No other British bird has such a distinctive call, one which is often described as a liquid, bubbling, trill and most evocatively – plaintive, a word that is so seldom used in modern speech to be almost synonymous with this species. Perhaps the sound of the curlew cannot be dissociated from the land, for very often the birds can be fugitive and the tell-tale sign is only the slowly decaying and mournful cadence of its call. In this painting therefore I have sought to unify its call with a landscape in which it resides.
oil on canvas 765x510mm (2016)
To help transpose the sound into a tangible metaphor I have used the sonograph of its call and locked it within the roost of the duck decoy as if a wasp preserved in amber. The peaks and troughs of its mournful call can then be forever preserved in the broken backbone of trees at Hale and the light emanating from the watery pools is something to do with the spirit of the birds and that which gave voice to it.
There is a setting by Warlock of a poem by Yeats that deals far more eloquently with this subject; better still to search for the sound on the Mersey – or just listen: