Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fractal Landscape

I had a bit of a revelation on my return home from Britain some years ago, after having visited several dry stone wallers in Scotland and England. As the airplane was flying over the green countryside, it occurred to me that the beautiful patterns of walled and hedged fields below revealed the same fractal shapes as the  contours of the stone which fit together so well in the walls I had been looking at during my travels.

It had been a bit of a working holiday that year. I had helped build two walls in Yorkshire and then went and spent some time in Scotland helping repair an old granite fieldstone dry stone wall near an historic castle. 

What I was seeing reproduced everywhere in the landscape below, was a larger quilt-like pattern that I had been appreciating in those dry stacked stones .  I had to try and do a painting of it.

It has been said that dry stone walls create unique microcosms, but what about the macrocosm of the larger surface of country they embrace? The same pattern is there too.The network of stone shapes within any well-built wall, and the patterns these walls create in the larger context, as they outline field and pasture throughout the British countryside, have a distinct self similarity. And why is it ,when looking down from above, there is such a similar beauty contained in these patchworks of colours and lines? Why is the cellular tidiness that these walls create so pleasing to look at from any distance? Are we unconsciously making an association - intuitively seeing some deeper significance? Is there a fractal equation perhaps that prescribes the order we are seeing ? 

Let's look more closely.


  1. Love the concept John.
    It reminds me of some Thomson paintings, where the trees look like leaves.

  2. Thanks John
    I've always loved the Group of Seven paintings and probably for the same fractal-like reasons.

  3. Merging fields with stone walls is fractically imfossilble ;)

  4. Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

  5. I've long been fascinated by fractals, and I really like this article. Great painting as well.