Norman Ackroyd’s work may at first sight be seen as unpeopled landscapes affected only by atmospheric conditions; but his interest is, more often than not, in the interrelationship of the landscape and its human inhabitants throughout history.
A frequent visitor to Ireland, Ackroyd focused his attention last year on the area around Donegal Bay, where four thousand years ago the land was fertile and populated until the encroachment of the peat bogs, largely the result of human activity. By the time the early Christians arrived in the sixth and seventh centuries, the land was unproductive and inhospitable, but St Columba, born in Donegal, established his first monastery in Gleancolmcille in the extreme west of the county. Ackroyd illustrates sites where other early Christians built hermitages and monasteries as well as the vast brooding mountain of Benbulben which dominates the bay and the impressive sea stacks of North Mayo near where the prehistoric town of Ceide Fields has been
excavated from the peat.
Ackroyd chose this year to take a closer look at the deceptively beautiful coastal cliffs of his native Yorkshire, from Saltburn Scar to Flambourgh Head, cognizant again of the religious, industrial and violent history.