‘Miss Freya Wood’s extraordinary devotion to the fetishisation of the English landscape gives her work a distinctive power. The modern spectator will be swept along by the nearly manicial urgency to capture that most fleeting permanence, the undulating whorls and contours of English parkland.’
Director and screenwriter Menno Meyjes
Freya Wood was an art scholar at Marlborough College and subsequently studied the MA Fine Art course at Edinburgh University, at the Charles Cecil Studios in Florence and at The Royal Drawing School in London. Aged 19 she exhibited 40 landscape paintings in her first solo show at the Mount House Gallery Marlborough. She has since exhibited at 20 Hoxton Square, the Sladmore Gallery and at Christies.
Her works are in the collection of HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Right Honourable Boris Johnson, the Right Honourable Lord Mandelson and Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles.
Freya’s work is characterised by her specific obsession with Wiltshire Landscape. Working ‘en plein air’ and out of a studio which sits at the foot of the Iron Age Hill fort of Martinsel, Freya employs her highly idiosyncratic technique of combining watercolour, gouache, ink, and gum arabic, to recreate the details of the natural world from which she draws her inspiration
Freya’s chosen subjects are places imbued with both cosmic and emotional charge. Cosmic due to their history and pre-history, emotional due to the association of some specific sensation, memory or event buried alive in the psyche of artist, who was raised in this country renowned for its high downland and wide valleys, and uniquely rich Neolithic past.
Freya searches for ‘motifs’ in the landscape which hold some potent, dreamlike or inexplicable meaning. These she repeatedly returns to, in the same way that Paul Nash found ‘presences’ hidden everywhere in the landscape that inspired him. He called them ‘personages’ – standing or fallen objects that seemed to him to give off a mysterious power. To Freya, objects detach themselves from the landscape and become ‘looming protagonists in strange encounters.’ Her paintings are profuse with these ‘personages,’ the presences of Beech Clump thickets, fir plantations or the silhouettes of ancient landmarks seem almost animated as they communicate their strange meaning to the viewer.
The archaeology and history of Wiltshire is unique, with remnants of ancient civilisations and, more recently, a military past having preserved some of the iconic landscape features seen there today, the spiritual and historical significance of which have long since gripped Freya’s imagination. Ancient Hill forts, Tumuli, Earth works, dykes and mounds form a fascinating topography- and ‘lie on the rising ground so commonly’ that the youthful Richard Jeffries (19th Century Nature Writer and Chronicler of Wiltshire) found the land ‘alive with the dead’.
Two thirds of Wiltshire lies on chalk. A soft, porous limestone, resistant to erosion which has built some of the most spectacular scarp and downland scenery in England. The writer, HJ Massingham, compared the scarps to the flanks of a horse, while Terry Pratchett, who was also a Wiltshire dweller, said that there was something oceanic about the downs, and that this was hardly surprising considering the glaciers, and the innumerable sea creatures within them, which carved out the Pewsey Vale and which, over centuries became its chalk.
The mystical quality of this downland was well described by Richard Jefferies in ‘The story of my Heart.’ Jefferies, who had an epiphany on nearby Liddington Hill, described the rapture into which he himself once fell ‘I came upon other trees, other worldlyness…I was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe, and indefinable aspirations filled me. I found them in the grass fields, under the trees, on the hill tops, at sunrise, and in the night. There was a deeper meaning everywhere.’
Freya avoids the literal landscape, the worlds she creates are more metaphorical. Although the places she depicts are rooted in a topographical reality, (primarily the environs of the Wiltshire downs) she tends to return to particular places for ‘motifs’, places that hold some intrigue for her, to which she has attached some important memory or sensation.
Her paintings are an emotional reaction to a spectacular backdrop which has moved her since childhood.
She detaches some obscure part of the landscape; a bristling beech thicket, an escarpment rippling with tumuli, a particular configuration of trees which seem to her pregnant with meaning, and accords to them a disproportionate value and significance, isolating and elevating them from the landscape they inhabit and honing in on their distinctive qualities with all the mania and devotion of a fetishist.
Freya immerses herself daily in this landscape. The hills rise and fall around her as she moves through it on her way to her studio in the heart of the valley, or to her latest painting spot. The shifting, rippling forms of the hills, the eerie and inviting avenues, the geometric undulations of the pattern of the plough, all these are internalised and stored up as she walks, ready to emerge somewhere down the line, surfacing in some strange new guise in a new painting or drawing.