A group exhibition with Jean-Marie Appriou, Olga Balema, Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, Steinar Haga Kristensen, Jessica Warboys and Amelie von Wulffen
At least since a distance was established between landscape and early, flourishing cities men have continuously coveted a fresh, innocent and bucolic escape so as to remember or imagine the time when they evolved in symbiosis with nature.
The pastoral emerged as a literary form during the 3rd century BC in Greece with the bucolic writings of Theocritus, Hesiod and Virgil, which depict a time when people lived together in harmony with nature. Although early pastoral poetry maintained contact with the working year and the real social conditions of country life, an idealising tone and mythical memory started rising alongside new tensions between land and labour. Pastoral literature praised natural beauty, innocence and simplicity from the viewpoint of the Hellenistic city, all the while essentially playing upon the contrast between the carefree pleasures of country life and the threat of loss or eviction due to trade and war.
Over time, the common understanding of the pastoral has undergone significant transformations in the western world, be it through neoclassical painting, German Romanticism or post-industrial English literature. For instance, during the 18th century nature and landscape were to become the theatre of romantic love in which shepherds, nymphs and farmers acted as lay figures entertaining aristocracy. A prime example is Marie-Antoinette’s “Hameau de La Reine” at Versailles, where what were once considered the country worker’s activities became reduced to performed folkloric forms and gestures. Centuries later, while surpassing the boundaries of architecture and literature, the idea of the pastoral appears to be perpetuated in Eric Rohmer’s nouvelle-vague cinema which oscillates from countryside to city, featuring scenes situated between spontaneity and display, hyper awareness and genuine innocence.
In today’s globalised era our tradition in longing for an Arcadian retreat seems to have been disturbed. While our relationship to landscape is now informed by a new sense of environmental guilt, responsibility, regression and progress, its reading has evolved towards a more conscious and more ambiguous understanding.
Pastoral Myths is a group exhibition featuring six artists that suggests a singular and twisted examination of pastoral aesthetics and ideas. The works in the show integrate style into a both embracing and critical relationship to environment, land and rurality. Next to a well-digested comprehension of what could be called the pastoral genre, the artists in the show develop a practice testifying to a physical, mythical and cultural understanding of landscape from their personal and local perspective.
Curated by Anne-Claire Schmitz