I LIKE to think of the real world as an extended artwork, always changing under the influence of wind and weather, and the interventions of man.

Whether painting lines on our roads or ploughing fields, we are constantly making our marks on the environment.

Now that we have access to satellite imagery we can see the effects on a large scale.

Take a look at Wiltshire on Google Earth and you can see how these interventions have a measure of conformity. Whether on rural fields or urban buildings, our desire to impose order on nature is apparent.

However, one area of the county, Salisbury Plain, has been subject to quite different forces.

Here it’s the Armed Forces that for 100 years have had more or less sole influence, and from a satellite the result is quite beautiful.

There has been little construction work so it remains a subtle canvas of shifting fields of colour. Tank movements have scraped through the topsoil to reveal a spider’s web of white chalk and shells have stippled the surface.

The overall effect, best viewed on Apple Maps, is very painterly. It is an abstract with stories to tell.

At ground level, the Plain is the unifying theme for the latest exhibition at Salisbury’s Young Gallery.

Cicatrix, an obscure term for an old scar, features three women artists who joined forces last year to stage this show. The Army’s presence dates from WW1 so there is added relevance in this centenary year.

Susan Francis has attempted to penetrate some of the mysteries of Porton Down.

Government scientists first arrived here in 1916 with a brief to counter the enemy’s new gas weapons.

She has made a beguiling and dream-like film using some mysterious archive footage as inspiration.

Prudence Maltby has taken the idea of scarring into her drawing, creating dense and heavily-worked surfaces using heavy pressure and the application of dry pigments.

Henny Burnett cast 100 chalk towers, each with recesses containing miniature sculptures made from objects found on the Plain.

These core exhibits were first shown at County Hall in Trowbridge.

There it didn’t really find a suitable space, and with the transfer to the Young Gallery new work has been added.

Susan Francis has made an installation inspired by occasional behind-the-scenes glimpses at Porton and Burnett has added new works on the theme of map-making.

This is the first show for some time to take over all the gallery space at the library and it runs until early October.

Martin Urmson

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here