The Great British Adventure

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DON MCCULLIN AT HAUSER & WIRTH, SOMERSET
21 January | Adventures
We travelled down to Somerset to visit Hauser & Wirth, home to Don McCullin's latest photography exhibition.

Adventure comes in many forms. And so, in pursuit of a little of the cultural variety, we took ourselves off on a winding and scenic route around Britain's B-roads to Somerset, and the stunning Hauser & Wirth gallery.

Situated in the heart of beautiful racing green countryside in the little town of Bruton, at first glance this bucolic setting appears an unlikely one for a contemporary art gallery.

But here, new and old - not to mention the rural and the urban - combine beautifully.

The converted Grade II listed buildings at Hauser & Wirth's Durslade Farm home - including a Farmhouse, Stables, Cow Sheds, Piggery, Threshing Barn - are joined, quite literally, by stunning contemporary architecture, designed to work in symbiosis with the existing structures.

It is a stunning example of how traditional working agricultural buildings and modern spaces can work in tandem. Each informs the other, and beautifies too, by way of comparison.

We park up and make our way inside the first of five separate gallery spaces, and see the fruits of artist and film-maker Karen Guthrie's recent residency.

Interested in ideas if place and identity, Guthrie's work seeks to discover the invisible essence of a given place. Her work, while resident here, saw her attempting to capture the intrinsic qualities of the soil inside Hauser & Wirth's grounds, and present it in visual form.

The result is unusual and thought-provoking work.

But the star attraction, at least as far as we are concerned, is an intimate retrospective by Britain’s most celebrated photojournalist, Don McCullin.

The exhibition presents a culmination of work spanning the photographer’s career to date; from early beginnings in North London to extensive social documentary, unsparing war reportage, haunting Somerset vistas and contemplative still lifes.

His work, as anyone who has watched the eponymous documentary about McCullin can attest, is incredibly kinetic, cinematic and raw - less concerned with technicalities than with capturing something authentic and immediate.

We head back out into the bracing autumnal air, and cast our eyes around the incredible location - there can be few more scenically-set galleries anywhere in the world, nor many delivering such consistently engaging work.

And joy of joys, the food is excellent too.

A modern necessity for galleries it would seem, is the on-site restaurant and in keeping with the architectural theme, the Roth Bar & Grill is a delicious combination of locally and ethically grown produce and a contemporary, cosmopolitan palate.

The kitchen team cures local meats in-house, as well as making their own preserves, pickles, jams and chutneys. We're reliably informed that on Friday nights, when the music gets a little louder, it becomes a little raucous, in a very good way.

Another time, maybe - for now, it's home, but not before checking whether we can afford to buy everything we want from McCullin's show.

The answer, sadly, is no. Not if we want to keep the lights on at home, that is...

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