To lift autumn fur
To hear thunder
Quickness of hearing;
To see sun and moon
In recent years David Boyd has wandered throughout the east-of-Eden lands on which he grew up. And at a chanced-upon gateway, lonning, or stone wall, he has stopped and painted; quickly, harvesting the ground’s energies and the light that flows over it. The observers of the finished work reap, at their leisure. Perhaps one of the questions that he is seeking to answer with this new exhibition is: to what extent are these higher octaves reached through the skill of observation, and which part of the achievement is due to a deep knowledge of the land? Where does this enhanced perception of reality come from?
David is often amused by the attempts of others to interpret his work. His favourite questions crop up in front of a glowering, wet painting, usually one where an eastern thundercloud issues a black threat into the light from the west, but never realises its promise. The onlooker informs him that he must have been depressed when he painted it.
In a dark place.
To which he might reply,
‘No, that is because it was actually dark at the time.’
‘I just paint what’s there.’
Then again, David knows what’s there. The undulations between Renwick, Croglin and Ainstable are the places of his ancestors, of his childhood, places where he once drove a tractor. They are the places that he has continued to study, their human history as well as the physical. He could write an essay on a single fell and is still finding hidden secrets on his travels. He knows who farms where and who farmed there before them. He has discussed this land and its people in its pubs, sometimes with heat. Perhaps a part of the energy that crackles from these paintings is the light of the human energy that he is connected to. Do humans affect the light with their past and their presence? Well, they can ‘light up a room’, be the ‘light of your life’ or ‘darken your door’. Go to the UK city with a history of troubles and look at the brooding hill that stands over it if you want to see a stark example.
Now, in this exhibition, David Boyd has headed westward, towards Allonby, Silloth and Maryport where he holidayed as a child, still following a connection, but one coloured by the echoes of a child’s intensity of experience. He has also ventured towards Lakeland, formerly an ethereal punctuation on the horizon in some of the older paintings, just as most Cumbrians experience it, but now to the fore, where a talent for capturing the ricochets of light from still water has now been allowed to flourish.
I suspect that David would find numerous blocks of colour in the Sahara Desert. Many of his paintings appear to have the perspective of a broadcasting song thrush. And yet they have been created on the ground, not from a tree top. Perhaps the enhancements of colour, the pinks, the purples, are also a feature of an ultraviolet, birdlike vision system. Or perhaps this is over-analytical rubbish.
‘I just paint what’s there’.
Ian Millican July 2021