Beverley Art Gallery


by Paul Clifford


Paul Clifford is a British multi-media artist and academic who has developed his career in the UK and internationally. His art practice involves creating work for exhibiting worldwide, and undertaking public art commissions. Paul worked as the Director of Fine Art and later as an Academic Consultant for Art and Design programs at Hull University. Paul is based near Malton, North Yorkshire.

Download Legacy catalogue
Curator's Statement by Helena Cox

'The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.' (Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory)

The French philosopher Henri Bergson devoted his research to studying memory and how people reflect on the past. In his book Matter and Memory, Bergson suggests, that we do not only know ourselves 'from without', through perception, but also 'from within', through affection. Similarly, Paul Clifford's work with war memories is not only objective and centred around historical research, but also rooted in his personal connection to the depicted events via his father. This feeds into the sensitivity and gentleness with which Paul unites the opposites of historical and contemporary, monochrome and colourful, war and peace.

Especially for his exhibition in Beverley Art Gallery, Paul's reimagining of the 'line in the sand' took the form of a site-specific sand installation, a tribute to Islamic aesthetics as well as a materialised memory of what became a long-lasting source of struggle in the Middle East. A three dimensional variant of his paintings, the installation pays tribute to the immersive beauty of the desert and reflects on the divisive Sykes-Picot Agreement which irreversibly changed its character.

Paul's eclectic mix of techniques includes collage, silkscreen, painting and image transfer, just to name a few, featured on handmade paper, boards or in the case of larger pieces, birch wood panels. Newspaper clippings and archival material mix and merge with geometric patterns, fluidly transforming into outbursts of painterly colour. The 'real' world of historical facts, captured by the photographs, transcends into imaginary abstract landscapes, further highlighted by the underlying rhythmic patterns of Islamic ornaments, creating a dreamy and surreal sensation.

Paul transforms the memories conserved in archival materials and gives them a new life. The seeming solidity of the photographed past loosens up under Paul's brush, opening up to a new fresh rhythm and acquiring new meanings. Like in Bergson's view, the past, present and future are closely linked; the future depending on our interpretation of the past. Personal as well as societal and political events do not exist in separation, but rather evolve from actively reflecting on the past and reimaging our understanding of it. This process is fittingly captured in Paul's artistic method.

The Legacy exhibition in Beverley Art Gallery showcases the vibrant range of Paul's style, building on his extensive experience in both art and academia. Bringing together a deep personal and academic insight into the topic, Paul's exhibition offers a fresh as well as touching take on a deeply transformative moment in history.

Artist's Statement by Paul Clifford

A hundred years is both a long and a short time.

A century ago, as the First World War drew to a close, my father, Wilfred Clifford, sailed back to England from Egypt where he had served within the East Yorkshire Yeomanry as part of the Desert Expeditionary Force, protecting colonial routes through the Suez Canal.

Family snapshots and photographs of EYR troops from the Treasure House archives have formed the basis of this exhibition. 'Found Images' are often my starting point, becoming recycled in mixed media paintings and prints. I am interested in finding how an image from the past can have a second life, so it can be seen as both old and new at the same time.

Faded photographs of mounted cavalry reflect a bygone era, whilst childhood memories of my father's knowledge of horses and stories of swimming in the Nile by moonlight, connect a distant image to a real person.

The story underpinning Britain's role in the Middle East also reaches into our present day. In 1916, the Anglo-French 'Sykes-Picot Agreement' redrew the map of the region with a single pencil stroke. This 500 mile straight line carve-up of territory was a division of land that ignored Arab interests and is partly responsible for the conflicts that have raged there ever since.

A century later, my artworks explore the legacy of family memories and historical facts, searching for a visual synthesis of opposites, integrating photographs and abstract brushwork, alongside the controlled geometric structures of Islamic pattern. Bringing differences together, alluding to a bridging of division and hope for peace.

Lt. R.S. Stephenson Album

Many of the images in the Paul Clifford exhibition incorporate elements of images to be found in the photograph album of Captain Robert Spence Stephenson (1883-1958). The album is to be found in the collections of East Riding Archives (reference DDX1698). The photographs in this album offer a unique insight into the experiences of the East Riding Yeomanry (ERY) during their time in Egypt and Palestine in 1916-1918.

