A Bucolic Frolic: Distractions from the Modern

Exhibition staged at:

Mummery + Schnelle, London
29 June  – 18 August 2012

Andrew Cross, Roger Dean, Jonathan Gent, Merlin James,
Peter Kinley, Bob Law, George Shaw, Mark Wallinger

Please click artist's names for images of individual works in the show.
For installation views, please click here.

The following is the text originally produced at the time of the exhibition.

A Bucolic Frolic: Distractions from the Modern takes a look at some tendencies to be found in English art, design and music from 1960s to the present day which indicate a particular refusal to accept an inevitable onslaught of economic and technological modernity, preferring instead visions of alternative worlds and reinterpretations of the existing one. The exhibition groups together painting, photography, graphic design, architectural propositions and material related to the music and politics of the outdoor free festival movement.

Rather than an un-tethering from earlier cultural reference, or seeking the comfort of a nostalgic Romanticism, suggested in this exhibition is something that is much more of an awkward but necessary renegotiation with landscape and the ancient to be found in expressions of the sometimes fantastic and utopian; a desire to embrace the past as part of the future, the combining of the spiritual with the directly political, the local with the cosmic, the wandering and ephemeral as much as the permanent.

The exhibition will feature drawings and sketchbooks by designer Roger Dean. Famous for his LP cover designs from the 1970s, the architectural propositions shown here extend his distinctive visionary landscapes into realisable places for future utopian living. Forging his own distinctive trajectory, at variance with the much more strictly formal art of the time, Dean’s otherworldly blend of the ancient and the future pre-empted the highly eclectic styles of art and design seen today.

Central to much late 20th century English modernism was a fine line between figurative art and abstraction. It was a tussle explored particularly well by Peter Kinley and Bob Law. In his paintings of rural Wiltshire Kinley renders a quintessential landscape into the simplest set of painting motifs to provide a highly specific mapping and description of place. The more abstract art of Bob Law possessed a formal rigor often far greater than many of his contemporaries yet it was also informed by a sensitivity to ideas of mythology and place. His Field Drawings are a diagrammatic account of landscape experienced as a site for temporary artistic and spiritual occupancy.

By contrast the highly representational paintings of George Shaw comprise a sustained enquiry into the memory of lived places on the suburban fringe; the characteristic landscape of childhood adventure and teenage boredom. Yet these places are the inspiration for an artistic vision in the Romantic tradition that invests all landscapes whether of an ancient past or modern present with equal poignancy.

The photographs of Andrew Cross are a revisit to the landscape of his childhood Wiltshire, a landscape often at variants with the rustic idyl informed by agricultural expediency, military occupancy and hard fought battles over rights.

The desire to escape from the urban jungle of Glasgow leads Jonathan Gent to depict himself as a knight embarking on a grail quest to Glastonbury, whereas Merlin James’s painting of a piper in motley, taken from a seventeenth century garden sculpture, harks back to an earlier age of pastoral music making.

Mark Wallinger’s maquette for his 52m high monument of a white horse to stand alongside the A22 at Ebbsfleet in Kent reflects on both the historical English landscape and the modern transport system that links the UK to continental Europe. England’s pastoral island utopia now only twenty minutes by train under the Channel to France.

The exhibition also includes a selection of archival material exploring aspects of the 1960s counter-culture and the free festival movement will be displayed.

Mummery + Schnelle

+44 (0)20 7636 7344

Exhibition open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 6pm