The South London Gallery’s new permanent garden was created by the artist Gabriel Orozco, with support from 6a architects and horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Gabriel Orozco, who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Tokyo, is one of the leading artists of his generation. He has exhibited extensively internationally and periodically in London including a major mid-career retrospective at Tate Modern in 2011. He has never before designed a garden, but embraced the challenge of transforming a largely inaccessible paved area of land at the back of the SLG’s main building into a unique sculptural work as part of his artistic practice.
Spanning sculpture, drawing, photography and video, much of Orozco’s work stems from his idiosyncratic observations of contemporary urban environments, revealing poetry in unexpected locations or the often playful combination of everyday objects. The recurrence of circles in his work, whether in nature or man-made objects (puddles, balls, wheels), or within paintings and drawings, is carried through to his design for the garden. Establishing a tension between symmetry and asymmetry, a geometry of intertwining circles intricately outlined in brick dimensioned York stone subtly maps a series of discreet spaces or notional rooms. Each is lent its own distinctive character through slight shifts in form or by being at different levels, variously planted or featuring seating, a sink, water butt or welcome bowl built up from the stone bricks. The various levels and spaces can be used interchangeably for sitting, eating, playing or showing work by other artists, reflecting the multiple activities the garden will be used for. The choice of materials was drawn from the language of the gallery’s Victorian building and includes bricks from the newly opened up rear facade. Playing on the idea of an urban ruin, the garden will gradually evolve to become rambling and overgrown with different grasses, low level creepers and fragrant plants.
An important feature of the garden is a new planted walkway providing a direct point of access for residents of Sceaux Gardens housing estate, where the SLG has run art programmes for a number of years, including a new welcome area called the Fox Reception.
The garden is open to the public every weekend and will be used by invited groups during the week.
The South London Gallery is immensely grateful for the very generous support of all those who have funded the garden and would like to thank Arts Council England, Art Fund, Marian Goodman Gallery, Outset Young Production Fund, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts, Edwin Fox Foundation, The Henry Moore Foundation, Southwark Council’s ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ programme, The Ampersand Foundation, Finnis Scott Foundation, The London Community Foundation, The Panton Trust, Vicky Hughes, Catherine Petitgas and other donors.
Image: South London Gallery garden by Gabriel Orozco, 2016 (c) Gabriel Orozco. Photo: Andy Stagg