The title of Sand Traverse aligns this work with Wynter's contemporaneous Sandspoor series of circa 1961-63 and with his tenebrous Dark Traverse of 1961. Around this time, Wynter drew explicit parallels between the process of painting and action of traversing a landscape and 'reading' its surfaces. He claimed that the idea for the Sandspoor paintings derived from Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands (1959). Thesiger recounts how, while crossing the Rub' al Khali, a vast desert covering the southern Arabian Peninsula, his party came across some indistinct tracks in the sand, 'much blurred by the wind'. An old man, 'who was noted as a tracker', was able to interpret these signs: the man looked at the tracks where they crossed some hard ground, broke some camel droppings between his fingers and rode back to join us. 'They were Awamir. They have raided Januba on the southern coast and taken three of their camels. They have come here from Sahma and watered at Mughsin. They passed here ten days ago.'
The apparently indecipherable 'sandspoors', therefore, encoded the precise history and geography of an event. In the catalogue statement for his exhibition at Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, in January 1962, Wynter echoed this idea, describing his brushmarks as a dynamic form of notation: 'The small brushmarks function as units of energy rather than as separate formal entities. A stream of such marks may enter and leave the canvas as from outside it so the painting generates its own laws of development. But painting is an imaginative activity. Each development reflects the predilection of the artist and the life that surrounds him.'
We are very grateful to Michael Bird for preparing this catalogue entry.