I spent the day out on Orford Ness. I have long meant out there but I have never managed the trip. You do have to prepare for it as there aren’t any facilities out there and it is quite a long walk round. I took a sketchbook of course and I made a lot of drawings of the pagodas and the other bunkers from as many angles as I could. It was pretty hard work and the weather did everything during the day.

Part of the point was to work in the landscape and to give myself something to work with in the Denes whilst not doing anything picturesque at all. The buildings are eery and strange. Brutal architecture designed to withstand massive blasts, apparently built with vast walls and flimsy roofs. The pagodas were made as an experiment to redirect the blast and drop the roof down on the blast. Fortunately no experiments went that wrong and now the buildings are being left to slowly and evocatively ruinate. The fact that all Britain’s twentieth century wars are represented here in some scattered shard of an explosion or the spent rounds of a lethality test or the tracks of a tank put me very much in mind of Kiefer and other painters of bunkers and history. The MOD shot things across the site from 1913 to the eighties.

On top of the control tower out on the windswept shingle with the wind humming and moaning around the building it wasn’t difficult to imagine the Sopwith Pups and Wellington bombers and Meteor jets sweeping across the shingle whilst necks craned for the splash test. Fantastic stuff. I drew a wobbly panorama on cards peering through the field glasses on top of the building whilst the wind whipped around me. Extreme sketching.

I don’t know if I shall use the drawings but it was quite an experience anyway. As we weren’t allowed to get too close to the atomic blast buildings in case we fell in or something fell on us I had to work from a distance with squinting and binoculars which was a bit like being a spy in itself. I was last one off the site at the end of the day.