Andrew Cross, Savernake
Organised in collaboration with Andrew Cross
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
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
Mark Wallinger’s maquette for his 52m high monument
of a white horse to stand alongside the A2 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.
As part of the exhibition a selection of archival material
exploring aspects of the counter-culture of the 1960s and
1970s, and the free festival movement will also be displayed.
The A Bucolic Frolic project will also include screenings
from 4-8 July at the Dye House in South London of two films
by Andrew Cross exploring the relationship between music and
space. The Solo, a film featuring the music of Carl
Palmer; and a new work, On The Grass, featuring the
music of Nik Turner. Cross brings Turner and Palmer together
for the first time since the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.
It was on the official Festival stage that supergroup Emerson,
Lake & Palmer made their highly successful first major
public appearance while Nik Turner and Hawkwind famously performed
for free on an unofficial stage outside the festival’s
notorious steel boundary fence.
The Dye House
Nutbrook Studios, 33 Nutbrook St. London SE15 4JU
Screenings will be at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm.
Special evening private view: Saturday July 7th 5-8pm
Accompanying both exhibition and film screenings will be a
free newsprint publication that will include articles on the
landscapes of the outdoor music festivals of the 1970s and
80s by Rob Young and on modern architecture in relation to
the rural by Adrian Friend. These texts will be accompanied
by a miscellany of images, poetry and other material relating
to the themes of the exhibition.
The A Bucolic Frolic project has received support
from Southampton Solent University.