imber, several miles away on the Wiltshire Downs.

Now looking back at my photographs of Cerne Abbas, what strikes me the most are the textures of the walls of the Cerne Abbey buildings, in particular I keep returning to a photograph which is just a close up of the wall of the Abbey Guest House; a church shaped structure, erected in the 16th Century, currently being used for storage. It’s surface is delicately textured with rows of repeated slabs of stone interspersed with layers of what appears to be flint, the patterns these materials make are irregular: just when a system seems to be asserting itself, a large oblong shaped slab appears where it shouldn’t logically be, disrupting any order. The colours range from delicate lichen white to the liquid dark of the open flint. Some of the large flat stones are appear almost copper coloured, they remind me of two pence coins at the bottom of a wishing well.


This wall stayed in my head for a few days. My initial attempts to find further information about its materials, have not reaped much in the way of definite results, but I will persevere; in any wall lies important clues into the history of an area and its people. In the mean time, the textures and patterns have been absorbed into my visual imagination and seem to need to come out of my pen or brush in surprising formations. I find myself compelled to sit down and echo its pattern in watercolour shapes in my sketchbook. Like most of my drawings, after a certain point the pattern begins to run its own course, becoming something removed from its original subject. Perhaps this is why I am so often drawn to textures and walls, they are so rooted in place, history and people, yet their abstracted quality allows me to adopt them and repurpose them in my drawing, as something intuitive and deeply personal.

Ways to See Great Britain is available here.