Thinking the Sculpture Garden Art, Plant, Landscape
This innovative book poses two, deceptively simple, questions: what is a sculpture garden, and what happens when you give equal weight to the main elements of landscape, planting and artwork?
Its wide-ranging frame of reference, including the USA, Europe and Japan, is brought into focus through Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, Cornwall, with which the book begins and ends. Effectively less than 15 years old, and largely the work of one man, Tremenheere affords an opportunity to examine as work-in-progress the creation of a new kind of sculpture garden. Including a historical overview, the book traverses multiple ways of seeing and experiencing sculpture gardens, culminating in an exploration of their relevance as 'cultural ecology' in the context of globalisation, urbanisation and climate change. The thinking here is non-dualist and broadly aligned with New Materialisms and Material Feminisms to explore our place as humans in the non-human world on which we depend. Eminent contributors, including John Dixon Hunt, George Descombes, Bernard Lassus and David Leatherbarrow, approach these issues through practices and theories of landscape architecture; garden and art making; history and writing; and philosophy.
Richly illustrated with over 100 images, including a colour plate section, the book will primarily appeal to those engaged in professional or academic research, along with sculpture garden visitors, who will find new and surprising ways of experiencing plants and art in natural and urban settings.
‘What happens if you take landscape, art and planting as equals in the Sculpture Garden?’ This is the question, ‘deceptively simple’, with which editor Penny Florence sets out. Essays ebb and flow around these common themes, arranging objects and ideas like Lee Ufan’s ‘tapestries of intimate breathing’. Gay Watson writes that the Buddhist philosophy of complementarity and the promotion of awareness was a ‘core intention’ of the Cornish Tremenheere Sculpture Garden – this book’s touchstone. Rippling the contradictory opposition of categories that has patterned western discourse on site-specificity and nature-culture relation so far, the intention of this ‘other’ mode of thinking-writing-breathing is to change consciousness. It’s a wonderful achievement with a beautiful structure, pace and energy. Quite unlike any other book on sculpture gardens I know!
Jane Rendell, author of The Architecture of Psychoanalysis (2017) and Site-Writing (2011) is Professor of Critical Spatial Practice at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.
This book is a delight: at once sharply focussed and diffused, it draws together some of the foremost theorists and practitioners of garden design, and invites us to rethink our understanding not just of sculpture in gardens but of gardens as the sculpting of experience. A hybrid volume exploring hybridity, Florence’s book combines intense insights and compelling overviews as it ranges from the established excitements of Little Sparta and the Louisiana Sculpture Park to the ongoing creation of Cornwall’s Tremenheere, and from the Mono-Ha school to the betweenness of Bernard Lassus.
Professor Stephen Bending, University of Southampton