Pewsey art gallery's timely exhibition of local artist's reconstructions of Stonehenge era

Written by Tony Millett.

Peter Dunn: West AmesburyPeter Dunn: West AmesburyA major archaeological dig begins this week at Durrington Walls - part of the Stonehenge complex - that may change our whole picture of Wiltshire's Neolithic landscape.  Some of the most recent archaeological evidence features in the paintings and sketches by local artist Peter Dunn now at the McNeill Gallery in Pewsey in an exhibition titled: "A History of Stonehenge in Paintings and Sketches".

A huge geophysical survey of the Stonehenge area has made dozens of new discoveries, but the most astonishing is that as many as two hundred 'somethings' lie buried under the bank of Durrington Walls henge.  These 'somethings' may be the remains of standing stones or may be pits dug to take giant timber posts - the four thousand five hundred year old secret should be revealed soon.

It is often difficult for non-experts to imagine how our great Neolithic monuments fitted into the ancient landscape and were used by ancient peoples. Peter Dunn worked as an illustrator and artist for English Heritage from 1985 to 2008 and his close association with archaeologists and historians underlies his paintings.

The aim of Dunn's reconstructions is to use available evidence and archaeological theories to create an interpretation that will inform and inspire people - from academics to young viewers.

The results of archaeological excavations are often difficult to visualise when holes in the ground are all that is left of impressive oak posts, or plaster floors are all that survive of buildings. Landscapes can have changed dramatically over thousands of years and modern buildings and roads can confuse views of the past.

Beverley McNeill opened the McNeill Gallery in Pewsey's Market Place - with a clear view of the back of the King Alfred statue - in November last year.  She had run a successful gallery at Radlett in Hertfordshire for nineteen years until the 2008 banking crisis made her life there impossible.

"I hadn't really intended to open another gallery.  But visiting the Pewsey Festival I spotted this empty shop and I thought 'that is do-able' - and decided to take a chance."

She specialises in finding up and coming young artists who have never exhibited and helping them on their way.  Among them was Charles Moxon whose portrait of Harriet Harman MP is currently on show at the National Portrait Gallery among selected entries for the BP Portrait Award 2016: "I did such a good job, they're on their way!"

Alex Rennie was a resident artist at the Gallery and another of its "new and accomplished young painters".   His series of self-portraits - many showing a Goya-esque intensity - has sold well.  A selection of Alex Rennie's paintings can be seen on the Gallery's website where you can also see more of Dunn's work - and of the Gallery's artists.

Beverley McNeill's current exhibition of Peter Dunn's very Wiltshire paintings is open until August 12.

Peter Dunn:  2600-2500 Durrington in MidwinterPeter Dunn: 2600-2500 Durrington in MidwinterPeter Dunn: Durrington Timber Circle (Rough sketch)Peter Dunn: Durrington Timber Circle (Rough sketch)One of the most popular pieces in this exhibition is in fact a photograph - not for sale and not shown here - of a painting Peter Dunn was commissioned to make by English Heritage.  It is an aerial depiction of the whole Stonehenge complex showing very clearly the relationship between the stones themselves, the huge and mysterious cursus, the connection to the River Avon and Durrington Walls. 

Maybe Peter Dunn will have to paint a new version once the current excavations at Durrington Walls are over.

The paintings are for sale.  But as Peter Dunn does not want to sell his working sketches, the gallery has produced a limited number of signed prints from these striking sketches for this exhibition.

During this exhibition the Gallery is open Tuesday-Friday 11.00am to 5.00pm and Saturdays 11.00 to 3.00pm.

The paintings and sketches in this feature remain the copyright of the artist Peter Dunn.