Art exhibition in a former garden centre examines our relationship with nature

Omved Gardens

Omved Gardens - Credit: Archant

Rewind/Rewild at Omved Gardens in Highgate shows work about the extinction of Scottish wolves and the Great Auk to bowls of festering pond weed

Omved Gardens

Omved Gardens - Credit: Archant

A former garden centre has been converted into a light-filled event space that is appropriately hosting an art show about our relationship with nature.

Set in beautiful grounds off Highgate Hill, Omved Gardens is the venue for Rewind/Rewild, which assembles work by 10 artists with subjects ranging from the extinction of Scottish wolves and the Great Auk, to the garden of Eden and festering pond weed.

Previously leased to Capital Gardens who are based in Alexandra Palace, the space in Townsend Yard is perfect for the exhibition, according to Stroud Green resident Anna Souter, who co-curates the show: “It’s an amazing setting of former greenhouses in huge gardens redesigned by an architect to create a modernist space,” she says. “Most of the walls are made of glass so when you look up you see these trees moving in the breeze. It’s so different from the traditional windowless white cube space of most galleries, which are closed off from the world and can make you feel the art exists outside of time and real life.

“Because the glasshouse is a perforated space, it emphasises the impact of what you are looking at, and asks how art has a role to play in a wider ecosystem.”

Omved Gardens

Omved Gardens - Credit: Archant

That ties in nicely with the exhibition’s theme of ‘rewilding.’

Souter describes the idea as “an alternative to the conservation movement which looks at landscape and suggests ways we can restore a balance to the ecosystem”.

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“Rather than intervening or prioritising things like farming, you take a step back and allow natural processes to resume.”

Eradicating species from an area can create what are termed: ‘trophic cascades’ she says.

Omved Gardens Picture Credit: Thomas Broadhead

Omved Gardens Picture Credit: Thomas Broadhead - Credit: Archant

“It’s hard to know what the effect of changing something will be, but there are keystone species which are essential to an ecosystem and removing that plant or animal will have an unintended but widespread knock on effect on its surroundings.

“Rewilding can involve reintroducing these native species where they have been wiped out by habitat loss or other forms of human interference. The exhibition is a lens for thinking about the role of human beings within the natural world and whether we can coexist with other species in a productive rather than a controlling way.

Ranging from video installations, to sculpture and photographs, the exhibition includes Beatrice Searle’s Foregathered wi The Beast, about the last wolf killed in Scotland.

A stone by a layby of the A9 outside Brora records Polson, the hunter who killed the last wolf in Scotland ‘about the year 1700’.

One of Beatrice Searle's exhibits in Rewind /Rewild

One of Beatrice Searle's exhibits in Rewind /Rewild - Credit: Archant

“My thought was to make a new stone that would address the Polson stone from across the lay-by and offer an alternative version of events- a memorial to the last wolf, a lament, a protest, a hope for the future,” says Searle who co-curates the exhibition.

“The guerilla act of making and installing a stone that speaks directly into the space left by the wolves aims to challenge the story that has persisted for three centuries, remake the legacy of wolves in Scotland and mark the place as the start of the demise of the Highland ecosystem.”

Souter says that in places such as America where wolves have been reintroduced it has “increased the biodiversity and fertility of that landscape.”

“Her monument expresses hopes that wolves might return.”

Becoming Plant by Julia Crabtree and William Evans photo: Original&theCopy

Becoming Plant by Julia Crabtree and William Evans photo: Original&theCopy - Credit: Archant

In Clenched, Julia Crabtree and William Evans fill blown glass vessels with water and pond weed and watche how they interact with their surroundings.

“There is a living element as changes in air and response to light and bacteria creates a shared agency between the artists and the plants, and references the interconnectivity between humans and natural world,” says Souter.

“We don’t lilve outside the world we are very much part of it.”

Marcus Coates’ Apology to The Great Auk saw him travel to Newfoundland to gather a community of local residents including the Mayor of the local town to read out an apology to the flightless bird, which was last spotted off that coast in 1852.

Meanwhile Rodrigo Arteaga’s Diorama is a large mobile which rotates and balances a dog, a log, a stick and a plant.

As a metaphor for our coexistence with nature, it’s perfect: “Remove one and the whole work collapses”.

Rewind/Rewild runs at Omved Gardens, Townsend Yard, Highgate from May 1-7 and includes a one day rewilding symposium with scientists and artists.