Day 12 Lenin’s Valley, Oil on Canvas, 64x48 inches

This is an older work, based on a valley below Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan. Although this painting was inspired by a specific place seen at a particular time the purpose of the painting was to depict something of the history of the land. Kyrgyzstan has had a long relationship with the pollutant DDT and the grey featureless patches symbolise something of this history. I did not want to radically transform the scene but to deepen the degree of imaginative engagement – to form an enquiry into the essence of what has made this land (and many others like it). Having said that, the Pamir Mountains are famously beautiful and I was not indifferent to their glory! The geology and clarity of light creates otherworldly colours, which contrast with the dazzling snow on Lenin Peak and the dirty grey of the glacier below.

These mountains are very difficult to get to. My husband and I were travelling independently and Lenin Peak was beyond any public transport. In a nearby town we had spread word that we were looking for a lift but we were nervous about drifting too close to the Tajikistan border (at that time a very politically unsafe area and all the more risky because my husband works for the Foreign Office), so when, in the dead of night we were bundled into a jeep with little explanation, it is fair to say we were quite scared. We were driven for several hours in the darkness across rugged terrain, eventually stopping at a simple yurt in the middle of nowhere. We spent the night there – with a remarkable and generous local family – and in the morning were collected by a man in a very battered car. We made little conversation and eventually he, both drunk and seemingly lost, just told us to get out. Which we did. We then, hiked and camped further into the valley until we reached a large glacier and the land made a sharp incline up towards Lenin Peak. We made a base here and I was able to make work overlooking the spectacular scenery. The weather was brutally cold – and the ground, which I sat on to work, was solid permafrost. We also had minimal food and washed in the glacier run-off (which was vicious) so, all in all, it was a very uncomfortable stay, but in terms of the landscape it was extraordinary.

Some work done on site: