Liz Nicol, Thiepval, gelatin silver print, 2019 - part of Where function ends, an exhibition in response to Sir Edwin Lutyens at Hestercombe Gallery

Liz Nicol, Thiepval, gelatin silver print, 2019

Alex Hartley, Liz Nicol and Oliver Sutherland

…Where function ends
Responses to the architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens

Hestercombe Gallery, Taunton
14 July – 27 October 2019

To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), Hestercombe Gallery presents new work by three artists that responds to the legacy of the man whose designs transformed the Hestercombe site.

The Formal Garden at Hestercombe, built for the Portman family between 1904 and 1908, is one of the finest and most ambitious examples of Lutyens’ garden design partnership with Gertrude Jekyll.

Artist in residence Oliver Sutherland has been recording this garden and holding conversations with members of the gardening team at Hestercombe throughout 2018-19. Using contemporary technologies including 3D scanning and motion capture, as well as sound recording and writing, he has been exploring the sculptural and poetic relationship between Lutyens’ design and the overlaid planting devised by Jekyll, looking at the ‘destructive’ way in which the form of the garden is maintained by acts of pruning and clearing. In a moving image work that layers performance, sound and written narratives, Sutherland explores the Formal Garden as a technological space, akin to the simulated spaces found in the worlds of films and gaming, but only obtainable through excessive labour.

Lutyens and Jekyll’s scheme for Hestercombe deployed a design language they developed from the Arts and Crafts tradition, but with its striking geometry and the imposing Orangery – Lutyens’ first entirely classical building – signals the direction Lutyens’ architecture was to take in the 20th century.

An installation by internationally-renowned artist Alex Hartley will explore the contested relationship between Lutyens’ architecture and Modernism, the dominant architectural language of the mid 20th century. As part of his series The Houses, Hartley will create new works for Hestercombe, depicting iconic British Modernist houses. These will be shown alongside items from the Hestercombe archive, original drawings by Lutyens on loan from the Royal Institute of British Architects and Drawing Matter, and photographs by Gertrude Jekyll. Through a sculptural intervention in the gallery, the work aims to interrogate the British public’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for modernism in contrast to the reception of and attachment to Lutyens and his architecture, and will propose connections, overlaps and dead ends in this history.

Photographer Liz Nicol has developed her ongoing research into acts of commemoration by making a body of work about Lutyens’ designs for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. The Commission was set up during the First World War to deal with the scale of the losses during that conflict and the collective need to recover, bury and commemorate the dead. Lutyens, in consultation with his collaborator Jekyll, was a key force in establishing the design language for the war cemeteries and memorials that were constructed along the Western Front and all over the world, and which are still maintained according to his exacting standards. However, despite their quality and scale, this work is still little known in this country. Nicol has visited the cemeteries designed by Lutyens and his Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval, and explored the ways in which he developed his ‘elemental mode’, inspired by the orders and rules of Classical architecture, to articulate private and public acts of remembrance on a monumental scale.

Curator Kate Best said:

“This exhibition brings together the work of three outstanding artists with a group of Lutyens’ original sketches and plans, including some of those for Hestercombe, to explore his architecture at Hestercombe and beyond. The 150th anniversary of Lutyens’ birth marks the perfect point for us to look at Hestercombe’s rich history in a wider context and consider Lutyens’ work afresh through the eyes of contemporary artists.

“Lutyens is considered by many to have been the greatest British architect, and his output in designing houses, gardens, public buildings, war cemeteries and New Dehli was extraordinarily prolific. In the Edwardian era he was celebrated by a rich elite, but his delight in the ‘high game’ of Classicism and his insistence that ‘Architecture, with its love and passion, begins where function ends’ was seen in antithesis to the International Style of Modernism that was becoming mainstream by the time of his death. Lauded in his time as ‘the greatest artist in building whom Britain has produced’, in the post-war climate, Lutyens was dismissed as ‘the greatest folly builder England has ever seen’. It is only since the advent of post-modernity in the 1980s that Lutyens’ reputation has been re-evaluated. This exhibition takes Lutyens’ paradoxical legacy as a starting point for new creative responses in a variety of media, once again demonstrating the attractiveness and versatility of Hestercombe as a place for artists to make new work.”

