Search This Blog


Send Davina your news and comments

2 October 2011

They said it changes when the sun goes down...

Over the river going out of town you'll find Hestercombe gardens, the venue for a special Art weeks event:

"A Night of Light' presents an evening journey through Hestercombe Gardens as darkness descends. By subtly highlighting these historic gardens and their place in the history of garden design it features the work of 14 artists and projects that respond to either landscape or make artworks for very specific contexts. Light, in its many forms, is used here to heighten the viewers' awareness of differing aspects of the landscape and gardens be they historical, ephemeral, botanical, social, zoological or geographical."

Friday the 30th of September, and the event 'A Night of light' is finally here! Myself and my best friend, Jess were not going to miss the opportunity to see light, sound and site specific art works in Taunton's Hestercombe gardens in the dark. It just sounded too cool to miss! In fact we almost didn't get in, as tickets had completely sold out! However, we were lucky this time as there were a couple of volunteering opportunities to be taken up that meant we could get in and see the show after all.
The event as an experience was really good fun, like 'Sheds' you were given a map of the gardens showing the locations of the artworks along the way. I think the success of this event was being able to discover and follow the route on the map around the gardens with 13 artworks spaced at good intervals along the way allowing you to pause and enjoy the scenery on the way to the next artwork location. The atmosphere created by the large numbers of people visiting made it also a lively and entertaining evening which was heightened by the excitement of people's children who were, possibly as excited as me, to be running around Hestercombe gardens in the dark!

The art work on show is where I am more torn in my opinion, from loving some pieces like Mark Anderson's 'Kinetic flowers' and 'Woodpecker' pieces which really lived up to my expectations of 'A Night of light' in the way that they used 'light' and lots of it! The piece, 'Woodpecker' really made use of the space of the trees in Hestercombe, drawing your attention to the architecture of the trees as the green lights jumped from one tree to another along with the sound of a woodpecker which made you think about the wildlife within the gardens as well as drawing your attention to the garden itself. Similarly, Simon Hitchen's piece, 'Soul shadow' (a large mirror standing at the edge of the lake that had been lit on one side creating a long 'shadow' of light) was quite subtle but also beautiful as it was in context with its surroundings of the lake where you had similar reflections of light hitting the surface of the water. The continuity of this then followed by Tim Martin's graphic animation, 'Temple' on the Tempe Arbour in Hestercombe (the building is up quite high above the gardens)which also reflected back down onto the surface of the water.

Given the dramatic spaces that are on offer in Hestercombe I think the disappointment for me, in 'A Night of Light' came from the use of too many videos shown on television screens with several being shown in buildings/covered areas in the grounds of the gardens. The actual videowork being shown was ok, but I think given the context it was disappointing to have them shown on flat TV screens in rooms. Why was there not more use of projectors onto the outside of the buildings or gardens, for example? There is so much opportunity to use the space, but instead we are viewing videos in rooms and in tunnels behind metal bars(even if the sound was amplified by the tunnel as a space, why not just have the sound and no images?). To be fair I have no technical skill or expertise in any of the mediums that were on show during this event so I can only speculate at the sorts of things I would like to have seen happen without really knowing how technically possible it would be to make a reality. At the same time though, I found a lot of the art that was on show almost too subtle, slick or conceptual. All of which, are things that, if I am being honest, dislike in art as a rule (I don't mind it in moderation, sometimes...). Interestingly, the longer I spent with some work the more I did come to appreciate it, for example Chloe Brooks' piece (pictured below) became more endearing and less like an MDF stage set the longer I spent with it in the space. It was actually my friend that noticed the reflection the archway made in the pond (pictured in the photo below) and it did conjure up images of Indian architecture in relation to the space(and what the artist intended to do). I'm pleased that I was encouraged to look at the work for a sustained length of time as it was worth it and also a learning experience in terms of fighting with my own impatience in viewing art work and the benefits of staying with a piece of work for longer periods of time.

The show was definitely contemporary and despite my personal dislike of some of the work I acknowledge that having all kinds of art in Somerset is a very healthy thing. As someone said to me during the evening, "I'm a maxamalist not a minimalist." So true! I would have had gardening tools hanging from all the trees and bushes, I'd have planted some spades covered it in paint and lit it all up with fireworks! I am of course exaggerating to make a point and maybe that's because I like theatrics or am a little bit tacky, but if I had a canvas like Hestercombe why hold back? I would have loved a little bit more.

(above) Chloe Brooks' 'Plans for portals'
"Plans for portals' is a remaking of the India Gate, New Delhi on a domestic scale, and made with modern building materials. Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the original monument about 10 years after his additions of the Orangery and Dutch gardens at Hestercombe. Remaking the 'Gate' and positioning it within the environs that it references almost brings it back full circle. And yet, having undergone this double displacement, in this context the structure seems somewhat awkward, forcing a re-evaluation of both the place it inhabits and from where it came."

(above) Meg Calver and Tim Martin's 'These walls have ears' (sound installation in the Orangery)

(above and below) In the day and in the night photos of Mark Anderson's 'Kinetic flowers'
"Mark Anderson's work covers a broad spectrum, communing sound, light, kinetics, fire, pyrotechnic elements and frequently involving specially designed 'musical' apparatus, to create installations and performances for site specific outdoor events. Kinetic flowers was originally commissioned for Power Plant, an international touring sit specific show, of sound and light installations."

*Thank you very much to Jess Thorne who gave permission to use her photos on this blog post.

No comments:

Post a Comment