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Island gardens

review

David Nash: Roche Beech

At the New Art Centre Sculpture Park and Gallery, Roche Court, East Winterslow, Salisbury, until 28 September

Westonbirt International Festival of Gardens 2003

At the National Arboretum, Westonbirt, Tetbury, until 14 September

A small West Country tour will take you to two landscape / sculpture experiences - recent work by David Nash at the outdoor sculpture park of Roche Court, and, following its inauguration last year (AJ 1.8.02), the second Westonbirt International Festival of Gardens.

Sculptor David Nash is known for his work in wood, both living - such as Ash Dome, planted in 1977 near his Blaenau Ffestiniog home - and converted. Some of the latter is assembled into large prismatic solids, often charred in finish, such as Sphere Cube and Pyramid, which is on display at the entrance to Roche Court.

Much sculpting is also done with chainsaws, to make slotted and incised works.

Recently an old beech tree fell at Roche Court, and over only two weeks Nash converted this into a series of pieces now on show in Munkenbeck + Marshall's small gallery (which is weathering very well).

Some of them are assembled from chunks of timber cut into rectilinear prisms, but often with areas of bark still attached, and even the odd branch. This tension between the abstract and the untouched/natural is an interesting direction for Nash, one to watch.

More immediately appealing are the new small sculptures, half-a-metre or less, yet cut by chainsaw.While in earlier works the larger scale and charring tended to suppress the experience of texture, these new uncharred ones, presented rough-cut, push texture into the foreground. The sense of timber and of making are very palpable - the forms more caught between the abstract and the natural, already shifting in shape as the timber dries.

Over at Westonbirt there are some impressive garden entries, but once again the festival has the appearance of island gardens dotted around a field like some half-populated camp site - not helped by fewer built entries this second year. They have tried to draw the whole together by letting the grass grow to meadow height, and entrants Meyer and Silberberg have also intervened with Limelight, sculpting the land into a focal crescent around the central 25m sycamore.

Most architectural of the gardens is Screen 4 by PRP Landscape. The framework is gabions, filled with stone, logs or twigs, or sometimes left open. All this brings the eye to the centre where, around a rectangular pool, four large metal-framed, hinged acrylic panels, with film laminated into them, radiate iridescent light. This light varies with the available sun, and changes too when the panels are turned to different orientations - which, intriguingly, also alters the available routes through the garden.

Anthony Paul shows his experience in the restrained coherence, detailing and execution of The Witness, a formal gridded layout, as much ground as figure, in slate fragments and grasses. Tony Heywood's Split lights up more than his immediate plot with sharply polygonal reflective sculptures on black anthracite ground cover, with some perennials in rows in the background. It is one of the few gardens that is an object to be viewed, without a route through it on which to wander.

Andy Sturgeon and Stephen Reilly's Situation encloses spaces with gabions as does PRP, though with a much finer mesh. Almost alone among the gardens, it tries to engage with the surrounding woodland, reaching out to it with grasses and new saplings.

There is interesting work here, plenty to justify a visit. It is disappointing, though, that two years on, the setting is still at odds with the gardens.

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