ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

Bookmark and Share

Garden of Reason, a season of contemporary art

Date uploaded: April 4, 2012

Garden of Reason, a season of contemporary art
Ham House and Garden
Richmond-Upon-Thames 28 April –23 September 2012

Trust New Art

Trust New Art is the National Trust’s art and craft programme taking place at selected historic houses, countryside and garden properties across England. It connects more people to National Trust places through contemporary art and craft. It has been supported by a three-year partnership with Arts Council England to build links between the National Trust and the contemporary arts and craft sector.

Trust New Art involves a wide programme of events, projects and products developed to make contemporary arts and crafts an integral part of the National Trust's daily offer to visitors, building new audiences and providing commission opportunities to both emerging and established artists. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trustnewart

Garden of Reason has invited nine contemporary artists to make new work inspired by the 17th-century formal gardens, their owner, Elizabeth Dysart, Duchess of Lauderdale and the social and political context of the time.

Given to the National Trust in 1948, Ham House and Garden lies on a bend of the river Thames that forms part of the iconic view from the top of Richmond Hill.  Having remained in the same family for four centuries, it remains complete, a survivor of 17th-century art, architecture and garden design. The 1670’s, when the garden was in its prime, was a time of immense political and social upheaval, which included events such as the Civil War; the restoration and later the start of scientific thought as instigated by Galileo (1564 - 1642) and Newton  (1642 -1727) often known as the ‘Age of Reason’ - hence the title of the exhibition.

The Interaction programme has produced new visitor information focusing on research made by artists, heritage specialists and groups in the community including an artist’s book, film, animation, and a late event curated by the New Curators group.

Weekend events: Programme of four live art commissions, artists and curators tours, and talks by historians throughout the exhibition

Artists: Alexandre da Cunha, Tom Dale, Kathleen Herbert,
Graeme Miller, Harold Offeh, Simon Periton & Alan Kane, Ruth Proctor, Daphne Wright

The artists have used the archive of historic documents, plans and drawings that date from the 1600s and 1670s when Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart, Duchess of Lauderdale, owned the property. The commissions interpret themes such as Tulip Mania; the lost monument; democracy in ruins; arcadia revisited and the impact of early scientific discovery by Galileo and Newton.

Artists’ commissions (detailed and short biog)

Title: Compass - Artist Alexandre da Cunha
Compass is a raised platform created from four, red, utilitarian, metal ladders, placed together. The height of the sculpture is just over 300 centimetres, and the standing platform is 220 centimetres from the ground.
Compass invites participation and provides a choice? The visitor can remain on the ground, or ascend heaven-ward, up the red stairs to take a voyeuristic position overlooking the plats, the wilderness and in the distance an even grander stately home.
Alexandre da Cunha describes this new work as the invisible sculpture, in that it functions as utilitarian object, but together creates a pedestal for the visitor who, standing on the platform, becomes a part of the landscape and the artwork.
This new work has evolved from visits to Ham House and Garden, and provides a modern response to the lost sculptures, as well as the 17th century tradition of animating the gardens for the pleasure of visiting courtiers.
Da Cunha combines appropriation with a highly intuitive and instinctive inclination toward a formal play with materials, shapes, forms, and colours, speaking as much about pure aesthetics as about social realities. He has been described as the Brazilian artist who makes Art with Mops, Ironing Boards and Bracelets.
He became widely known in 2003, with his participation in 50th Venice
Biennale, where he presented the series They Really Work for Me (2000) and Made to Measure (2001–3), both groups of crutch-like objects.
The variously coloured and sized crutches were made of broomsticks covered with sponges, cloth, and adhesive tape, displayed leaning against the wall. Visitors soon realized on closer observation that the contraptions would hinder walking, rather than helping.
Born in Brazil and resident in the UK.

