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Buckham Park Barn

oil painting of a landscape by noel hefele
Buckham Park Barn, 4’x4′, oil on canvas, 2010

I left this painting in England in 2010 after completing my master’s degree. It was part of a show that I put on called “Landscape Resounds.” I left it at a local cafe in Totnes, the Fat Lemon, where it hung until they contacted me last year saying they didn’t have space for it anymore. In that same week, someone at Dartington Hall had contacted me about the painting, and, a dozen or so emails later, with assistance from my former professor Richard Povall, the painting had traveled up the hill to the Dartington Estate. I had donated it to Dartington Hall.

The painting now hangs in this building

This is a surreal experience to coordinate from across the pond as well as a thought provoking one.  Paintings need time and space in order to come into their own. They find their place, often on their own accord and in surprising ways.

This was not my favorite painting that I produced during my time in England, but this process has made me reconsider and warm up to it. It now is participating in the long unfolding history of Dartington Hall and the people involved in making that place.

The initial email included the sentence, “There are a group of us here that are working to bring learning back to Dartington and we’re making progress.” I was in the final year of Dartington College of the Arts before it moved to Falmouth University to eventually get swallowed up.  The phrase “bring learning back to Dartington” takes on extra resonance for me with the thought of the painting returning to the estate to be hung on a wall for display. It creates a new layer of meaning related to the painting, years after it was ostensibly “completed.”

If the artwork accumulates meaning as it progresses through time, it makes me ask the obvious question—At what point is a painting finished? The secondary question that arises is, how can I craft paintings to best be prepared for these unexpected moments? I imagine paintings as seeds sent off into the future, sometimes finding fertile moments of germination, growth, and meaning.  

Paintings as seeds for meaning in an imagined unexpected future context.

There is something to that as an idea. I think it is how a painting practice operates consciously within the context of the social fabric. I’ve seen works of mine blossom in wholly unexpected futures that become integral to the success of the piece. Painting with the past, present, and future in mind.

Speaking of time, I did a time-lapse video of the process of creating the painting. I also made the soundtrack music from ambient noises captured in the studio.

The Barn is located on the Dartington Estate in Devon. While I was there it was surrounded by security fencing, but I stuck my camera through the fence to get my reference photos. At the time, I fixated on ruins, and what they say about our relationship to land. The best information I could find about the barn was that it was likely from the 1800’s, used as a field barn for the Dartington Estate. I’m not sure how long the security fencing was around it, but a recent search reveals it is being actively reimagined as a place for therapeutic horses.

Below are photos of the 4 foot square painting hanging in Dartington Hall.  Check it out if you are in the area. The building is gorgeous and dates back to the 14th or 15th century. Pretty cool to have a painting on display there.