Following a successful career as a teacher in London, in 1960 Johnstone retired to the Scottish borders, where he continued to paint. In the 1970s he began making thick plaster reliefs, such as this piece. These grew from an interest in the properties of plaster, which he had previously experimented with in paintings during the 1920s, its rough texture forming a contrast to a smooth, painted surface. Using a trowel to set the plaster in place, he had only a short amount of time to work with the plaster before it set, letting chance play a role on the formation of each work. He explained, `I knew that in myself I must produce a condition, relaxed and free from thought or deliberation; that which would be produced through my hands would then be from my inner self and completely unconscious.?