Simon Casson “Smeech and Hrain”


Ford Abbey: August 6th – 27th at Long and Ryle
Exhibition dates
4 October – 3 November 2012
Gallery opening times Tuesday – Friday 10-5:30, Saturday 11-2

Long and Ryle gallery and Ford Abbey will be exhibiting a new series of paintings by
Simon Casson. “Smeech and Hrain”, the title of the exhibition uses the atmospheric
sensation of the words translating in old Somerset dialect as smoke and rain. Popular
culture is presently abound with the re-visiting of the dark, Gothic, bedtime fairytale,
settling down alongside the vampiric clan of teenage-friendly tomes of late. In this
aesthetical environment Casson has cast aside as history, his fascination with the
Classical World, to warmly embrace the Somerset dialect and folklore which circle his
rural home and studio.

The apple orchard or “artchet”, with itʼs lines of stumpy horror-movie trees, hanging
heavy with the last diminutive apples of the year, lies cloaked with damp smoldering
smeech. Old spent leaves are burnt to signal the end of the season, but never the
apple wood itself as this would insight anger in the preternatural predators amongst
the cider barrels. The West Country is a county brimming with myth and legend,
much of it concerning agriculture and fertility. Superstition reigns supreme, as fairy
rings or “gallitraps” trace the earth beneath the boughs bearing fruit. Legend tells of
other-worldly creatures with their lilliputian fingers troubling country lives, over the
multi-layered phantasmal threshold of reality beyond the dimmet or twilight.

Fantastical landscape, combining the English pastural scene with an almost theatrical
metaphysical back drop, lies behind the constructed situation of figure and still life.
The paintings are each entitled with words torn from the old Somerset dialect,
centuries in use, to lay shafts of light onto the players behind the staged scenes. Pale
pultrilitious lasses, blanketed in blossoms, surrounded by multi-layered drapery, stare
out from the canvas, their identity obscured by paint smirches, smeared with fingers
and brushes, allowing them to represent the ideal female, their full chronicles
withheld. The pheasant and the deer emerge from the hedgerow, to engage with the
viewer in the transcendental play, with paint itself playing a pivotal role – as talismanic
as the charismatic dialect, the characters and the landscape.

The exhibition will begin itʼs
journey at Forde Abbey in
Somerset in August, so fitting
with itʼs beautiful rural setting,
history as a Cistercian
monastery, nine centuries of
eldritch tales alongside itʼs
role as architectural muse to
the radical philosopher
Jeremy Bentham. It then
moves on to the Long & Ryle
Gallery, in London, for the
month of October through to
November, to deliver the
country ways to the city.

In this new work, the focus of Simon Casson’s potent
contemporary classicism has been turned on rural Somerset, to
very good effect. Ravishingly lyrical mysteries populate the fields
and woods of sylvan England, in supremely painterly images from
myth and legend. The expected is hidden, the unexpected revealed.
All is open to interpretation. Andrew Lambirth – April 2012


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