Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Apocalyptic Artful Autumn

I went to Kew Gardens yesterday to view their new Artful Autumn exhibitions in the gardens. I hadn't quite bargained on getting Apocalypse Now thrown in for free!

The weather was forecast to be warm and sunny and a great day to visit the gardens to see the sculpture and installations.

However, we've lost confidence in the BBC Weather forecasts ever since the Met. Office lost the contract to provide the weather forecasts. We now find ourselves quite often photographing the BBC weather app showing one thing for a specific location and the weather doing something completely different.

Yesterday was a case in point as the orange sun and the huge dust cloud descended on Kew as we walked around the gardens!  I must confess we spent an awful lot of time just staring at the sky as it got darker and darker!

Below are some views of the various installations
My favourite wood seat sculpture
I'll touch on the Life in Death exhibition by Rebecca Louise Law later this week. Apparently it was very busy last weekend!


Kew Gardens is a brilliant location for a sculpture exhibition - if and when they are presented well.

Two figures near the Palm House
For me the absolute minimum is providing either an online guide or a leaflet for what you're seeing.  Plus a good and uninterrupted view of the sculpture in its setting.

Instead,  all too often at Kew this Autumn, what I've found is:
  • a very unhelpful barrier around the sculpture which completely spoils the effect of the sculpture; and/or
  • placing an erect large announcement about what it is very close to the sculpture
See below for examples. It's extremely difficult to get a good clean look at the actual sculpture - unless you look at it from an angle which is not the best!

How much nicer this sculpture would look without THAT NOTICE WHICH IS SO UNHELPFUL TO THE ART!

Absolutely LUDICROUS barriers around the sculpture completely negating the effect the sculptor intended
For me there are two rules about sculpture in a landscape
  • absolutely no barriers - if it's not robust enough to be outside or touched then it shouldn't be outside at all!
  • labels on a small flat tablet on the ground - in front of the sculpture - not sticking up and getting in the way. Or just a small number near the base - which correlates to numbers on a leaflet or an online listing which can be accessed within the garden (which is difficult as the broadband reception frequently borders on 'inaccessible').
For that reason I was very unimpressed with the display of a lot of the sculpture at Kew. Even the video produced about the exhibition had to crop close in to avoid the ways in which the display contrived to spoil the image of the sculpture

I was also unimpressed with its treatment on the website:
  • no reference to the exhibition
  • no listing of the sculptures while they are/were installed within the garden
  • no press release providing any details
What is very odd is that there have been much better sculpture installations in the gardens in the past (e.g. Henry Moore and Review: David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery). I can only think personnel have changed at Kew and/or the sculptors and/or installers don't have a clue about how to present sculpture outside.

My personal preference is for the sculpture related to botanical subjects - which I wrote about in Nuts and seeds - inside and out at Kew at the end of September.

I loved the bronzes by Anne Curry of the different forms that nuts and seeds take - so much more organic and relevant to a botanic garden!

Physalis Seed Pod (bronze resin) by Anne Curry

I THINK the sculpture exhibition has now ended (on 15 October) although the sculpture can still be seen around the garden. Personally I don't quite see the point of going to all the trouble of having a sculpture exhibition for less than a month.

Sculpture in the garden in winter is great - and to my mind I'd like to see a lot more of it - robust and ready for the public and the weather - all over the autumn and winter months.

Artworks along Cedar Vista - until 29th October

The remaining artworks in the gardens comprise 16 site-specific artworks by four artists which are on display until 29th October. 


The Treelings by Woody Fox Willow are just plain weird - but I can see how they be great fun for children. Some small people rushed over to them and hugged them as we passed by yesterday.  In fact, there was some serious twig hugging taking place just to the right of this photo involving very small children!

Plant-like beings - made from willow and dogwood - practicing tai chi
by Woody Fox Willow
You can read more about them in this blog post Kew Gardens Commission - The Treelings

About the Artist

Woody Fox is a sculptor based in Devon who creates figurative sculptures using natural materials such as willow and dogwood. He specialises in making animal forms and abstract plant shapes using the incredible natural colours that willow provides. He has exhibited widely across the UK as well as abroad and his work often has a quirky expression and humorous quality to it that engages the viewer. The sculptures for the exhibition are hoped to engage the public to becoming one with the pieces and to show the connection between humankind and the plant world.

Fungi Fascination

This comprises an installation of 'wall hangings' on trees along Cedar Vista. Three of them can be seen below. They're by Claudia Wenger and made of oil on canvas. I was left wondering as to whether they had been treated so they can hang outside.

Amanita Muscaria - Fly Agaric
120x180cm, oil on canvas

Trametes Versicolor - Turkeytail
180x180cm, triptych, oil on canvas

Ophiocordyceps Sinensis - Caterpillar Fungus
27x91cm, oil on canvas

About the Artist

Claudia Wegner is an Austrian painter, ceramicist and mycologist based in Scotland. Her work encompasses the use of a variety of mediums, ranging from traditional oil paint to wood, clay and anything recyclable. Analysing society with a critical eye has always influenced her work, including addressing the environmental issues we face today. Yet, her true passion lies in the elusive world of fungi and their medicinal properties. She aims to unveil their hidden beauty, which she highlights in her large, detailed paintings.

Willow Sculptures

The willow sculptures by Julia Clarke are possibly the least impressive of the installations - but then they're also the simplest forms.

She is providing opportunities to learn about willow weaving at Kew Gardens at weekends during October - so two more weekends to go.

A very simple willow form

Another willow sculpture

About the Artist

Julia Clarke creates sculptures for indoor or outdoor spaces. She enjoys working with predominantly natural materials, mainly willow, both dried and living, wire, thread, paper, and ceramics. The work evolves slowly coming from an imaginary place. The rhythm of weaving and using tactile materials is very important to the whole process. The willow has its own character with evocative qualities. The work grows into dysfunctional vessels, encompassing space, playing with tension, form and scale.

Wooden seat sculptures

The wooden seat sculptures by Nigel Ross struck me as objects that could take up permanent residence in the gardens - fulfilling both a practical need and interesting alternative to the existing benches.

His sculptural benches and furniture, bridges etc are currently situated in woodlands, parks, gardens, schools, hospitals, gardens, and new developments across Britain, Europe and USA.

Maybe Kew Gardens should start offering people the opportunity to sponsor a seat sculpture rather than a bench?

A seat with a twist!

The ever so slightly asymmetric form has great appeal - and is very practical too!

More an interesting form that a seat to sit on!

About the Artist

Nigel Ross is a self-taught sculptor whose art has developed naturally from a life working with trees. Starting from the parks of London, where he learned the skills of tree surgery, to the hills of Arran in Scotland, where he spent several years on the island fencing, planting and harvesting trees as a forest contractor. Ross seeks to save tree trunks from logging and planking, sculpting them into large abstract organic forms. Attempting to harness the energy and strength of the tree, his inspiration comes from an interest in Celtic and Pictish culture as well as contemporary art. Much of Ross’s work is functional sculpture and his benches have been commissioned throughout Britain and Europe as well as USA and Canada. 

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