The New Arcadia

The New Arcadia
23 July – 3 September Opening 22 July 5:30 for 6pm

Kit Wise, Danie Mellor, Siri Hayes, Jake Walker, Amber Wallis, Hobie Porter, Jan Davis, Joan Ross, Kelly Hussey-Smith, Kendal Murray, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Fiona Lowry, Shelagh Morgan, Grant Stevens, Judith Van Heeren, Sam Leach. curated by Kezia Geddes

The New Arcadia brings together artists responding to notions of arcadia and the picturesque. It throws light on an idealised depiction of landscape, but with visible disruption. This is the old world butting up against the new as the artists attempt to locate where arcadia is now.

The idea of arcadia is one that has long been dealt with in Western art. The classical arcadia, explored by artists such as Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) and Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), presented an unspoiled wilderness, where any implied human presence was harmonious. The word arcadia was derived from the mountainous Greek province of the same name, which dates to antiquity. Arcadia is therefore imbedded with notions of looking back to a paradise enjoyed but lost through the heavy touch of progress and the human hand. It defines nature as transcendent, and ancient beyond our reckoning.

Although we share an awe for environments primordial and pristine, our attitude towards the bountiful landscape can be explained through the alternative definition of the word: ‘to direct, graze, grow, harvest’. These two meanings collide in the pastoral arcadia explored by Western European artists, notably John Constable (1776-1837) and the painters of the French Barbizon school (1830-1870), who studied a landscape in which there was a history of intensive land use. These artists found untamed nature in the clouds and in the atmosphere. Our present civilisation has achieved unparalleled domination over nature and the ‘improved landscape’ is now a loaded term. Most arcadias have already been touched and the idea of yet-to-be discovered environs seems a fanciful notion. In an era of competing interests, today’s arcadia evokes both beauty and compromise. It is out of this context that The New Arcadia unravels.

Lismore Regional Gallery is supported by the NSW Government through Arts NSW and is a Creative Industries Initiative of Lismore City Council.

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