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Myth, Material and Metamorphasis at Messums Wiltshire

'Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.' — Aesop’s Fables

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After a metamorphosis of its own, transitioning from London art dealership Messum’s Fine Art, to countryside ‘temple to the handmade’ Messums Wiltshire, the second exhibition of the gallery will open on 10 February and run until 2 April.

Northern European mythology and stories of metamorphosis unite the work of artists in this show.

MATERIAL EARTH: Myth, Material and Metamorphasis

Bouke de Vries ‘Still life with Kingfisher’

Bouke de Vries ‘Still life with Kingfisher’

Pieces in MATERIAL EARTH speak to the magical, fantastical and ephemeral. Narrative in the works takes root in the practices and traditions of the ancient Greeks and Romans as well as the Scandinavian and Germanic fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. The multipurpose gallery space is nearby Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, a proximity that renders the exhibition’s connection to archaic European Paganism all the more pervasive.

‘There is, certainly, a link between the malleability of clay and the interest in metamorphosing subject matter on the part of those who work with it. In our thirteenth-century monastic barn, built seventy years later than the Cathedral at Salisbury, we are exhibiting artists who work in three-dimensional ceramic sculpture, including large-scale installations by Malene Hartmann Rasmussen and Christie Brown.’

Malene Harmann Rasmussen art

Malene Harmann Rasmussen/Sylvain Deleu

In Malene Harmann’s work, she attempts to capture an artistic effortlessness that suggests the work could have been made by an innocent child. She hopes that the viewer’s closer look will elicit the realisation that the work is more complex than it initially appears and that there is an intricacy of heavier and darker proportions at stake. This paradigm echoes the common formula of parable and myth that espouse bright, clear narrative outwardly while inwardly making more grave suggestions.

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Grayson Perry teacup

Grayson Perry

Items in the Long Gallery, a space adjacent to the museum’s barn, mirror the exhibition’s themes of nature and humanity’s opacity. Long Gallery works like Bouke de Vries’ surreal winged bird cages (from £4,200) and this teacup from Grayson’s Perry’s early works (from £24,000) will be on sale.

Looking for more to do in the countryside? The Culture Diary is the fix.