If, at any distance from home, I mention to someone that I live & work within the Borough of Melton Mowbray, most immediately make the association with Pies. This association of object to place is almost unique. It is the sort of association that branding and marketing experts would, and do, dedicate their careers to achieving. Others might think of fox hunting, privileged young thrusters painting red crosses on doors late at night. Windmills, cheese, beer, pigs, castles, canals, elderflower cordial, farming, music, cinema, dog food, sport, cloth, bread and baking, all these and more form part of activity in and around Melton Mowbray.

The town itself is, like so many towns, a jumble. A mix of rich and poor, proud and humble, light and dark. Within and without the town, if one only looks, are buildings and places of real beauty. The key words there are ‘if one only looks’. This beauty is not unique to Melton Mowbray, but it is there and it is there in abundance.

The beauty I refer to may seems strange to those of us who live in the area because we are all guilty of seeing but not truly appreciating what surrounds us.

This is a familiar theme, but came home to me more strongly than ever before since I have read and watched television programmes about David Hockney’s Royal Academy exhibition, ‘A Bigger Picture’.

I am no art expert, but one of the many ways in which this seems unusual is that all the work within it was painted and created for this particular exhibition. Another, pretty well known now, is that Hockney used his Ipad to create many of the works on display.

When I first watched an interview with Hockney about this exhibition, I couldn’t help wondering whether he might not be testing us all a bit, whether the impish seventy something year old is not in fact teasing us all, pulling our legs. At one stage I even had the temerity to consider the Ipad paintings akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Many better men than me have sought to define Art. One simple definition of sorts has always seemed to me to be for the viewer of a piece, to ask two questions.

‘Do I like it?’ and ‘Could I do it?’ In general if the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively, then It is Art. Of course this is a rubbish definition for many reasons, but for the reason I have just cited, I’ll pursue it no further.

Although I have not been to the Hockney exhibition, I have looked and looked at the works. The more I look, the more I see, and the more I look. This work of Hockney, which also explores film in a way which is so familiar, because of the ubiquity of television, and yet so new in its approach, is a lesson in how we should look at our surroundings. These works are all depictions of a small number of places in the countryside of East Yorkshire.

Similar places, many more beautiful, exist all around us in and around the Borough of Melton Mowbray.


Northfield Farm Shop & Restaurant

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Author: janmccourt

Farmer, owner of Northfield Farm known for his & its pioneering role as a champion of local food, rare breeds, Borough & Broadway Markets.

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