Focusing on humanity’s relationship with nature and our evolving ideal of a perfect world, Arcadia, a group exhibition featuring work by the gallery’s diverse roster of artists, examines how this highly subjective concept has evolved – from an idyllic wilderness abounding with nature to a futuristic utopia.
Through the work of Orlanda Broom and Jim Naughten we a leap towards an unspoiled nature. Broom’s paintings present lush and saturated mythologised realms, abundant with sprawling nature in a celebration of life, growth and restoration whilst Naughten’s photographic works explore our modern-day disconnection from nature - blurring the line between fantasy and reality, nature and the unnatural, encouraging us to consider our relationship with wildlife.
Harry Rüdham presents a stylised observation of contemporary life in which floating or falling figures are silhouetted and repeated across a brightly textured canvas. His painting suggests the chaotic nature of the modern day, leaving no time for rest or recuperation – implying an underlying yearning for moments for reflection. Elena Gual’s abstracted works are similarly evocative – in her boldly painted depictions of the natural world, she shares the paradise she sees from her Mallorcan home.
Marc Standing’s paintings invite the viewer to invent their own storyline. Sublime in its originality and mastery of brushstroke, his work is informed by anthropology, biology, and the complexities of existence, both physical and metaphysical. Reconnecting with the heritage and culture of his native continent, Africa, his abstract fusion of texture, layer and colour references its land and mythologies. Crystal Fischetti’s creative process is spiritually guided and environmentally sensitive, combining use of botanical dyes and debris with an investigation of her spiritual philosophies. Paying reverence to Colombia, the homeland of her maternal line, and in particular Mama Qucha, the name given to ‘mother ocean’ in a language called Quechua, Fischetti connects with her both her ancestors and the natural world on a unique and intensely spiritual plane.
In David Wightman’s colourful fictional landscapes, the surfaces of the paintings – presenting mountain vistas – are made from textured wallpaper collaged with a technique similar to marquetry. In Christopher Kieling’s work, however, the presence of Man is central in a way that it is so noticeably absent in Wightman’s landscapes – we see a nod towards a new kind of progress, a ‘Brave New World’ in which Man and technology are symbiotic.
From poetry to art, film to music, the idea of a perfect epoch and environment has fascinated us throughout the ages and has been the inspiration for art in all its forms. Historically, Arcadia has been synonymous with a nostalgic ideal of man’s Golden Age – both through living in harmony with nature and as a symbol of a simpler time – and yet we see through these artists’ eyes potential new perspectives. Whether directed by ecological or spiritual concerns, or emotional desire for time or space, these artists provoke compelling narratives. However diverse, together they culminate in a powerful articulation of our relationship with the world.