The final section of the exhibition shows how contemporary artists are still drawn to the conceptual and visual framework of the garden. With an increasingly concentrated urban population, many people have become more distanced from nature, and a private garden space is an ever more precious asset. The idea of the garden remains strong in the popular consciousness, but for many it is precisely this - an idea.
The garden’s metaphorical associations grow more ambiguous and more extreme. For many contemporary artists it is still a site for reverie and imaginative potential, but it also stands for a lost world, a place that is neglected, interfered with and under threat.
To some, the garden reveals in microcosm what has happened to nature as a whole; controlled, cultivated, and encroached. The contemporary garden is one of extremes, where much is imagined and idealized, and imperfections and contrivances are celebrated: still perhaps an ‘arcadia’, if an unlikely one.
Marc Quinn Italian Landscape (Z) 2000
This is one of a series of photos Quinn took of his frozen flower garden. One of its most striking features was the vivid and almost gaudy colours of the flowers. They were so bright and perfect it was hard to think of them as ‘real’. This photograph captures this powerfully.
Quinn used a pigment printing process which doesn’t fade like photographic dye, extending the life of the image considerably. The photos ‘preserve’ the flowers in a way which echoes the freezing process of the larger project.