Outside time


Howard Skempton talks about his working practice.

Field Notes – Matthew Harris


The Leeke Survey is an ancient record of the carving and cutting up of land. Laid out on ancient yellowing parchment or paper, the outlined fields are divided into strips, patches and blocks of various shades of yellow. From cool pale lemon to warmer saffron yellows, the fields are spread out, pinned, liked striped cloths in the sun or rugs in a square in Marrakesh seen from the air. Meandering across their surface, pathways and tracks of orange and ochre. Yellow is the predominant colour in this ‘book of fields’ and yellow is the colour that is left as an after image on returning to the studio and the colour that has now seeped and stained its way into the paper and cloth for ‘Field Notes’. Over recent weeks, firstly with paint and ink, and now with dye these yellows have saturated the materials in the studio, spilling over my work- table onto the floors and bouncing their light off the walls and ceiling.

‘A book of fields’


Field Notes began life as a trip for Howard Skempton and I to the Shropshire Archive in Shrewsbury. Following an initial meeting in my studio, where we discussed graphic scores, time, journeys, topography and maps it was suggested that we might begin the project by looking at some ancient maps in Shrewsbury.

The maps that had been laid out were intensely exciting not just visually but in terms of their material and physical presence. Some were paper thin, eggshell like sheets that clung to the table perfectly flat. Others were landscapes of undulating roughly shaped vellum that drifted across the tables. Amongst these ancient horizontal planes of parchment the Leeke Survey sat upright. A book of fields, each page trapping ancient enclosures within a frame of red borders. Fields stretched out like folded and cut cloth. Complex pattern pieces criss-crossed with pathways of ochre, dotted lines and bands of yellow that break and bisect each field into delineated strips and folds.

These fields are fragments, floating free of any surrounding landscape. Ancient outlines trapped and pressed for all time in the pages of a book with names that point to an ancient history of use and ownership.

The New Peeces

The Windmill field

The Alin Hop Lower

The Wergs

Pitt Croft Whip Ha

Little Mead

The 8 Day Math

The 5 Day Math

The Moore Field

Of all the things on show that morning, this is the one that has stayed with me and worked its way into my thoughts and making.