Title: Banquet of Sound - Artist Tom Dale
Tom Dale has been labelled invariably as a dare-devil, or a cheeky yet contemplative artist, whose work is described as making absurd, but understated grand gestures. Covering a broad mix of ideas and materials the initial hook of his work always gives way to complicated issues that have been simply articulated. From icave, 2010 a ‘Gaudy boulder’ of refracted identities, held together by glitter and goo, to a series of photos, which probe the contrasting ideologies and tensions simmering beneath the façade of a Polish housing estate, his works, each in their own way, manage establish a platform from which we can re-examine the dynamics of the present.
Dale’s new work Banquet of Sound for Garden of Reason, consists of 16 full size lecterns, cast roughly in concrete and scattered across the paths leading up to and around the statue of Bacchus in the Cherry Garden. On first reading the work seems to echo many of the received ideas about the influence of the classical tradition of debate and discussion upon the contemporary understanding of democracy is and how it works, which is explicit in the history of Ham House and its former residents.
However the arrangement of the lecterns and the techniques of their production remind us that this early idea of democracy was only ever intended for the benefit of a select few and just how we adapt these ideas for the benefit of the many is a question very much of the present. Of central interest to Dale and this work is the effect that the relationship between the past and the present has on our discussion of democracy and how we as individuals might feel encouraged or enlightened by this.
Solo shows include Formal Pleasure, CAN, Switzerland 2012;  Memorial Drag Strip Poppy Sebire Gallery, London in 2011. Kings Island, Plymouth Arts Centre; Six Flags, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw 2008; Invertebration Collective Gallery, Edinburgh. Tom Dale is a graduate of Goldsmiths MA, and Sheffield Hallam University.  Born in Kendal he lives and works in London.
Represented by Poppy Sebire.

Title: The Theatre of Flora - Artist Kathleen Herbert
Kathleen Herbert’s new work uncovers the synergy between the current financial climate, and a Dutch 17th century financial speculation in tulip bulbs. Prized tulip bulbs become a measure of economic activity and gross speculation causing fortunes to be made and lost and raised questions in the understanding of the notion of value within 17th century society.
Herbert has created a sound installation from propaganda pamphlets produced in Holland in 1637, describing the pitfalls and pleasures to be found in bulb speculation nicknamed Tulip Mania. Eleven public address speakers sited in the Fountain garden will represent different characters who ‘speak’, the pre recorded work.
Kathleen Herbert’s work explores history, site & context. Herbert is interested in how we read different spaces & places around us, as a form of spatial text. In particular Herbert enjoys researching the apparent uninteresting or unsaid, which through further investigation reveal social political, narratives which are defined & redefined through history. Her work focuses on the boundaries between fact and fiction, myth and reality, investigating ideas around superstition, rituals and histories
Recently she has used the medium of performance and documentary to question and engage with the historical and contemporary functions of a space.

Title: Arcadia Redesigned - Artist Harold Offeh
Harold Offeh’s new work explores the notion of garden, as playground for fantastical masques and entertainments. Referencing 17th century spectacles staged by Inigo Jones and others to provide diversions, for the rich and influential to display their wealth and power. In this case Harold Offeh will present audiences with an imagined Arcadia through four seasonal spectacles and a fictional installation of the ‘Ham Hermit and grotto’ with a supporting cast of players.
Harold Offeh has a reputation for creating short form video and performance, using humour to unravel complex relationships addressing identity and representation within everyday popular culture.

Title: Yew Tube -  Artist Graeme Miller
Drawing on the optics and garden design of the 17th Century, Yew Tube will see a pair of topiary telescopes installed in the gardens, aligned with each other to create dialogues of proximity between passing viewers.
Yew Tube relates to the Age of Reason because new optics were not only reshaping religious and philosophical perspectives but were helping to generate  new aesthetics in design and art.
Graeme Miller is an artist, composer and theatre maker, who co-founded the influential Impact Theatre Co-operative in 1979. With the idea of being "a composer of many things that may include music", he has made theatre, dance, installations and interventions. Recent projects include Linked (2003-present) a three mile long semi-permanent radio work in East London incorporating the voices, memories and testimonies of people who used to live where the M11 link road now runs, Beheld (2006), an installation which maps places where stowaways have fallen from aircraft in Europe and North America, and Moth Theatre (2010), an outdoor theatre for moths, by moths, which was the first winner of the Latitude Contemporary Art Award.

