Friday, 21 June 2013

Vignettes from a suburban front yard



No need for me to dream up an evocative and euphonious title for this post. Artist Vicki Mason has done that for me. Vignettes from a suburban front yard is the name of her just opened exhibition at Craft, in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. And I just opened it.

Thanks to the City of Melbourne and Craft, Vicki was able to craft 35 pieces of jewelry and then set them against silhouettes of houses, big and small. My pictures do it no justice so visit the gallery if you live in or visit Melbourne before 27 July, or take a look at the close up of Standard Rose (red) from the Craft webpage.

In my opening remarks I reflected on two quite different events at the Royal Botanic Gardens over the last couple of weeks. Firstly the vandalism of our Arid Garden, resulting in an outpouring of support from Melbourne and beyond. However it also revived questions about whether cacti are daggy or not to be planted because they are from elsewhere. Both are stupid questions in my mind (as you would guess from my previous writings) but I was pleased to announce that Vicki's art goes a long way to putting such questions to bed (if that's what you do with questions). 

All of the brooches and settings are familiar and...homely. But that's the point. They are non-judgmental and just reflect bits and pieces of our lives, of our front yards, of the plants we plant. Plants are not inherently good or bad! Let's mix it up a bit like Vicki has done today.

The second reflection was on a daffodil that flowered in the Oak Lawn this week. I tweeted a picture which got retweeted with the announcement that spring had arrived. Such optimism! And that's what flowers do. They give us hope even when it isn't really there (in times of war and death).

The daffodil is from elsewhere too but this premature bloom was warmly embraced. A false but charming sign that spring had arrived before winter had even begun. It made me think of one of Vicki's works - The Cheerful Pomegranate - based on her finding artificial flowers tied to the bare stems of a pomegranate in someone's front yard. Surely a hopeful gesture (as is my picture of it...). 


Or of her camellias sprinkled around a tree. We get a second flowering from the camellia by leaving the carpet of fallen blooms. But how long do you leave them there? They turn brown and slippery and eventually you have to clear them away. For a while, you hope they might stay pink forever.

As Vicki said to me when I first saw the works, our relationship with gardens and plants is personal, idiosyncratic and at times humourous. You'll find topiary, odd sized houses, pony tail trees, faux grass and all sorts of clever creations at Craft.

If you can read the subtitle under my blog heading you'll know that I think every plant has a story to tell. When I was Director of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens we awarded a Eureka Prize each year and in announcing the result I always wore a living floral bouquet in my lapel. The flowers would relate in some way to the prize winner and their topic. There was also a connection to be found and it was fun to be 'wearing the garden' as Richard Aitken requotes in his brochure for Vicki's exhibition.

If you wear one of Vicki's pieces, I concluded (at least in my notes...), you will be wearing the suburban garden loud and proud, and you'll definitely have a story to tell.

Notes about Vicki Mason: educated in NZ and Australia; exhibited in Australia, the UK, USA and Sweden (and later this year I think at Artisans in the Gardens in Sydney); clever and creative; and clearly obsessed with plants. For more on her art and craft see this page on e.g.etal or her own site.

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