Suffolk: Artist Maggi Hambling defends the ‘inspirational’ Brett Valley

CELEBRATED Suffolk artist Maggi Hambling has hit out at National Grid’s plans for a new line of pylons across the countryside as an “act of vandalism”

The acclaimed sculptor and painter has criticised the energy giant, which also described her respected former teacher Sir Cedric Morris as a “lesser known” artist.

The late Sir Cedric is known for his portraits, landscapes and flower paintings and was the leader of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, based in the Brett Valley, where Ms Hambling studied.

National Grid is planning to build a new power connection between Bramford, near Ipswich, and Twinstead, near Sudbury.

The route would largely consist of pylons stretching over the Suffolk countryside.

The East Anglian Daily Times launched its Stop the Pylons campaign as soon as the plans for the Bramford to Twinstead line were unveiled.

A recent report saw National Grid make concessions to pressure from campaigners and it has agreed to underground two 4km sections of the 32km route, recognising the impact the pylons would have on the landscape.

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However, while acknowledging the significance of the works of Gainsborough and Constable, National Grid’s experts described Sir Cedric, who had a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Tate Gallery in 1984, as a “lesser-known” artist and the Brett Valley, which inspired many of the 20th Century’s most renowned artists, as “small and unremarkable”.

Ms Hambling, whose famous works include the Scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach, said the East Anglian School of Painting, based in Higham and then at Benton End Farm on the outskirts of Hadleigh, was “one of the most original and influential centres for artists and writers of the 20th Century”.

She added: “The Brett Valley, stretching before the house, was a major subject of Cedric Morris’s work and examples are to be found in many public collections. I number among the students who were equally inspired by this particular landscape.”

She said others to have taken inspiration from the countryside while spending time at the school, jointly founded by Arthur Lett-Haines, included Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.

She added: “The imposition of more large pylons would certainly ruin the Brett Valley – a landscape clearly as important as those of the Dedham Vale and the Stour. This would amount to an act of vandalism, not only upon a unique environment but upon a significant part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.”

Michael Woods, chairman of Layham Parish Council, contacted Ms Hambling about the matter and said her support would be added to the authority’s submission to National Grid as part of the Bramford to Twinstead project consultation process, which ends next week.

He said the way the National Grid report divides parts of the same river network –which includes the Stour, Box and Brett – made little sense.

He said: “It’s as if a symbolic curtain has been pulled down by National Grid and we are not part of the river system. We are fighting to get the same recognition as the valleys of the Stour and the Box.

“You could argue that the influence that Cedric Morris had upon a whole generation of artists and writers has a greater cultural impact than scraping around to find evidence of backgrounds in paintings that Gainsborough painted.”

A spokeswoman for National Grid said the comments contained in the 378 page Connection Options Report were prepared by technical experts and their use of language was reflective of their specialist work.

She said: “This is a technical document written by specialists who use that language as part of their specialism. When they use words like ‘unremarkable’ it’s part of their specialist language. It’s in no way intended to be a general comment on the beauty or significance of the landscape.”

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