Every small island sighted by the man on watch Is the Eldorado promised by Destiny; Imagination preparing for her orgy Finds but a reef in the light of the dawn O the poor lover of imaginary lands! Must he be put in irons, thrown into the sea, That drunken tar, inventor of Americas, Whose mirage makes the abyss more bitter?
Charles Baudelaire, Le Voyage
In 1859, Charles Baudelaire went to live with his Mother in the small harbour town of Honfleur, to try and find solace from the recent break up with his mistress and from the harrowing aftermath of the Fleurs du Mal trial. Here, he spent his days sitting in cafés by the harbour, watching the boats moor and set sail, come and go. His mind would wander to lands afar, the boats whispering to him of a place beyond the stale horizon of his homeland. He dreamt of Lisbon, of its climate and light, conductive to thought and calm. Or Holland, or then again, Java, the Baltic or even the North Pole, ‘Anywhere! Anywhere! So long as it is out of this world!’
152 years later Craig Barnes and Dmitri Galitzine set sail on a voyage of their own. Each wanting out of London, they dreamed of a place, to use Baudelaire’s words, of “ordre at beaute / Luxe, calme et volupte”. Offered a most unusual way out, both subsequently decamped and found themselves looking onto the bleak and empty rural Herefordshire landscape. Over time, they were forced to wonder if perhaps they still needed to dream. What seemed to be a perfect stillness, was it now a deadening silence?
When Shall We Set Sail For Happiness posits the imaginary into the harsh light of the real. We are invited to travel with the artists as they pass through other lands and times – some near, some distant but all equally bizarre when you stop to look in detail. In the search for whatever it is that fuels our dreaming heads and keeps us wondering what’s over the next horizon, whether the grass is indeed greener, this insatiable wanderlust is shown to manifest itself in sometimes the most mundane of realities.
Yet in doing so perhaps what we can take from the artists’ voyage is the comfort in knowing that when each of us get there, there is perhaps something to be learned from it all being exactly the same.
When Shall We Set Sail for Happiness?
Craig Barnes, Dmitri Galitzine
Down Stairs, Herefordshire
July 21 – September 16 2012