Evening Tranquility At Hope Gap
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
The paths to the Seven Sisters - the iconic line of chalk cliffs on the Sussex coast - are many, and varied. Perhaps the most well-trodden is the short walk across the Seven Sisters Country Park, alongside the meandering River Cuckmere. And a very pleasant stroll it is too.
As a regular destination of Pyle Family bank holidays for many years, I am most familiar with the walk down from the South Hill Barn car park to Hope Gap. It affords a more intimate view of the cliffs than this scene and access down on to the beach, and we spent many enjoyable days as kids looking in rock pools and playing a strange variant of football back up on the cliff top! But in some ways I enjoy it most on a still, warm evening. With fewer people about the rabbits and hares come out for their last nibble of grass, scuttling back into their burrows before darkness falls and predators commence their evening rounds in search of supper. On the cliff top the air smells salty but with a sweetness that comes from a beautiful array of wildflowers and windswept shrubs. More often than not the coastal breeze is sufficient to create a swell in The English Channel and consequently the cliffs are not reflected in the sea beneath. I can recall a few times when I have seen it like a mirror; hardly a breath of wind, the stillness in the sea lending a wonderful sense of tranquility to the landscape.
This painting presents a more distant view of Seven Sisters from an altogether different perspective. If you park up in Seaford and walk up over Seaford Head, past the cliff top golf course, this vista opens out beneath you with Hope Gap in the middle distance. I like this composition and the old stile and gate provide some helpful foreground detail. Last time I was here the weather was nice enough, but it was almost blowing a gale and so there were no reflections to be had. This is why I love painting - it allows me to conflate two separate moments in time in order to create something new. It is why you just can't paint from photographs all the time. You must be out in the landscape, experiencing and observing it. Save those details and experiences in your memory, and then you can call on them when you need to create something new.