Landscape and memory

As a child I was quite familiar with Leeds train Station . I loved the place with its hustle and bustle and the excitement of the potential journeys that lay ahead . It was some years later as an art student that I began to look deeper at the landscape . The journey list was somewhat dwindling by now and the actual fabric of the place began to take over my thoughts.

The rusting rails , overhead power lines of the multi-platformed station  all stretched out into the distant landscape and became entwined so much  that each form became almost unrecognizable . There was something inexplicable about the place . An intriguing energy that somehow didn’t mirror the city that I had grown up in .

The energy encapsulated a time past.

Encapsulating a time past-Adrian hills -Leeds Train Station 1990. Acrylic and ink on board

“If you can find anything interesting here to paint then feel free ” was the derogatory remark from the station manager at the time. . But for me it was as if I had struck gold as a painter.  An abundance of subject matter right before my eyes. But once I began to paint, and more importantly look, it became apparent to me that the landscape before me was more than a candy shop of lines and forms.

What lay before me was a landscape steeped in history and the story of the city . In the distance a vague recollection of the quintessentially English landscape and a reminder of man’s agricultural past . Even more receding was the faint reminder of land where forests once stood but the rusting rails told the story of Leeds’ more recent industrial past . Quite a recommendable past which saw the city rise in the industrial ranks thanks to the woollen mills . Along with the railway Leeds managed to become a major player in the manufacturing industry particularly in clothing . However decline in the manufacturing industry in the 1930’s saw a temporary switch to munitions during the World War ll . By the 1980’s the manufacturing industry was in irreversible decline due to cheap foreign imports and the Leeds’ Landscape looked shabby and tired .

So the station stood with its vibrant energy set against a crumbling industrial infrastructure but still throbbing like a wounded beast struck down in its prime but nevertheless still mesmerizing and still beautiful.

But the great industrial beast of Leeds didn’t give in and it rose again as a major financial centre , the biggest outside of London. Running parallel to this rise out of the industrial decay was a change in its topographical landscape. Notable is  the train station itself with its polished steel and chrome , the hint of neon and its new found commuters in the rush hour traffic . But if  go up onto to new bridge overlooking the platforms and stare out at the landscape then the history of the great city still lies before you . .. if you take the time to look .