Tarka The Otter
I’ve often wondered where the inspiration for the work I now produce came from. With the kestrel paintings (A Kestrel For A Knave, Against The Sky and The Hill Of Summer) I know it comes from early exposure to the film Kes, and the Barry Hines novel it was adapated from, but as for the landscapes and the other animals, I could only put it down to seeing Tales of the Riverbank or just growing up on a council estate flanked by fields and woodland. Seeing this poster recently was a Proustian moment for me, as it brought back with significant force the memory of reading Tarka The Otter when I was around ten or eleven years old. This was around the same time I read Watership Down, and I remember how much I loved the cover painting, reproduced above as a beautiful poster for the 1979 film version. Perhaps all my paintings of the last few years are just my way of trying to relive the sensations of looking at this as a ten-year old, marvelling at how anyone could paint something so good. Henry Williamson’s prose is, if memory serves, richly detailed and hugely evocative of the idyllic Devon countryside, but he never shies away from the violence and darkness that is the absolute reality of it all. Ted Hughes always cited the book as a significant influence on his adolescent imagination, and ended up living out his later life close to the location where Tarka The Otter is set. I suppose I should probably re-read the book, but part of me does not want to desecrate the newly unearthed golden shrine of its memory.