A 1940 painting by the late English surrealist Mark Palin, created at a time when the artist felt that his rural way of life was being threatened by the war, and closer to home, his family were coming to terms with what they considered a dishonerable profession that he had fully embraced.

His fear of becoming estranged from everything he had been so attached to is wrapped up into A Fissure in Rustica, which remained one of his favourite pieces until his death, even though his style evolved. For its painting, it appears that Palin took up a position perhaps half a mile from his own house, and painted the house first. The house itself is very angular and the brush strokes easily differentiable, which suggests to me a certain detachment of observation, the house being painted as an object rather than something to which Palin was emotionally attached. This is to be expected given that Palin felt he was being rejected by everything close to him.

The surrounding landscape of fields and turf is broken into shards, with strongly contrasting black trails used to seperate those shards. Many of the brush strokes of the turf very deliberately overlap the house, as if the house is being lost in the landscape. The landscape is painted with its true colours, but this only serves to heighten the shocking distortion of form of the landscape. The painting thus bears a frightening realism, a rendered quality reminiscint of Tim White, and this makes its message all the more vivid and personal.

This piece is certainly not as surreal as much of Palin's later work, for all the features of the picture are easily recognisable and presented in a near-realistic style. There is certainly little abstraction of the scene itself, although liberal artistic interpretation has been applied. For this reason, the piece is recognisable as one his earlier pieces: one of his own favourites, and one of mine also. It proves, for me, that surrealists need not altogether reject the beauty of verisimilitude.

Sources for the life of Mark Palin: The book "Mark Palin" by a local historian. All art critique by yours truly, BrianShader.

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