Preview: More Questions Than Answers, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London
The artist who says it with flowers
Tuesday 20 May 2008
Is it art or is it horticulture? The first ever art installation at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, More Questions than Answers, is a distinct hybrid. White roses form a body with red petals representing a bloodstain. Enclosed by a black wall, the figure lies on a black slab against a green backdrop of duckweed, the entrance to the underworld.
This "sculpture" on a small, garden-sized plot at the show has been created by the artist and garden designer Tony Smith. "It expresses my exasperation with humanity and what it is capable of. When I think about this conundrum, I realise there are far more questions than answers," says Smith. "Look at the effort we expend on health and safety regulations, supposedly to make the world safer, yet we send troops to hostile environments without adequate safety equipment. Humans don't have a sense of perspective. If we did we'd realise how utterly insignificant we are."
Smith won a Gold Medal and Best Conceptual Garden at the 2007 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for his garden In Digestion, a series of black and white walls with carnivorous plants representing a digestive tract, surrounded by four million lettuce seedlings. "It examined the assimilation of food and information in a decadent society," explains Smith.
He began gardening professionally in 2000, but kept having ideas for turning horticulture into an art form. "Many gardens at Chelsea have a sculptural element, but what is a little more unusual is that my piece is an installation with a horticultural element. Like a sculptor might use bronze, I use plants to express myself," says Smith. "There is a lot of debate in the gardening world as to what is or isn't a garden, but Chelsea is looking at things with an open mind this year.
"In Digestion was right on the edge of horticulture and art, but this new installation isn't even pretending to be a garden, so the usual rules won't apply to me, and I can't even be judged for a medal."
To 24 May ( www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea)
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