Arcadia: Group Show

Arcadia

ar· ca· dia | \ är-ˈkā-dē-ə

a region or scene of simple pleasure and quiet

 

Featuring work by the following artists: 

Agnes Treherne

Dylan Williams
Heidrun Rathgeb

Holly Loader

 

 Gathering freshly cut wildflowers. Walking down a wide empty road at twilight. Watching the moon come out from behind the clouds. There is a quiet delight in finding simple pleasures in the midst of a complicated and overwhelming world. The artists featured in Arcadia draw on that pleasure, offering a collection of paintings suffused with a sense of peace and serenity. 

 

The works draw on the art historical traditions of landscape painting, in which depictions of the natural world suggest complex psychological or emotional states. Many of the landscapes in the show are devoid of human protagonists, though there are often hints of human habitation: a cottage set among the trees, the framing device of a mullion window, or a well-tended field. Occasionally, the scene is offset by a single solitary figure, a respectful participant in the more-than-human world. 

 

The term “Arcadia” is taken from a region of classical Greece, which was known in antiquity for its mountainous beauty and sparse population. The area’s name became shorthand for an undisturbed, perfect wilderness in which human beings could live in perfect harmony with nature. The inhabitants of Arcadia were imagined to be “uncorrupted” by civilisation – a notion that has held a slippery and often treacherous appeal for millennia. 

 

Arcadia became a symbol of a lost world of blissful (and unattainable) rurality. But even this pastoral idyll could not provide a true escape from the world. In a famous painting by Nicolas Poussin, a group of idealized shepherds in a beautiful landscape stand around a tomb, which is inscribed with the words Et In Arcadia Ego: even in Arcadia, here I am. It is a memento mori; a reminder that death exists even in the utopian realm of Arcadia. 

 

Many of the serene paintings included in the show are similarly undercut with an indefinable sense of unease, a hint of the sinister imbued in an oppressive sky or the mysterious omen of a full moon. The show is woven through with a feeling of nostalgia which is often melancholic or wistful; an Arcadian yearning for a simpler time, perhaps partly recalled from childhood through the haze of the intervening years.

 

At the same time, Arcadia speaks to the infinite possibilities offered up by a stretch of blue sky, a winding road with an uncertain destination, or the promise of a distant horizon line. Places gleam with mystery and temptation, emerging dreamlike through gentle palettes drawn from the natural world. Scenes of simple pleasure and quiet, threaded through with the melancholy pleasure of longing. 

 

-- Anna Souter