Of Grange Farm, Goodmanham, before the war Stephenson worked on the family farm breeding and training horses. A farm bailiff at Goodmanham in the 1911 census. He joined the ERY in 1903 as a private. A Sergeant Major with the Pocklington troop ('D' squadron), he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 3/12/1914 . Promoted to Lieutenant on 20th August 1916. He served in Egypt and Palestine and then in the Machine Gun Corps on the western front, returning to the ERY in June 1920. After the war, Stephenson went back to farming, serving in the Home Guard during World War II.

See Museums Online for a detailed research project on the regiment and its men -

Exhibition Images

Blue Nile Riders
150 x 170cm, mixed media on board
This large mixed media painting on panel is divided into several sections and mounted into one piece. This arrangement makes it easier to transport this piece internationally, but also adds a geometrical grid structure to the composition, which is something we see in many of Paul's paintings. The letters and numbers scattered around the edges create an impression of a mysterious map, just being unfolded.
Heart of the Desert
120 x 100 cm, mixed media on board
Using old photographs and references to films are typical of Paul's work, together with a mixed media technique, bringing together paint, collage and a variety of printing methods.
Crimson Lines in the Sand Series
80 x 60cm x 6, mixed media on handmade paper
Paul often works in series, experimenting with printing techniques and a variety of colours to achieve different effects. There is almost a 'Pop art' quality to some of these series. 'Pop art' was an art movement of the late 1950s and 60s, known for its notorious repetition of images, giving the original image a different visual twist each time. In this series, Paul has taken an archival photograph of his father and created several compositions repositioning it, showing it as a negative, and surrounding it with ornaments and painterly motifs linked to the Middle Eastern culture.
Crimson Lines in the Sand III
80 x 60cm, mixed media on handmade paper
All paintings from this series are on handmade paper. You can notice that the large and heavy hand-made paper with many layers of paint and collage was hung by paper clips when this photo was taken. For the exhibition in Beverley, Paul created special hooks on the back of the artworks, so that the paintings could hang freely on the gallery wall, without being framed. This gave our visitors a chance to enjoy from up-close the beauty of the paintwork and the mesmerising layering of print, paint and collage.
Crimson Lines In The Sand I
80 x 60cm, mixed media on handmade paper
To commemorate this exhibition and Paul's work with materials from East Riding Archives, Beverley Art Gallery purchased this painting and made it part of its permanent collection. According to Paul's wishes, the whole sum paid for the painting was donated to Syrian refugees.
Crimson Lines in the Sand II
80 x 60cm, mixed media on handmade paper
All Men Dream
110 x 80cm, mixed media on hand made paper
Apart from featuring an image of Lawrence of Arabia, this painting also shows a real triangular laced scarf, which you can see in the upper right hand corner. When viewed from up close, the painting reveals all its layers of print and paint, and the 3D effect of the scarf's lace mixing with the underlying Islamic ornamentation. The scarf is a Muslim female accessory aimed to be used as a head cover.
110 x 80cm, mixed media on handmade paper
This painting again shows the quality handmade paper with its rough edges and intriguing surface structures. The cheerful vibrant colours contrast with the post-Colonial feel of the imagery and the underlying critical tones notable throughout the whole series.
Shadows of Empire
170 x 120cm x 3, mixed media on board
This series uses the same archival photograph as 'Exodus' but this time as the full image. The self-assured pose of the officers, and the fact we cannot see their faces, add to a sense of post-Colonial mystery. Paul experimented with different colours and textures, creating multiple versions of this painting.
Shadows of Empire
170 x 120cm, mixed media on board
This particular version of the painting was chosen to compliment the site-specific sand installation which Paul created for Beverley Art Gallery. The Islamic ornament on this painting is identical to the one re-created on the sand surface in red pigment, as you can see on the 'The Line in the Sand' installation images. Explore the images in section III to see how the sand installation was made, and how it was installed to visually link to this painting in the gallery.
Homeland Series
30 x 40cm x 4, mixed media on board
This series explores the many aspects of military life using archival photography and a mixture of painting and printing techniques.
30 x 40cm, mixed media on board
180 x 200 cm, mixed media on board
This large scale painting is divided into a series of smaller panels, which are put together when installed on a gallery wall. The impressive size of the piece allows viewers to explore the fine nuances between print and paint, as they combine to create an emotionally gripping view of swirling insects in an all-consuming cloud of sand and dust.

