Purists might believe that gardens are for plants, pots of plants, and seats. Perhaps grand gardens can have a statue or three, but small gardens, decorated with artworks or craftworks, look either pretentious, naff, or both. That purism itself can be pretentious is shown by an exhibition currently running in Pam Tatam’s excellent garden at Hall Farm, Harpswell, Lincolnshire.
Pam and husband Mark have been holding this event for eleven years now, this year’s being held in association with the Ropewalk gallery, Barton upon Humber. The combination has come up with a wide range of ceramicists, photographers, metal workers, glass workers, fountaineers, and more. Though there are tents displaying less weatherproof work, it is the garden that really shows off how much fun, elegance, and real augmentation of a garden’s delights, can be had without spending immodest sums of money.
Curiously, some of the most effective work is the most abstract, and furthest removed from plant forms: plants so easily upstage anything anything that attempts to imitate them.
Animals are good; I loved Gill Hobson’s shoal of glass fish glinting from the shadowy branches of an apple tree, though more terrestrial were pigs in wire netting, lots of ceramic or wood and iron chickens, rather a number of Julia Hulme’s enchanting hares in iron glazed ceramic. Gardeners with a taste for danger, could have a handsome tiger in painted aluminium by Carlos Dare, though his sleek cheetah would be fun amongst asters and late summer grasses. His almost life-sized silver horse would need some fairly hefty thought. Much easier to use, and great fun, were the numbers of roosting bats hanging from gates or branches, and in painted recycled copper by Michael Kusz. The tangle of octopus tentacles surrounding a few water jets in the pond I found funny but probably a joke that would soon become deeply resistable.
Naturally, the human form was much in evidence, from faeries for whimsical gardeners to very Arthurian planters for gardeners into that particular fantasy. None, to my mind, especially convincing.
However, amongst abstract works, there were some very fine things indeed. Most enjoyable of all were the various mobiles, whether bars of colour slowly making new arrangements of themselves in the breeze, or sparkling globes of transparent plastic swirling busily on stainless steel stakes.
Static were some gorgeous garden ‘jewels’, some just bars of fused glass, others (Gill Hobson again), great circles or scrolls of stainless steel, wire, and multicoloured glass discs. The simple bars looked wonderful amongst flowers with similar colouring. The ‘jewels’ just worked, a garden making a far more interesting setting for them than either house or gallery.
The exhibition runs until 19th June, and all items are for sale.
Hall Farm, apart from the handsome gardens, also has an plant nursery filled with rather too many desirable plants. All information at http://www.hall-farm.co.uk
The Ropewalk info. is at http://www.the-ropewalk.co.uk