It was in March that I took that train from Maiden Newton to Bath, rattling through the waterlogged valleys of the Dorset-Somerset border. Rivers were high, streams overburdened with snow melt. Gnarly pollards of willow lined the banks in places. A dairy herd stood in mud eyeing an empty feed trough.
I was making a rare trip away from home to visit Stanley Donwood, an artist whose work I’d admired for years – I particularly like the black and white linocuts he did for Rob’s Macfarlane’s books and the glossy pieces for Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief. Early in the year I’d sent him a link to Arcadia, which he’d watched and wrote back saying it was a “f****** amazing film”. Emboldened by his response, I told him there was no better person for the job of making a poster – thought there was something of a pastoral anarchist in him, which was ideal for a film that explores our contradictory, often strange relationships with the land and nature in a broader sense.
Stanley agreed to meet and a week later he bustled me through his studio towards ‘The Vale of the White Horse’ and told me how the painting had emerged from the many train journeys between Bath and Oxford. Sat looking out of the window, he’d see the Uffington horse carved in the chalk hillside and surrounded by ancient monuments and field systems. I knew the place well. I’d once slept by the animal’s feet, resting during a 5-day-walk atop the Ridgeway, so the personal association was perfect. And the bright, bleeding colours of fields felt familiar, like the flag of a forgotten country.
Stanley has been a joy to work with and tuned into the spirit of the film and Common Ground. Which is why he’s offered us a limited number of prints to help raise funds for future work. Thanks Stanley! And I hope you like them too, Jeff. In Stan’s words: they’re really f****** amazing.
Stanley Donwood’s ‘Vale of the White Horse’ prints are signed, numbered, and limited to an edition of 20. They are available to purchase here.