Roman Road is thrilled to be working with Anna Souter on A Gothic Midsummer, a special pop-up group exhibition advancing on the gallery's intent to promote more diversity and inclusion amongst local and international ultra-contemporary artists. Taking place in Bruton, Somerset's epicentre for art, the show extends Roman Road's programming beyond the walls of its own physical exhibiting space, attempting to stimulate more visibility for its participating artists while bringing the gallery's showcases to a new and wider audience. Featuring varied paintings and ceramics by eight emerging female artists, A Gothic Midsummer looks to re-examine bucolic representation through ostensibly charming yet curiously ominous works.
The turning of the earth brings birth and death in inextricably quick succession; life is given and taken away by the cyclical proclivities of a mother both cruel and kind. Sunup and moonrise spell out equinox and solstice, marked by rituals, festivities, and stories which linger on in the rhythms of the countryside. Occurring between the summer solstice and the traditional feast of Lammas, A Gothic Midsummer acknowledges the transition into the waning of the year. The irresistible pull of night that drives the second half of the solar calendar provides a parallel to the human tendency to seek out the darkness within the light and the sinister within the sweet.
Co-curated by local writer Anna Souter and featuring a mixture of artists working both in the South West and internationally, the exhibition examines the perpetual appeal of the rural while also exploring its shadowy side. Many of the works depict pastoral scenes or landscapes, where a sense of serenity or innocence is undermined by a lurking menace. Folklore is shown to have a sinister edge and the happy endings of fairy tales inevitably come at a dangerous price. Paintings fray and unravel at their edges, while alchemical symbols hint at the power of the occult.
The show also draws out an interest in inner landscapes and psychology. Across these artists’ practices, the bitter-sweet quality of memory is counterbalanced by a concern with the bodily and mental manifestations of trauma. Eerie imaginary places are set against allusions to sacred geometries, subconscious desires, and the symbology of dreams. Embracing uncertainty and mysticism, many of these artists look to the natural world for spiritual nourishment.
A Gothic Midsummer presents a contemporary take on the landscape painting tradition that runs back to Nicolas Poussin and his 17th century masterpiece Et in Arcadia Ego, in which a group of idealized shepherds examine a tombstone inscription: a reminder that death is everywhere, even among the pastoral perfections of Arcadia. The exhibition reframes this bucolic inheritance, looking to the past with a self-aware nostalgia for a harmonious relationship with the more-than-human world that may never have existed. As the year slips into high summer and the surrounding fields turn from green to gold, A Gothic Midsummer acknowledges both the allure and the vulnerability of nature – even as it slips through our fingers.
No 6 Bruton High Street
Somerset BA10 0AA