…Where function ends is at Hestercombe Gallery, Taunton, Somerset from 14 July to 27 October. The Gallery is open daily 11am to 5pm.

Further information

For further information please contact Gillian Taylor.

About Hestercombe Gallery

Hestercombe Gallery opened in 2014 with the aim of showcasing the best in contemporary arts practice. Five years on from its opening Hestercombe Gallery has delivered a programme of high quality exhibitions in eight 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 by Tania Kovats, Clare Woods, Helen Sear and Tim Knowles. 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.

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.

Hestercombe Estate

The Hestercombe estate in Somerset is a unique combination of three gardens that cover three centuries of garden history and design:
• The famous Edwardian formal garden, designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and planted by Gertrude Jekyll.
• The Victorian Shrubbery and Terrace originally laid out by the 1st Viscount Portman in 1878.
• The eighteenth century landscape garden designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde between 1750 and 1791.

Hestercombe Gardens is managed by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, established in 1996 as an independent charity. The Trust oversees the restoration and development of the gardens, house and archives to protect them for the future for public benefit.

Attracting over 90,000 visitors a year it is now 25 years since founder, Philip White MBE discovered the historic gardens and made it his life’s work to restore Hestercombe.

Hestercombe House, which was previously the headquarters for the Somerset Fire Brigade, was acquired by Hestercombe Gardens Trust in 2013, with Hestercombe Gallery opening in 2014.

Alex Hartley

(born 1963, West Byfleet)

Alex Hartley graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1990 and lives and works in Devon. His work addresses our complex attitudes to the built and natural environments through a practice that encompasses wall-based sculptural photographic compositions, large-scale architectural installations, filmmaking, climbing and participatory site-specific works. Uniting these works is an exploration of modern architecture and the ways in which it is conceived and presented.

Alongside Hartley’s gallery practice, he has developed a series of works in the public realm that test notions of utopia and the relationship between the individual and the environment. Nowhereisland, originally part of the Cultural Olympiad 2012, resulted in a new nation being formed from a previously undiscovered island, while the participatory and collaborative artwork The Clearing (with Tom James) occupied the grounds at Compton Verney during 2017. Alongside his installation at Hestercombe Gallery, in Summer 2018, Hartley is building a large-scale modernist ruin for English Heritage at Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire.

Hartley was commission winner for Compton Verney (2017-2022); Fleck Fellow, The Banff Centre, Canada (2017); won the Coal Prix Arts Foundation Award and Arts Foundation Award (2015); was the National Trust for Scotland Artist in Residence, St. Kilda (2013); and (with Nowhereisland) participated in Artists Taking the Lead, Cultural Olympiad (2012). Other awards include the Linklaters Commission, Barbican, London (2005); and Sculpture at Goodwood ART2000 Commission Prize, London (2000).

Solo exhibitions include: The Houses, Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2018); After You Left, Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2016); A Gentle Collapsing II , outdoor installation at Victoria Miro Gallery (2016-18); The World is Still Big, Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2011); Leeds Metropolitan Gallery, Leeds (2008); Edinburgh Art Festival Exhibition, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2007); Outside, Distrito Cuatro, Madrid (2003); Galerie Ulrich Fiedler, Cologne (1998); and Galerie Gilles Peyroulet, Paris (1995).

Group exhibitions include: The Other Place, KØS Museum for art in public spaces, Køge, Denmark (2019); Zero point of orientation. Photography as a location in the room, DZ Bank AG, Frankfurt (2019); Nowhere, Yokohama Triennial, Yokohama (2017); Transparency, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2017); Vigil, Lookout, Folkestone Triennial, Folkestone; Misbehaving the city, Blaffer Museum, Huston (2014); Buildering Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio (2014); ARCTIC, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2013); Focal Points: Art and Photography, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester (2012); and The Ship—The Art of Climate Change, Natural History Museum, National Conservation Centre Liverpool Biennale, Liverpool (2006).

Hartley is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, UK.

Liz Nicol

(b.1956, Liverpool)

Liz Nicol is a photographer who lives and works in Exeter and Venice. Her recent projects are responses to places of conflict, including WW1 sites of commemoration in France and Belgium, the politically contested space of the Green Line in Cyprus and the fragile ecology of the salt marshes of the Venetian Lagoon. She predominantly works with analogue black and white photography and cyanotype, an early camera-less process, using these techniques to evidence and elucidate a sense of place.

