The new series Figures in a Landscape, on show at Purdy Hicks for all of June, is a journey through an English landscape populated by gods, goddesses, and monsters
Tom Hunter’s best-known shot shows a young woman in a squat reading a possession order; taken in Hunter’s home in the 1990s, its colour and composition evoke Vermeer’s A Girl Reading At An Open Window. Now Hunter’s latest series, Figures in a Landscape, melds a similar mix of the personal and the cultural. Inspired by Thomas Couture’s Romans during the Decadence (1847), which shows mortals and immortals inhabiting the same domain, Figures in a Landscape takes the viewer on a journey “through a world imbued with myths and legends”, dotted with scenes from Hunter’s own life.
The series starts in the village where Hunter grew up in Dorset, where tales abound of couples gathering for May Day to have sex beneath the naked male giant of Cerne Abbas, to ensure fertility for both the people and the land. From there Figures in a Landscape tracks through the countryside towards London, past more megalithic chalk images and standing stones, and towards the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park. From there it journeys to Hackney, Hunter’s base for the last 20 years and once home to Lugus, the Celtic god of the River Lea.
The last shot was taken at Winterville where, says Hunter “the mid-winter solstice pagan festival becomes distorted in an Olympian mountain top landscape”. “Here ancient and contemporary narratives clash and shatter into a dystopian consumerist nightmare,” he adds.