Objects Relating to the Exhibition

Pen & ink drawing of men of the Imperial Camel Corps, serving with Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East campaign. The unit included many soldiers who had formerly served with the East Riding Yeomanry. ERYC collection
(ERYMS : 1993.454)
Postcard showing the transport ship 'Arcadian' (with the name rather ineffectively blocked out by the military censor). It was sunk off Greece in April 1917. Around 20 ERY men were among the numerous British soldiers drowned - they included Sergeant Charles Alvara Lofthouse, who had sent this postcard home to his family on route. ERYC collection
(ERYMS (BAG) : 2013.3.7)
Medal set for Private John Edgar Huxley, East Riding Yeomanry. As well as the usual trio of WWI campaign medals, the set includes a Defence medal (for civilian service during WWII) and on the right the Territorial Force Efficiency medal. ERYC collection
(ERYMS (BAG) : 2013.3.7)
Gun metal (?) model of a running fox. Owned (and possibly made by) Lance Corporal Frederick William Lawson, who served in the East Riding Yeomanry during WWI. ERYC collection.
(ERYMS : 2013.44)
Photographs of Sergeant Major Wilfred Clifford, East Riding Yeomanry, relating to his service in the Middle East. On loan from Paul Clifford.
. Locket belonging to Farrier Sergeant Clubley of the East Riding Yeomanry, containing a photograph of him. The outside is decorated with regimental emblems. ERYC collection.
(ERYMS : 1995.739)
. Locket belonging to Farrier Sergeant Clubley of the East Riding Yeomanry, containing a photograph of him. The outside is decorated with regimental emblems. ERYC collection.
(ERYMS : 1995.739)


'The Line in the Sand' installation was commissioned specifically for Beverley Art Gallery. Approximately 12 bags of kiln dried fine sand were used to create the 4 x 6 metre work, totalling 240 kilos of sand to cover 24 square metres!

The technique of "dusting" the pigment through a stencil onto the sand surface was devised specially for the installation. Powdered red pigment was applied through a laser-cut stencil based on Islamic pattern.

The technique was in part inspired by the Buddhist tradition of sand mandala painting that are ritualistically dismantled after completion. The installation took 3 days to complete. Construction presented various practical challenges requiring devising on the spot solutions, such as how to reach all parts of the surface area without disturbing the very fragile surface? Various "Heath Robinson" methods were pioneered for "hovering" precariously above the surface!

The conceptual theme of the work alludes to the colonial division of land resulting from Sykes-Picot agreement that dramatically divided the Arab world.

The 'Line in the Sand' installation was created specifically for Beverley Art Gallery. This photograph of the finished installation shows the notable size of the artwork, and its position in the very centre of the gallery.
The sand installation was positioned so that it visually linked to one of the 'Shadows of the Empire' paintings. The two pompously posing officers were thus literally 'overseeing' the conflicting 'line in the sand' installation underneath their feet.
In order to create this large sand piece, the Paul constructed a wooden frame which he placed over the sand. This enabled him to even out the surface, and created a steady base for the application of the pigment.
Paul created a plastic laser-cut stencil through which he applied the red pigment brought from Spain. The stencil was meticulously produced to create a specific ornament, based on Islamic ornamentation used in several of Paul's paintings from the Legacy series
To create the bright red ornament, Paul and his wife - and his 'right hand' - Carol carefully applied the pigment over the stencil, using the wooden frame as a base. It was crucial to make sure the ornament continues seamlessly across the whole of the sand surface. This required many hours of work with utmost precision as no corrections were possible! Once the pigment hit the sand, it was impossible to separate them, so attention to detail was paramount.
Paul and Carol did a brilliant job of applying the ornaments perfectly across the whole sand surface, achieving a mesmerising and astonishing visual effect.
Paul Clifford gave several talks during the exhibition. Here he is stood next to the installation, which was placed in the centre of the gallery, becoming a natural focus of the entire show.

A Brief History of the East Riding Yeomanry

(1903-1918) by Dr. David Marchant

The Boer Wars in South Africa (1899-1902) had exposed the British Army's lack of good quality mounted troops both for home defence and service abroad. It was to remedy this shortage that the ERY and other yeomanry regiments were set up. Yeomanry were volunteer cavalry units, first raised for home defence during the Napoleonic wars. The term "Yeoman" originally meant a moderately prosperous independent farmer.

Initial recruitment was by public meetings at Beverley, Driffield and Hull in 1902, at which Lord Wenlock (of Escrick, near Selby) was the speaker. He became the unit's first Colonel - hence the nickname "Wenlock's horse" that the ERY acquired. The strength of the regiment was set at 30 officers and 566 other ranks. A few regular officers and non-commissioned officers were drafted in to provide some initial professional support, as all of the men were volunteers and in most cases would have had no previous military experience.

