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Simon Bayliss: Arcadia

Hestercombe Gallery, Somerset 24/10/15 - 28/2/16





During a summer-long artist residency at Hestercombe, Simon Bayliss responded to the gardens through painting en plein air and writing poetry. The resulting exhibition presents his idiosyncratic vision of Hestercombe as a pastoral utopia, accelerated using wit and fast-paced imagery.

Simon Bayliss came out as a landscape painter earlier this year to a discerning audience of contemporary artists. By describing his conflicting feelings on the subject, and some of the problems with romanticising the countryside, he hoped to challenge the unspoken notion that landscape painting is now a provincial pursuit. During his time at Hestercombe, Bayliss produced daily watercolours of views within the gardens. Many of these were made from the follies, designed by Copplestone Bampfylde as picturesque viewpoints inspired by Arcadian landscape paintings. However Bayliss first came across the notion of Arcadia, not from landscape painting, but gay literature, an idea historically described in books such as ‘Brideshead Revisited’ as an Eden for affectionate men away from the scrutiny of society. Over the years Bayliss has worked in gardens, a garden centre and an organic smallholding, so it seemed natural to explore the refrain ‘queering the garden’ at Hestercombe.  Bayliss’ erotic tea towel, for example, features the phrase ‘Paradise haunts’, which comes from Derek Jarman’s remark ‘Paradise haunts gardens’.