Study for Miss Havisham's Tool Shed No. 1

Oil on linen, 41×33cm, 2020

About this work

“Many of my paintings are about capturing a mood and a sense of place and time.

I came across this old toolshed on a visit to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens in Dorset. It was tucked away, locked up and seemingly abandoned.

I was originally going to do a painting of the whole window (which I may still do) but I decided to do some studies of the cobweb-strewn implements on the window sill, as I was drawn to the intimate scale. Because the foreground objects are lit mainly from behind, they draw the viewer in and invite further scrutiny of the details whilst, at the same time, offering a tantalising glimpse through the window to the sunlit world outside.

I was reminded of the scene from the classic David Lean film of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” whereby Miss Havisham, having been jilted at the altar, left the room with the wedding feast untouched. Over the years, it became covered in dust and festooned with cobwebs, and I thought that, if Miss Havisham had a toolshed, it might look like this.

I saw a kind of beauty in the subtle play of light and shadow and in the textures, which I have endeavoured to capture in oils. I feel that the studies conjure up an atmosphere of nostalgia by showing artefacts that were once in everyday use that are now neglected or abandoned, allowing the natural ageing process of nature to run its course.

I think there is a certain poignancy in these studies, given the uncertain times we are now experiencing, when our old way of life may never quite be the same again.”

Allan Williams, October 2020