It was Duncan's Birthday at the beginning of January, and to celebrate we travelled down to Somerset last weekend with a group of nine good friends in tow. We took an early train from Paddington to Bruton and walked through several muddy fields to get to the newly opened Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which lies just outside the village. D. and I have spent a fair amount of time in Bruton - usually when staying at At The Chapel - and I'd wanted to visit the new gallery ever since I first heard about its arrival. It seemed like the ideal place to visit with a group of friends (especially with the promise of a big, celebratory lunch to look forward to afterwards), but primarily I just felt like taking us all to the countryside for a day - you can always guarantee hopping on a train and seeing fields and rivers will lift everybody's spirits.
The gallery complex is quite phenomenal - a beautiful combination of new, sleek wood, old stone and glass. Everything seemed to glisten or glow in the soft, frosty January sunshine (we were very lucky with the weather). Here's our friend Paola enjoying the country air in the courtyard. I loved her big check and blue theme.
I cannot recommend Pipilotti Rist's exhibition Stay Stamina Stay enough. From summer 2012 through to summer 2013, Rist spent a sabbatical in Bruton, taking part in the first Hauser & Wirth Somerset artist residency. She went on to produce new work in response to the surrounding landscape and the people she met. In one of the exhibition spaces, Rist has projected Mercy Garden on to two of the walls; the imagery comes mostly from footage the artist shot whilst living in Somerset. Slow motion close-ups play out in mirrored effect; fingers stroke stinging nettles, hands caress soft petals and washing floats in the breeze. The images are filtered and layered and set to a soundtrack of banjo folk music by Heinz Rohrer. It was beautiful, and in fact we all left the space feeling quite dazed.
After our jaunt around the gallery and a Bloody Mary or two each, we sat down at our table in Roth Bar & Grill. Not just any old gallery restaurant, the chefs serve honest, seasonal food. The room itself is wondrous - the gallery's entire family of artists have work on show. With D. surrounded by his friends, we had the most perfect, long lunch. People caught up and laughed and laughed well into the afternoon. The food and drink was simple, earthy and delicious - sardines on toast, roast chicken, fish stew, treacle tart, good wine and good cheese and the obligatory round of espresso martinis to wake us all up again.
Work no.1086 Everything Is Going To Be Alright by Martin Creed. The ideal mantra.
Well and truly stuffed, we left the gallery and headed over to the village of Bruton itself (by this time it was quite dark and we were trying very hard to walk in single file down the winding country lanes). We crowded around this very apt neon in the clubroom at At The Chapel on the High Street and drained a bottle of wine or two. Before long we were back at the tiny train station, homeward bound. The Birthday party carried on into the night, but my memory is a little vague post-6pm. I suppose one could blame this on those small bottles of champagne, which we went through at a rate of knots during the return journey... A perfect day.