Please note that the site will close at 2.30pm on Wednesday 28th February for a team event. Last entry to the gardens and last orders in the restaurant will be 1pm.
We live in a world of many forms of communication that we have yet to translate. I believe we will not be fully connected to the earth until we are better able to join in these conversations
- John Newling
This exhibition brings together new projects by five artists that engage with gardens and landscapes as sites for practice and enquiry, addressing questions of meaning and ethics, community and collaboration and exploring art and sustainability in the face of climate emergency and declining biodiversity. Across a diverse range of media but with a shared interest in process and materiality, the five artists will all be presenting new work made after visits to Hestercombe and discussions with curators and gardeners.
Engaging with current debates about the generative possibility of plants and our engagement and communication with other species, the exhibition asks questions about the ethics and sustainability of an artistic engagement with the natural world, and about how we might represent our place in it. With a nod to Gertrude Jekyll’s description of her own garden as ‘my study, my workshop, my place of rest’, the exhibition will evolve and grow over the summer as each artist creates new work and/or carries out participatory workshops in response to Hestercombe.
Photographer, educator and camera builder Brendan Barry will transform the gallery overlooking Hestercombe’s Formal Garden into a giant camera obscura, using the mechanics of analogue photography as a tool for exploration and collaboration. The famous Jekyll and Lutyens summer garden will project itself into the gallery, revealing new details and perspectives on summer blooms and visitors and the land and townscape beyond. Barry will also make photographs with the camera obscura and add to his ongoing series Wildflowers during the exhibition. Shot directly on to photographic paper and developed using a meticulously developed colour reversal method, the series grew from walks during lockdown with his young daughter and touches on many themes including family, health and wellbeing, reconnecting with nature and appreciating one's immediate surroundings.
Feral Practice works with human and nonhuman beings to create art projects and interdisciplinary events that develop ethical and imaginative connections across species boundaries and between different categories of knowledge and understanding. Their research draws on artistic, scientific and subjective knowledge practices to explore diverse aesthetics and create suggestive spaces of not knowing nature.
The result of a residency at Hestercombe in 2021, Leave to Remain explores the evocative, precarious nature of home and migration for human and nonhuman beings. Seen through a multi-species lens, Hestercombe is revealed as ‘an intensely ‘nested’ ecology, embroidered at different scales with diverse threads of domesticity'. No longer a human dwelling, the house, outbuildings and gardens provide habitat and shelter to many other species. Leave to Remain comprises a sound work and a suite of new drawings that incorporate architectural plans of the house, revealing the lives of diverse beings of unequal status, including beetles, bats and birds that make their home here.
John Newling seeks to make work in ‘co-relationship with nature’. A key figure in discussions around art and ecology, with an international reputation as a pioneer of public art with a social purpose, his work - which materialises in many different forms, ranging from sculpture, painting, installation and performance, to typefaces, writing and publications - explores ecology, the environment and our increasingly fractious relationship with nature. Rather than responding to the natural world as an outsider, Newling’s 'ecology works' position us [human beings] as an intrinsic part of our environment, and act as thoughtful expressions that engage with the notion that all things are interconnected.
For this exhibition, Newling returns to Hestercombe to display recent work made from and about the soil in his own garden, which functions as an extension his studio. During the exhibition, he will also take soil samples at Hestercombe, investigating soil as a complex material that carries a language through nature.
Sophy Rickett is a visual artist who works with photography and text, with a long-standing interest in the relationship between landscape and photography as both image and material. Recent projects have been concerned with what photography both reveals and conceals and the ways in which connections between meaning and subject are understood as provisional, transitory and fluid.
Her installation There it is, the soil is a new photography and text-based installation inspired in part by the recent (re)discovery, excavation and restoration of the Elizabethan Water Garden at Hestercombe, which she has observed on visits over a number of years. Rickett’s project combines photographs made on location at Hestercombe with studio-based still lives and other images appropriated from various sources including family archives and internet searches, exploring the Water Garden and other sites and situations, including a garden centre near the artist’s home in North London and distant memories of the muddy River Teign estuary in Devon at low tide.
Marjolaine Ryley’s practice explores the materiality of photography through experimentation with plants and sustainable practices, to raise awareness about the current extinction risk to plants and the beneficial effects of gardening for humans and the environment. Working with photography, writing and plants and using auto-ethnography, post-humanism and critical plant studies, Ryley’s engagement with the garden interweaves creative writing, sustainable photography, plant-made imagery and collaborative workshops to instigate dialogues around human-plant relations and our place in a more-than-human world. At Hestercombe she will install A Tendril of Creeper, a new body of work combining photographs of and made with plants, wall and text-based work and her own botanical collections.
During the exhibition Marjolaine will also be sharing her knowledge of growing and eco-printing through a series of talks and workshops.
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Hestercombe Gallery opened in 2014 with the aim of showcasing the best in contemporary arts practice. Seven years on from its opening, Hestercombe Gallery has delivered a programme of high quality exhibitions in reclaimed spaces, a series of artists in residence, outdoor commissions as well as an engagement programme including talks, seminars and workshops involving artists, students, academics, teachers and experts from other disciplines.
Exhibitions have included 'Leaping the Fence' and ‘Terrain: Land into Art’ featuring artists such as Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Peter Doig and Richard Long in partnership with Arts Council Collections. Solo shows include Tania Kovats, Clare Woods, Helen Sear, Tim Knowles and Simon Faithfull. Group shows have included photographs by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll alongside photographers Sarah Jones, Helen Sear and Mark Edwards as well as showcasing historic works by painter and poet Rev John Eagles, together with contemporary work by Rebecca Chesney, Paul Desborough and Jem Southam.
Recent outdoor commissions include work by Richard Long, Sarah Bennett, Megan Calver & Gabrielle Hoad, Jon England, Jo Lathwood, Philippa Lawrence and Lucy Soni.
Hestercombe has engaged with writers Lizzie Lloyd, Sarah Kent, Cherry Smyth and Phil Owen; delivered garden commissions by Jennie Savage and Philippa Lawrence; and opened a second exhibition space for community and educational projects.
The Hestercombe Gardens Trust is an independent charitable trust, famous for its unique collection of gardens which span three centuries of garden history and design. The Formal Garden is hailed as one of the finest examples of the world renowned partnership between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Hestercombe House and Gardens has undergone acclaimed restoration works and continues to develop and grow giving visitors a stunning setting to explore, learn and relax.