Hooray Hermit - Real Life Recluse To Move In At Painshill Park

By Andrea Geeson | 21 April 2004
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Shows a photograph of a man with long hair and dressed in a flowing orange robe, running through a misty and dark wood.

Photo: running solo. Hairy hermit David Blandy in training for solitary confinement at Painshill Park country estate. Courtesy of Painshill Park.

Student journalists have taken over the site... read on to see what they're getting up to.

Hermits are back in fashion. Yes it's true. Solitary shunners of society are a status symbol as vital as a shiny new BMW with personalised number plates. You will want one for Christmas.

The 18th century tradition of housing a human pet at the bottom of your garden to impress the neighbours is set to return. Artist David Blandy is preparing to seal himself off from the outside world at Painshill Park in Surrey.

From Sunday May 30 to June 13 Blandy will reside in a house with similar proportions to a rabbit hutch.

Painshill's original hermitage is being resurrected and built to the same specifications. At a minuscule two metres (six and a half feet) high by five metres (16 feet) across, it will prove just as cosy.

Artist David Blandy was approached by the Danielle Arnaud Gallery to produce a piece of work in collaboration with the Museum of Garden History in London.

Shows a black and white drawing of an 18th century hermit house. It is a small construction with a pointed roof, built on what appears to be a pile of tree trunks.

Photo: home is where the hermit is. a sketch of the original 18th century hermit home, which is to be rebuilt for the lonely artist as he stages a two-week sit in. Courtesy of Painshill Park.

He picked Painshill Park as a location after having visited it with his girlfriend and bizarrely chose the idea of a hermitage himself.

After reassuring the 24 Hour Museum that he is of sound mind, Jane Bodenham at the estate explained how Blandy believes that in today’s society we have become isolated loners:

"He does think that people today have become very much hermitised, they tend to stay in and not venture out of their homes," she said.

According to Jane, his voluntary incarceration can be seen as a comment on our insular society. Previous work by the artist includes the video piece Deliberate Regression, which used lip-syncing to a popular song to explore issues around racism, identity and cultural heritage.

Blandy is attempting to re-enact the life of the original hermit, employed by the Honorable Charles Hamilton, who lived at Painshill back in the 18th century.

Hamilton, a man obviously keen to flaunt his social standing with flashy symbols of wealth, wanted seven years service from his hermit at a price of 700 guineas. Unfortunately he escaped to the pub after only three weeks.

Shows a photograph of the grounds at Painshill Park. The image shows a view across a large lake surrounded with trees and in the background there is a small white building, perched on a hill side.

Photo: stunning Painshill Park has 160 acres of gardens, a 14 acre serpentine lake, Chinese Bridge and, coming soon, a human pet. Courtesy of Painshill Park.

Though not in a glass box, Blandy will strive to be more entertaining than a starving American and visitors will be able to observe his lonesome antics.

Dressed as a Buddhist Shaolin monk, he will go barefoot and has even grown his hair long.

Talking is not permitted but food will be brought to him by a specially dressed costumed character and his only liquid refreshment will be a pitcher of water.

To pass the time 1970s soul music will be played on a portable player and Blandy will produce a comic diary of his friendless confinement.

He is also preparing a musical audio-tour of the park, which will be made available to visitors. Listeners will hear aural references to the different genres of film evoked by the sculpted grounds - from the martial arts epic of the Chinese bridge and the suspense of the Grotto, to the espionage thriller of the Alpine Valley.

If you're fond of impressing your neighbours, why not beat the rush and install a bushy haired man in the bottom your garden?

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:

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