Working with partners University of Exeter, Honiton Community College and the Blackdown Hills AONB, Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG) will explore change in natural landscape and land use, revealing a multitude of stories and connections which cut through time, challenge our perception and pose environmental and social questions.

The first exhibition in the programme 'Paradise Found: New Visions of the Blackdown Hills' explores the Blackdown Hills through the lens of 36 leading contemporary artists alongside works by members of the Camden Town Group.

Between 1911 and 1925 the Blackdown Hills were a source of inspiration for the avant-garde painters of the Camden Town Group including Spencer GoreCharles Ginner and Robert Bevan. They captured the ancient landscape influenced by the French artistic approach of Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh. The contemporary artists have recaptured the same sites and these works will be exhibited alongside loans of drawings, photographs and paintings made by Gore, Ginner and Bevan.

The environment has changed little over the last 100 years, partly due to its inaccessibility for modern development. From the surreal, abstracted, expressionist and the hyper-real to the conceptual and post-modern, the Blackdown subjects will be a vehicle to survey and consider recent developments of drawing and painting in the British landscape tradition.

The exhibition is curated by Tim Craven, Fiona McIntyre and Sandra Higgins. It will provide a fascinating insight into the ecological, social, industrial and historic issues particular to the Blackdown Hills over the same 100-year period, examining the values and characteristics which so attracted the Camden Town artists.

Patrick Baty, great-grandson of Robert Bevan and Stanislawa de Karlowska, commented,

Paradise Found will capture the quintessentially English landscape of the Blackdown Hills, both through the eyes of this group of early 20th century avant-garde artists and now revisited by contemporary artists a century later.

The accompanying programme will include a talk by Patrick Baty on Stanisława De Karlowska, a curator’s talk by Sandra Higgins, a curator's talk and workshop with Fiona McIntyre, a performative walk with artist Luke M. Walker and ending with a closing lecture by Tim Craven on 'The History of the Camden Town Group'.

The exhibition launches THG's Create Our Space (COS) programme, which will provide new dynamic and inclusive opportunities to engage with arts, culture and climate, responding to the needs of East Devon’s young people aged 7-25.

The project has been developed through partnerships led by THG with the University of Exeter, the Blackdown Hills AONB, Honiton Community College and SW Museums.

The COS project will transform THG’s provision for East Devon’s young people; led by young people, for young people. It will combine provision for creativity and learning with support for mental health, wellness and enjoyment of the outdoors. THG will be a place where young people are represented and can shape and co-create cultural experiences for their communities.

The project comprises a new Youth Network, Engagement Coordinator student intern, youth-produced off-site projects and exhibitions, youth-led digital resources, events and workshops.

Councillor Paul Arnott, Leader of East Devon District Council said,

I can't wait to see this lovely project about the artistic representation of the Blackdown Hills. This makes art feel really local, and it is great to see THG continuing to engage with younger people too.

Councillor Nick Hookway, East Devon District Council Portfolio Holder Tourism, Leisure, Sport and Culture said,

I would like to thank Arts Council England and the National Lottery for this generous grant of £26,015 to develop the 'Create Our Space” project. It will enable THG to work extensively beyond the gallery partnering with schools and community groups across East Devon.

My congratulations to all those involved in winning this award. I look forward to seeing the project in action. 

Paradise Found: New Visions of the Blackdown Hills (18 March - 3 June). Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5pm.

  • 18 March, 4pm: Opening talk by Patrick Baty on Stanisława De Karlowska
  • 12 May, 5pm: Curator’s talk by Sandra Higgins ‘A brush with nature’
  • 13 May, 10.30-3.30: Luke M. Walker performative walk from Blackdown Hills to THG
  • 15 May, 10-1 workshop, Curator’s Talk 3pm with Fiona McIntyre
  • 3 June, 3pm: Closing lecture by Tim Craven 'The History of the Camden Town Group'

This project has been made possible through partnerships with the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Bevan family.