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Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream (1979–1981)

by David Hepher (b.1935)

Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: H 193 x W 275 cm

The artist describes himself as a landscape painter although we could describe this as an urban cityscape. Hepher is interested in depicting relatable housing in a modern and documentary style. He describes blocks like these as impressive – everyday local housing interests him in the same way as grand country houses interested artists of the past. Does the artist indicate their architectural worthiness in the way the building fills the composition?

The word 'arrangement' in the title seems to indicate an emphasis on composition. The flats look very modular and the repetition of geometric shapes makes them appear quite rhythmic and homogeneous. Does this regularity affect our view of the lives of the people who live here?

The block looms over us from a low viewpoint and extends beyond the picture's plane at the top to appear never-ending. Does the scale of the building make it look powerful and dignified or machine-made and intimidating? What signs of individuality and decoration can you see?

Stage 1: look, describe and discuss

Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream

Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream 1979–1981

David Hepher (b.1935)

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre


Show your students this painting and ask them: Are they interested or not interested? Why?

Ask them to describe what they can see and the features of this cityscape.

Don't tell them too much about what the picture represents at this stage. Once you have interpreted an image, or been told what to see, it is difficult to look freshly and critically at it or appreciate each other's views.  

Tip: use the zoom feature on the image below to look closer at details. You can open a full-screen version by clicking here.



Stage 2: nudge questions

Now when looking at the painting, ask more specific ('nudge') questions:

  • How many separate buildings are there? What type of buildings are they?
  • If you were transported into this scene, where might you be standing to have this specific viewpoint?
  • What's the weather like in this scene? How do you know?
  • Is this painting more about the architecture or the people who live within it? Do we need to see people for a work to be about people?

Suggested activity: drawing from memory

Remove the painting from display. Whilst it's not visible, ask your students to redraw the basic elements of the painting from memory. Give them a set time in which to complete their drawing and make it quick!

Now display the picture again and ask your students to compare their drawing with the original. What have they remembered and what have they forgotten? Compare answers. Why do they think they have remembered certain features and not others?

Stage 3: Superpower Kit questions

Now we can start to explore the 'elements' of the painting. Use the Superpower Kit to ask questions about the work and spark a discussion.  

We'd suggest focusing on the following areas to help your students 'read' the image (click to open the relevant Superpower Kit section):

Composition (e.g. repetition; shape)



Ask your students to evidence their points, e.g. where exactly are they looking when they make a statement? Can everybody see what they see?

Final stage: review

Ask your students: how interested are they in the image now? Why?

At this point, you may also want to give your students some time to record and review their observations in a sketchbook on their own or in pairs.


Comparison activity

Compare Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream with Peter Doig's 1991–1992 oil painting, Concrete Cabin.

In order to support the discussion, you may wish to focus on the following areas of the Superpower Kit: Space, Line and Scale.

Cross-curricular activity: Maths and Art & Design

Extend into a Maths and Art & Design lesson on counting and measurement by tasking your pupils with recreating the largest building in the painting on a piece of A4 paper (landscape orientation) using a ruler and a pencil. They could begin by counting:

  • how many floors they can see
  • how many rooms there are on each floor (including the central stairwell)

Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream

Arrangement in Turquoise and Cream 1979–1981

David Hepher (b.1935)

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

The visible floors and rooms are 9 by 9. Task them with recreating this 9 by 9 grid to scale on their paper. Once they have drawn out the grid, they can add in the windows, panels and balcony details to match those in the painting. They may also wish to add in the nearby buildings and garage.

This will give them even more opportunity to see the individuality of each flat, and to appreciate the mathematical skills involved in creating a work of art!

You may wish to support this lesson with a song about measurement on BBC Teach.

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