Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Culture
In a contemporary art world which appears increasingly defined and constrained by the parameters laid down by the so-called establishment, it is refreshing to find exceptions to the rule. One such is "Sightlines" - an exhibition organised to coincide with the annual music festival at Honiton in Devon. Nine artists have been invited to present their responses to the landscape around Honiton. The result is as varied and stimulating an exhibition as you could hope to find. Some of the artists' names are familiar - others less so.

In the wake of his well-received show at the Whitechapel and Arnolfini galleries last year, here are the large monochrome canvases of John Virtue, whose work has long concerned itself with the nature of the land. Virtue's paintings always hit home, and, even more so here, seen in their native context, their virtually obscured pastoral idylls appear like Constable seen through a glass, darkly.

Similarly familiar might be the sculptures of David Nash - great burnt and hacked primeval tree trunks which, while evoking ancient forms and functions of forgotten customs, also relate to mankind's continuing use and erosion of the natural environment.

Of the other artists involved in this project, the least well-known and immediately most engaging are the duo Roger Polley and John Woodman who have created three photographic installations around the stumps of old trees in a local churchyard. Their avowed concerns are "time" and "memory" and where better to evoke such associations than here, down among the tombstones of the past inhabitants of this little Devon town?

Like each of these examples, the works of the other artists here - Colin Rose, Vanda Harvey, Robert Maclaurin and Boyd & Evans - are also effective in an individual context. Considered with each other, however, all suggest stimulating counterpoints, which testify to the vision of the organisers of this unique event.

'Sightlines', St Michael's Church, Church Hill, Honiton, Devon, every day 10am-4pm, to 25 May

Left: detail from John Virtue's 'Landscape No 15', 1991

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