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Confetti - Do It For Real

Cut Grass Lies Frail

7 September 04 words: Jennie Syson
The art world appears to be going garden mad this summer, and Nottingham is no exception

Flower Spill by David Burrows

 

The art world appears to be going garden mad this summer, and Nottingham is no exception. With exhibitions such as Pleasure Gardens at Nottingham Castle and Nature and Nation at The Yard Gallery, the East Midlands' premier art spaces are following in the footsteps of Tate Britain's group retrospective show entitled The Art of the Garden which features the work of renowned art and garden enthusiasts such as Derek Jarman, Barbara Hepworth and Iain Hamilton Finlay.

Pleasure
Gardens
features the work of Dan Harvey and Heather Ackroyd who were commissioned to recreate a view from the castle. This clever painting, if one can call it that, renders different areas of light and shade simply by controlling the most basic element known to the gardener: light. By channelling carefully placed lamps, the rate of grass growth is controlled by the artists, thus creating a painting with the process of photosynthesis. The piece takes up an entire wall of one of the smaller rooms in the castles' gallery suite, and as the first work in the show creates a promising start. The room is darkened for obvious reasons, and the life giving lighting which shines on the organic canvas substitute, appears to make the grass hover and shift, as though it were alive as one being rather than millions of tiny blades. This carefully tended room, where the invigilator allows no-one to take photographs or touch the piece reminds the viewer that cut grass does indeed `lie frail', as the poet Phillip Larkin once said.

Pleasure Garden at Nottingham Castle

 

The rest of the exhibition comprises rather a mixed bunch. Mike Marshall's video projection Days Like These, 2003, which provided the title for last year's Tate Triennial, depicts close up views of a garden sprinkler. The camera follows as water hits garden plants like an invisible force and ambient sound pulses through the space in a similar fashion. Other works are crammed into the same room like a vegetable patch teeming with weeds. It is difficult to appreciate the psychedelic flowers made of polystyrene and glitter by David Burrows (pictured at top of article), as the adjacent walls are crammed with Susan Miller's mediocre flower paintings which are as claustrophobic as padded seventies flock wallpaper.

 

The exhibition continues its deterioration into a compost-like state as obvious examples of `plant-art' pile up like potato peelings coiling around discarded teabags. This sinking feeling is rescued, albeit momentarily, by the work of an unknown 17th Century botanist, which seems to have found a way into the exhibition by mistake, as though it has escaped from another exhibit in the Castle's collection. This delicate draughtsmanship and observational expertise, knocks the socks of the twee dried brown objects that share the same room. This work, like the Harvey and Ackroyd piece, should have had its own room, and much of the work which tenuously adheres to a green-fingered theme could have easily have been omitted.

 

Pleasure Gardens does go some way toward promoting a pleasurable outdoor experience, but this exhibition needs a little pruning.

Nottingham Castle

 

Artists in the exhibition include: Dan Harvey and Heather Ackroyd, James Ireland, David Burrows, Mike Marshall, Mr & Mrs Ivan Morrison, Stephen Butler, Susan Miller, Ruth Moillet, Neal Rock, Laura White, Gina Glover, Joy Gregory and Andrew Langford. Pleasure Gardens is on display at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery until 12th September.

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