The ERY was divided into four squadrons, designated A, B, C and D, along with a machine gun section. They were based at Hull, Beverley, Fulford (near York) and Bridlington respectively. In 1907 the ERY became part of the Territorial Force (later renamed the Territorial Army) and from then on all equipment was supplied by the War Office.

When they signed up (for a minimum of four years), Yeomen committed to a period of 16 days training each year. This took place at a different location each year (for example Scarborough in 1907, Pocklington in 1908). Initially, men had to bring their own horses, it being assumed that those in rural areas would have easy access to horses - men recruited in Hull probably faced more difficulties, although familiarity with horses was more widespread than it is in Britain today.

In autumn 1915, at the final camp at Costessey near Norwich, there was a call for volunteers to go on active service (this was required at the time, as Territorials had not originally signed up for service overseas). Those men who did not volunteer were retained for home service in what became the 2/1st ERY. For a time it seemed that the ERY might be sent to Gallipoli. The regiment's horses were taken away and infantry training was hastily brought in - including digging trenches. Luckily this decision was soon reversed and although the unit's destination was not revealed at this time, the issue of tropical service uniforms might well have given the troops a strong hint that they were bound for the Mediterranean theatre of war.

After a sea voyage from Southampton to Alexandria in Egypt, via Gibraltar and Malta), the ERY was destined to spend most of 1916 in the Fayoum oasis, guarding against possible attacks on caravan routes by a troublesome local tribe - the Senussi - who had pro-German sympathies.

The ERY's existence in the Fayoum, particularly for those on desert patrols was hot, uncomfortable and probably very dull. Only when they got back to base camp in August 1916 was it possible to enjoy a plentiful supply of water and hot food - including bacon and eggs! Considerable numbers of men left the ERY in this period, partly because their periods of service had expired. Although new recruits did trickle in via the reserve units (the 2/1st and 3/1st ERY), the 1/1st undoubtedly suffered from losing many of its experienced NCO's and men at this time. Others transferred into different regiments in search of more active service. A large contingent joined the newly formed Imperial Camel Corps and some of these later served with Lawrence of Arabia in his "Army of Arabs".

The Turks had made attempts to reach the Suez Canal in 1915/1916, but had been repulsed. The British remained on the defensive initially, but steadily built up forces, before advancing across Sinai to the Egypt/Palestine border. Here they came up against heavily defended positions around the town of Gaza. During the course of 1917 the British made three attempts to force this position. In the 1st battle (March 1917) the ERY passed around Gaza to attack it from the rear, but were forced back by Turkish shelling. In the 2nd battle (April 1917) the British lost 6400 men in frontal attacks against numerically superior forces. Harold Lyon's squadron of the ERY was bombed by enemy planes during this action. Finally, with the arrival of General Allenby as British commander, a third assault on Gaza (in October/November 1917) by 88,000 troops was successful.

During this 3rd battle, the ERY was involved in outflanking manoeuvres to the east of Gaza and then cut the railway to Jerusalem, trying to prevent the Turks from withdrawing. At El Mughar on 13th November, the ERY was involved in one of the last cavalry charges of the British army, galloping over two miles of open ground, seizing a Turkish position on a ridge and capturing 70 prisoners, along with two machine guns. Several hard weeks of campaigning in the stony, waterless Judean hills followed, during which the regiment had to dismount, as the terrain was completely unsuitable for horses.

The British marched into Jerusalem on 11th December 1917. By then, the ERY had already been withdrawn from the front line for a rest and was subsequently re-trained as part of a new Machine Gun Corps battalion (brigaded with the Lincolnshire Yeomanry)

The Machine Gun element of the 1/1st ERY remained in the Middle East for the duration of the war as part of the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry), whilst the rest of the regiment was transferred to the Western Front in France in May 1918. There they served as something of a fire fighting force, supporting a number of assaults on German lines in the Cambrai/Valenciennes area until the Armistice in November 1918. Most of the ERY were demobilised and sent home within a few months of the end of hostilities. In all, perhaps around 225 ERY men had died or were killed during the war, including those who had transferred to other regiments and some deaths at home. Of these around 35 deaths occurred in the Middle East theatre and nearly 30 as a result of the sinking by German U-boats of the HMT Arcadian in the Aegean (in 1917) and the RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea (in 1918). The regiment had certainly 'done its bit' and proved as tough as any regular army unit.

Biographical note:
Dr. Marchant is employed by East Riding of Yorkshire Council as museums registrar and archaeology curator. He has produced a detailed study of the men of the East Riding Yeomanry and has a long standing interest in military history in general.