Alongside her photographic practice, Nicol has had a long career in education as a teacher and senior manager. Until 2018 she was Associate Professor of Photography at University of Plymouth and her research included a residency at Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC), Cyprus established through the Land/Water and the Visual Arts research group at Plymouth University (2013) and Remember Me: The Changing face of Memorialisation, an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded project in collaboration with Hull University (2015–2018). As one of the project’s co-investigators, she developed an interest in the national identity of WW1 monuments, which led to her work on war cemeteries designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Solo exhibitions include: Endlessness, The Broderick Gallery, Hull (2018); Nella Veduta, Serra dei Giardini, Venice, Venice (2018); Field Studies of the Venetian Lagoon, Torre Massimiliana, Sant Erasmo, Venice (2016); Dialogues, Casa Caburlotto, Venice (2014); Umbra Penumbra, Trattoria dei Tosi, Venice (2013). Figureheads, Viewfinder Photography Gallery, Greenwich, London (2008); St Mary’s Lighthouse, Newcastle (2004); Stalled, STATION, Bristol (2002); Viewing Distance – A Retrospective, Haugesund Billedgalleri, Bergen, Norway (2001); Fathom, Mission Gallery, Swansea (1999); Image Centre of Photography, Arhus, Denmark (1999); and The Rubber Band Project, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth (1997).

Selected group exhibitions include: Places Remember (two-person show with John Spinks), Peninsula Art Gallery, Plymouth University (2018); Layers of Visibility, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC) Cyprus (2018/19 ); (o)ther indications, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, Cyprus (2013/14); Trace & Transience, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, Exeter (2007); UNEASY SPACES, NYU, New York (2006); EAST international, Norwich (2004); Littoral, Swedish Storehouse-Museum, Stade, Maritime Museum Wischhafen/Elbe & Association of Arts, Freiburg/Elbe (2001); Shifting Horizons: Women’s Landscape Photography Now, Q Gallery & Derby Museum & Art Gallery (2001) and MAC, Birmingham (2000); Behind the Scenes, IKON touring, (1998/99); Viewing Distance, Newlyn Orion Art Gallery (1996); and ‘Heaven’s Embroidered ClothsCameraless Photography, National Museum of Photography Film & Television, Bradford (1995).

Oliver Sutherland

(b. 1985, Cornwall)

Oliver Sutherland, Hestercombe’s 2018-19 Artist in Residence, lives and works in Bristol and graduated with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art in 2012.

Sutherland’s work, which often takes the form of installation and immersive screen-based and audio artworks, examines the language of digital production, focusing on the relationship between content, tool and user. Recently he has worked with Falmouth University and Centroid Motion Capture Studios to focus on the physical attributes of Motion Capture as a sculptural and object based performance. During his residency at Hestercombe, he has experimented with a range of different technologies and researched different aspects of the estate, with a particular focus on the mechanisms used to orchestrate natural space in the construction of the gardens.

Sutherland was an associate artist as part of the Tate St Ives Artists Programme 2015, a recipient of the CMIR and Spike Island Moving Image Bursary 2016 and undertook the Folkskola Residency in Sweden, 2018.

Solo exhibitions include: And then…, Spike Island, Bristol & The Gallery, Plymouth College of Art, 2017; and Untitled (Loosing It), Recent Activity, Birmingham, 2016.

Group exhibitions include: Open Sound, Out Post Gallery, Norwich. 2018; Intensive Care, Bureau Europa, Maastricht 2017; Mystic Service, Kiosk 7, Copenhagen, 2017; Club Video (screening with Cara Tolmie), SWG3 Gallery, Glasgow, 2016; Big Screen Programme, Focal Point Gallery, Southend, 2016; This is Living, The Approach Gallery, London, 2016; C~C, Tate St Ives, Cornwall, 2016; After/Hours/Drop/Box, Hackney Picturehouse, London, 2014; Home Theatre, Baró Galeria, Sao Paulo, 2013; Brand Innovations For Ubiquitous Authorship, Carroll/Fletcher, London, 2013.