Vincent Fecteau and Forests and Gardens of South India: Hugh Cleghorn (1820 - 1895)

15 May - 4 July 2010. Tues - Sun, 10am - 5.30pm

This exhibition was the first in a UK public gallery for Californian artist Vincent Fecteau.  On display in the three ground floor rooms, the exhibition was shown simultaneously with Forests and Gardens of South India - a selection of 55 drawings of Indian plants, commissioned by the father of forest conservation, Hugh Cleghorn (1820  - 1895), held in the archives of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

These two exhibitions represented the latest in a series of pairings in which leading contemporary artisits are invited to exhibit new work - made in the knowledge that it will be accompanied by botanical drawings from the Garden's (and other) archives. Previous aritists in the series have included: Cerith Wyn Evans; Louise Bourgeois; John Cage & Merce Cunningham, Rudolf Stingel and Laura Owens.

The six sculptures in the exhibition were first exhibited at greengrassi, London earlier this year, one of their distinguishing features is that they are reversible; the outward-facing side exhibited in London was inward-facing at Inverleith House. The sculptures (all completed in 2010) were constructed from many layers of papier mache, over which acrylic paint was applied: the material itself could be seen forming the hollow cylinders from which the work was hung.  The sculptures that were on display were selected and installed by the artist and the following extract from a 2010 interview by Bruce Hainley (publiched in May 10 edition of Frieze Magazine) provides further detail.

'These most recent pieces started with papier mache scraps from several years worth of cutting and reworking sculptures. I glued these scraps to cardboard flower boxes, cut some of the boxes in hald, joinging the halves back to back and started my usual process of adding and subracting forms, shapes with papier mache. Serveral years ago I made some relief pieces for a public art project and decided to revisit the problems of wall mounted sculpture. I thought that it might be interesting to see if it was possible to make sculptures with no front, back, top or bottom. When I decided that these pieices would be hung on the wall and be reversible, I knew that the mechanism of this movement and installation should be clear and simple: hang from one post, no extra support. the forms and the fact that they are reversible - that was complicated enough. It seemed important to me that the 'how' was as honest as possible. The cardboard tubes cut through the form and, I think, suggest that there is another side, another way to hang, allowing you to see the nail and the wall. As with everything I make, the engineering part was all trial and error. I figured out how to get the ieces to balance just by altering them over and over. so, yeah, the forms were definitely informed by the physical limitations of hanging on a wall and being reversible. The inside of the tubes expose the raw papier mache and the mechanism of the piece, so I guess it is like a 'behind-the-scenes' view. Maybe the insides of the tubes are the pieces' true 'backs' or 'bottoms'.

Review in the Scotsman

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)