Country: The gardener as exhibitionist
Tony Heywood's latest creation really is a work of art - which is why it's in a gallery.
Saturday 05 June 1999
My first reaction was, if this is a garden, where are the plants? There is certainly lawn, which is an odd sight as you look in from outside. Three large glass tanks, suitable for fish, have been set down on the lawn; they are surrounded by volcanic pebble, giving an oriental effect. Set into the lawn near the door, for anyone visiting the exhibition to walk on, is a flat glass tank or press, painted on the surface, like the other tanks and frames on the walls.
All these glass shapes have been filled with a mixture of organic and inorganic objects: compost with seeds in, ferns, orchids, two halves of a banana that will turn to mould, feathers. A rabbit's head signifies the wildness of a garden, and wigs represent human growth. As the exhibition continues seeds will put out roots and shoots and plants will push against the glass sides. When they are too big for the large tanks they will be moved to the glass press and people will walk on them and compress them.
All this is designed by Tony Heywood to explore his belief that creating a garden is a process, not something instantaneous - despite what television shows might have us believe. He feels that the idea that a garden is little more than exterior wallpaper is a travesty: a garden is not an object, but an experience, something out of the control of the person who created it.
Heywood believes most forms of art have become too passive, and this exhibition is his attempt to show that an aesthetic experience can also involve participation. But he is clearly interested in providing a hands- on experience as much as he is in talking about his art. When he is not involved in the gallery world, Tony Heywood is also head gardener for the Hyde Park Estate. Ask him whether he is artist or gardener first, and he finds it difficult to separate the two.
Mulch is an extreme example of what Heywood has been attempting since 1984, when he took over his present duties. He has no responsibility for Hyde Park itself but cares for the squares and roof gardens of a triangle of land to the north, owned by the Church Commissioners. Some parts of the estate are more conservative than others: the residents of Hyde Park Square turned down snail-shaped sculptures to be hung in their trees. Heywood admits that there are murmurings that he spends too much time being creative and not enough cutting the grass!
The glass press he is using in his exhibition has given rise to another controversial idea; he would like to see the container used to keep the ashes of a loved one, which could be sprinkled among stones, mosses and other plant material; personal possessions could be put in, too. This combines the ideas of life, death and regeneration that Tony Heywood feels are so vital to any garden, even one in a gallery.
Mulch is at the Fordham Gallery, 20 Fordham Street, London E1 from today until 25 June. Opening hours: noon-7pm Monday-Friday, 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils