virginia hilyard and sue pedley – home garden

The leaves say it all.  Brown by daylight, swept and composed by the formal contours of the shopfront windows, they lie in a heap of ordinariness; by night transformed green in a topsy-turvy recomposition of garden elements.  Night is green and day is brown. It is as if the colour green has been peeled lamella-thin from the garden’s constituent elements, from photosynthesis and other daylight roles, itself becoming a component in a composition.

Home Garden is what it says it is – a home garden – only one that is fractured, displaced and broken down to elemental parts which are then reassembled across the storefront windows.  Leaves, rose petals, mirrors and the colour green make up its composite parts,  as do space and volume.  Like a series of crazy puns or a commentary on the extremes of landscape architecture, the home garden is shaped, pummeled, transformed in gestures of radical excess, matched only by the vapour cooking of the famed Spanish restaurant, El Bulli, all infusions and intensifications of the original matter of foodstuffs.

If El Bulli could seemingly distill a cocktail into its essence, by infusing it into sticks of sugar cane, or encase intense olive tasting liquid inside oval gelatin spheres to create olives more intense than the real thing (doing a similar thing with peanuts, replacing what is interior to its shell with an intensified peanut filling), then something akin to this culinary transference of ethers and essences is taking place in the green glow of Home Garden’s night sky, achieved by covering the window fluoros with vivid green transparencies.  It is as if green, the colour, an attribute of things, had itself materialized as a kind of molecular suffusion, become a gas. A cheap trick, for sure, but working all the better for the lack of pretension.

Home Garden also takes architectural space and volume and submits them to the equally ethereal carnival tricks of mirror play.   A corner of the world borrowed from over the other side of the street protrudes into the wall, extending the space into where there is none.  In a pair of facing windows one part of the viewer’s body is cut off at the knees only for ‘below-the-knees’ to appear reflected in the opposite window.  Teenagers and entire families have been spotted engaging.

It’s the kind of play encountered in Luna Park’s Coney Island, in the closed circuits of an entertainment park, not mixing it up in the street.  This is why it usually takes a while for the average passer by to figure it out.  I’ve seen teenagers sitting on our front step, eating their take-aways, then begin to horse around with the mirrors in the way that teenagers are not too self-conscious to do. Encouraged by their mates they play around more and then they begin to see that the mirrors are not just randomly placed, that tricks have been designed to happen, and then only at certain angles.  In an art gallery patrons would experiment, trying to figure out why this prosaic looking stuff was a work, but in the street habits are a little different and it takes a more curious idler to work out how to engage.

You don’t expect this in the main street, and not all the mirrors work a ‘magic’.  Only by trial and error in exploring the work do you twig (excuse pun) that more is going on here than filling  the storefront windows with petals and leaves.  Indeed the work only really activates at night when you realise that that crazy green light is a peel, part of the overall decomposition of what makes up a regular garden.  The leaves, prosaically brown, and everyday, themselves begin to look torn apart and decomposed through the conversation with the rose petals, which are none other than torn up flowers.  As if  by the contagion of analogy, the leaves begin to resignify like torn up trees, and the colour green ripped from the leaves by autumn, resignifies, suffused as an atmosphere by night.

The more time you spend noticing, looking attentively while thinking, the more this odd collection of ordinary stuff with the weird green light begins to resemble a playful poetic assemblage in which everything, the space, light, location, colour, the trees, flowers, even the passers by who stop to engage,  have been cut up, displaced.

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