The sky is moving sideways so she said. On Monday we got slightly sunburnt installing the work in the last of the Summer sunshine, on Tuesday evening for the private view we all got rather wet. The sound of the rain, the near silence of the North London twilight and well, it was perfect weather for the opening night performances and the ritual of it all (although viewing the actual pieces as the light failed was a little bit of a challenge). A week-long sculpture trail in the rather rewarding grounds of the historical house once owned by ink magnate and philanthropist Henry Charles “Inky” Stephens then, although how much of it actually sculpture is up for debate – a gathering of ephemeral sculptures? Installation? The work in eleven invited artists, curated by Rebekah Dean, an artist in her own right, last seen co-curating that excellent Mother’s Ruin exhibition and letting the gin run free with Julia Maddison at the equally interesting House Mill Gallery over here in East London – Let the gin run free, a drop of mother’s ruin and a lot lot more at The House Mill Gallery, London…
Objectively reviewing something you’re taking part in is never that, well, you know, never that objective and way way too much about blowing your own damn look-at-me trumpet again, it is a dirty job, someone has to do it and we we do care a lot. The install day was mostly a pre-occupation with my own piece, that and helping a couple of other artists (ladders in sinking compost heaps and climbing ancient trees in the name of art), that and the fact that not everything was installed by the time I left for the noise of the Northern Line and a retreat to the studio and another demanding deadline. Tuesday’s open and so called Private View was as the light quickly faded and the performances witnessed, well by the time the performance was done with the rain and more importantly the gloom made viewing (and photographing) everything rather impossible. I had hoped to arrive a little earlier and take a look but hey, the parky wasn’t up for that and no, you can’t come in for another half hours, more than my jobs worth to let you in now. Time that should have been spent following the trail in decent light was instead spent in the pub waiting and well the result is at best an incomplete set of images and at best a fractured view, hopefully enough of a flavour though for it is a rather rewarding trail in a glorious escape of a setting.
More of an installation trail then, I don’t know, a Sculpture Trail fires up images of big formal pieces of sculpture standing in the grounds, dancing around a Henry Moore or at least a weighty Brett Banks stone carving on a plinth – this is not that, this is strange installations in trees, things you’re not quite sure are part of it? This is about paper plates in compost, curious pieces under the trees, things planted by ponds, I like it like this. The first thing you see, once you’ve past the permanent rather formally traditional sculpture, a bronze of regular visitor Spike Milligan by John Somerville, the first thing you see in the distance as you head down the path are the hanging ribbons of Emma Harvey‘s piece Entwine, there it is hanging in an ancient Horse Chestnut tree feeling rather mysteriously Pagan, quietly hanging there just off the main path and just out of reach, demanding your attention from a distance, drawing you in, requiring you linger a little longer as it gently moves under the branches. Mary T Spence has a piece at the top of the trees that sounds as wonderful in the rain as it looks in the sunshine, you really are invited to consider the movement of the sky with Mary’s piece slight up on a hill high up in a tree. Do love those paper plates in the compost, Rebekah Dean‘s own piece, and echo of something from Mother’s Ruin.
Those pieces of Laura Morton-Griffiths in the trees behind the pond certainly make an impact, they look more like theatre props than anything, they’re fun, are some of them are potentially disturbing? I would love to be a fly on a park bench listening to the reaction of the general public – the gardens do appear to be rather popular during the daytime, there’s was certainly quite a bit of opinion offered during the installation. Those big pieces of Laura’s certainly are interesting, not sure if she’s considered how in-tune they are with the grounds? Maybe she has? The audience reaction is interesting, this is a rather conservative are of London (small c but there could be a big one as well, this was Thatcher’s safe seat for many years). Do like Jenny Klein‘s relatively subtle installation in the shade under the trees by the cascade, a quiet piece called White Noise. As for my own piece installed by the pond, we’ll I’ll let you be the judge, 43 Leaves Left – 43 leaves grown on found recycled unwanted wooded flooring found in a skip in Hackney. Yes plant labels were on my mind, yes, I did know the rather golden orange fish were there in the pond, I must confess, for once, an almost quiet satisfaction with a piece of mine (almost).
The performances, a healthy audience called in by a bell, rain falling, trees providing a powerful stage for Monika Tobel‘s silent piece, the pond the right background for Teresa Paiva‘s delicate twilight ritual that gave way to darkness. The Sky is Moving Sideways really is about the daylight though, the pieces interacting with the public, with the sunshine, the wind, the sounds, the ground, the rain, with the heron or the foxes, a set of ephemeral sculptures, a trail of installation pieces in the grounds on grade two listed building in a very conservative part of London, it works. The whole thing works, the whole experience both as viewer and participating artist. It is for only a week, something very much considered by the artists participating I’m sure. It is a visually striking whole, not too imposing, not too demanding, respectful, exciting, correct for such a short run of time. The gardens themselves are wonderfully rewarding, peaceful, engaging, hopefully the art is seen as being equally engaging and indeed a touch challenging during the week it will all spend there. .
Apparently this is London Sculpture Week, I imagine this (unfunded) artist-led event will, as is almost always the case, be largely ignored by the self-appointed art press, the establishment. The contract between what is happening in N3 as the Frieze Sculpture Park officially opens this week is not lost, and yes, as an invited participating artist, it probably isn’t my place to say these things and never mind what’s going on over, what’s going over here where artists lead things almost always look more relevant and indeed exciting to me. The Sky is Moving Sideways is a positive, Rebekah Dean has once again curated well, the engagement feels healthy, it feels good to be part of it, there’s some exciting pieces, I hope you agree. (sw)
The Sky is Moving Sideways is open every day until Sunday September 18th. The nearest tube isFinchley Central, take the Station Road exit. The trail takes place between September 13th and September 18th. The gardens are open from 8pm until 6pm. The cafe is open 9am until 4pm (10am on weekends). Stephens House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, London N3 3QE.
The artists taking part are Helen Billinghurst, Laura Moreton-Griffiths, Sean Worrall, Mary T Spence, Caroline Halliday, Emma Harvey, Lito Apostolakou, Jenny Klein, Teresa Paiva, Monika Tobel and Rebekah Dean
A collection of images, some “borrowed”, some taken in the twilight, camera phone attempts at capturing a flavour or two…
Do click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show..