Title: 'eight fculptures' Artists Simon Periton and Alan Kane
Garden of Reason at Ham House and Garden have provided an excellent opportunity to develop their collaborative artworks.  Now focused on the theme of ‘the missing monument’ Kane and Periton will re –create the missing sculptures in the Wilderness.
It is well known that ‘grand’ gardens were used for intrigue and political mischief particularly during the civil war, and after during the reformation. The archive provides evidence for ‘10 statues of lead, whereof two upon stone and wooden pedestals’ including copies of Giambologna’s Mercury and Fortuna, as well as the celebrated Antique Venus de ‘ Medici. This 17th century plunder of classical sculptures has a contemporary model with the theft of the Barbara Hepworth bronze sculpture cut from its plinth in Dulwich Park in December 2011. Insured for half a million, the sculpture will reap decidedly less as scrap metal?
Cultural plunder or what?
fculptures' will replace the originals, working from themes loosely suggested by them and their loss, forging relationships between historical and contemporary sculpture, motifs explored in their previous works and other elements from history and art as seem appropriate or interesting.
The works will be located on the original site, in the center of the wilderness.
The tone of the works will imply an ad hoc, though well intentioned effort to ‘fix’ this problem delivered through a jumble of ideas, styles, techniques and references, unified with a series of new wooden plinths suggested by the 'orringe' boxes which supported the original sculptures.
Both artists have established, international careers in their own right. Simon is represented by Sadie Coles HQ, and Alan by Ancient and Modern. The Asbo Mystery Play and other public works shown in June 2011 at Sadie Coles HQ, was a return to working together. As the title suggests, the works are a playful response to society, and the ‘public monument’, beloved by local authorities and politicians as edifying spectacle offering public salvation.
Works such as Disco Drains for European City 2011, and Pavilion Model 2011, a baseball cap held up by six Doric columns, as well as Roundabout Sculpture (postcard arrangement) 2011 showing mock-ups of a record player arm as sculpture for a roundabout, all propose witty alternatives to a rather cautious tradition of municipal public art.

Title: Weight of Air - Artist Ruth Proctor
The title is a reference taken from experiments Galileo made on the weight and speed of objects when dropped, (off the tower of Pisa) and the formation of ideas at the time about air pressure and atmosphere (this was something many people were thinking about at the time).This understanding has informed Weight of Air, two corresponding art works. The first are two 3 X 3 metre helium filled balloons, attached to, and floating above, two summerhouses in the Wilderness. The second work is a chalk drawing on four of the eight plats, inspired by the Coade stone pineapples on the South Terrace, and references Charles II who was presented with the first pineapple grown in England, immortalised in a painting by Henry Danckerts.(c1675)
Ruth Proctor’s main interest is constructivist theatrical performance. She says that performing as an ice skater in her teens has given her an abiding interest in the relationship between how the figure + movement manifests in space.

Title: I know what it’s like - Artist Daphne Wright
I know what it’s like is a powerful new film by Daphne Wright  “I know what it’s like” is a powerful new film by Daphne Wright to be given a chilling poignancy by its presentation in the ice house as part of the Garden of Reason at the National Trust property Ham House in Richmond, Surrey. 
Daphne Wright’s art is the result of a relentless curiosity into the way in which a range of languages and materials can create an involvement with often unspoken human preoccupations. Casting, sound recording, filmmaking and drawing result in rigorous series of works that explore a range of subjects from prayer, literature and song to ageing, death.
Wright (born Ireland 1963) has exhibited extensively in England and Ireland; she has also shown in group exhibitions internationally. Wright’s works are held in the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Hamburger Kunsthalle, German, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and Towner Art Gallery, Sussex. Daphne Wright is represented by Frith Street Gallery, London.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trustnewart

Hairography: Pink Hair Pout. Colour Photograph, 2011 Artist Harold Offeh

Hairography: Pink Hair Pout. Colour Photograph, 2011 Artist Harold Offeh