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High summer casts a dusty light over the city. I worked on the Mall on a couple of Sunday afternoons. I loved painting the flags—two-dimensional objects turned into three by the way they hung in folds. They were transferred back into two dimensions on the canvas. Artists love painting stripes and flags because they show form. There’s an end of Empire feeling in The Mall near Buckingham Palace perhaps because it was painted in late July when summer had peaked and everyone was heading to the coast. I hope, the painting suggests something durable—empires do fade but they leave a legacy.

One of the many bridges you cross travelling out of central London is Hammersmith Bridge, here painted at sunset; further up river is the view from Richmond Hill, protected in the 1903 Act of Parliament. It is amazing how the original view of river and trees has been preserved as far as the eye can see. But it’s summer, and we have further to go. We arrive in Antibes. There, the light of the sky is bright on the balcony and later there’s a ferry journey to Marrakech with a stay in a riyadh (small hotel) with courtyards, seclusion and mysterious further rooms. Back in Antibes at the tiny beach, we find the yellow parasol set on a tiny wooden pontoon.

On our return, when we thought we’d left everything behind, I see a back-lit view of a soft, yellow rose. The light falling on the exposed upper sides of the petals tells me there is beauty all around even when the sky is white and the lights of London beckon you back to the centre of things.

Sarah Butterfield

January/February 2010

Clockwise from top left: “The Mall near Buckingham Palace”; “The balcony: Antibes”; “Doorway in Marrakech”; “Yellow parasol: Antibes”; “Yellow rose”; “Marmite jar”; “Lights of the city”; “Thames at Hammersmith”; and “Richmond Hill: afternoon”

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