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Susan Laughlin


Alone at sunrise I wander through
Curling ferns, purple heather and gorse.
Heavy, sultry air still moist
From silver, shadowed cool of night.
On dew-silk grass, my feet lightly tread,
Its silent memories, not so distant,
Fill my head.
Through early morning mists
Buttercup song and gleeful play,
I travel back in time and recall
An ancient dream.
When Suffolk’s Sandlings stretched
Magnificent and vast,
As broad as the boughs of Majestic
Oaks that stand,
On the jewelled, gossamer threads
That still remain.
(Sutton Heath, Suffolk)
I grew up on the outskirts of Ipswich, the surrounding woods, meadows, riverbanks and heathland were my playground. Through my teenage years, I watched in dismay as, one by one, these places disappeared under tonnes of concrete, replaced by industrial estates, superstore complexes, housing estates and road systems. They exist now, only in my memory and the memories of others that played there as children.
Moving from urban to rural surroundings, one feels that it is again, possible to breathe. Since moving to the heart of Breckland in Norfolk, with my children, James and Rebecca, and now to Rural Suffolk, I have found other places that give me pleasure, although it seems that nowhere is entirely safe from the planners’ pen! It is from these places that I draw inspiration for my work whilst also drawing upon folklore, mythology and ancient history to suggest something more than the purely physical. Working, initially, by pouring, rolling & splattering, echoes the chaotic essence of nature; ultimately, it is impossible to have total control over what the paint is doing. Then, building the image up by applying many layers of glazing, so that it slowly evolves, echoes the passage of time; as the life and history of each site are recorded within it, resulting in its current ambience and appearance, so each layer of glazing is an integral part of the final image.
As a population, we are becoming more environmentally aware, increasingly accepting our responsibility to protect the natural world, viewing it, not only as something beautiful but also precious. However, we still view it as something outside ourselves, something separate. Through my work, I hope to not only suggest that it is possible to access memories within the landscape that give vital clues to the ancestral heritage of our land and people, but to also awaken a sense of connectedness that industrialisation, technology and materialism have helped to erase.