Mark Palin(1920-1996) was a popular artist in rural South-East England for most of his life, and certainly in his most active period from 1941 to 1960. A surrealist who believed that distortion of form could reveal the inherent beauty in what we see every day, Palin also had great conviction that to adjust the colour palette of his subject matter was too fundamental an alteration to be truly embraced. This is reflected in his only piece to have general recognition, The Hill's Array: the deep greens of the running countryside, the browns of newly-farrowed soil and the light blues and occasional purple hue of the sky; all of these are visible and distinct, but the form of the landscape has been adjusted to fit Palin's own interpretation.

Observing his three earliest works, there are very definite signs of experimentation with what would later become his distinctive style. The first, Boat in the Ether, is so abstracted from reality that even the eponymous boat is hard to pick out. Such divorced style was rejected for the second, A Fissure in Rustica, painted during troubled times for the artist's personal life, and showing his own feeling of disconnection from the country life that he had formerly always been part of. The surrealist element is evident in the fishbowl-like perspective and the shattered landscape which encompasses his own home.

By the third piece, his later style is very clearly evident, for Unbounded Country shows the "distorted form, consistent palette" that would characterise Palin. However, his evolution was not complete - would never be complete - and here, the rare effect of near-science fiction can be seen. The sky is dark and smoky, as if post-apocalyptic, and the homogenised but recognisable landscape suggests a more advanced form of consumerism than even the current one, and certainly it is radical compared to his experience at the time, 1944, when the country was ravaged by war.

Palin began to challenge his own belief in his later work, but for me this serves to prove his original point, as that period of his work lacks both direction and conviction. With so much personal interpretation of the subject, their is little for the outsider to appreciate; with no point of reference, the work becomes meaningless. Palin had never been one to believe that art should be entirely without appreciation of its consumers.

To conclude, it is fair to say that Palin, while part of the larger surrealist movement, certainly carved his own niche and has entered the local culture as a unique and perhaps genial talent. That he never achieved wider acclaim is surprising on account of the quality and depth of his work, but on the other hand, the distinctly rural influence on his work perhaps distances the typical observer from an art form that ought to embrace the viewer like no other. Having researched his work carefully, I would count him among my favourite artists.

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