sarah bennett



A site-based project exploring labour and the management of landscape and nature within Hestercombe House and its historic gardens in Somerset, resulted in five new artworks by Bennett: Cultivar; Island Gracing; Pear Pond I and II; Seolfur; and 'service is no inheritance'. The work was exhibited in November 2018-February 2019 as Materiality: Provisional States alongside new artworks by artists Megan Calver and Philippa Lawrence, and curated by Tim Martin. Silver, with its reflective quality, emerged as a significant material early on - mirroring the 'pull of the eye' - i.e. the shift of focus from reflection to surface to depth when staring into Bampfylde’s eighteenth-century pear pond. Drawing on glass with liquid silver nitrate provided the means to photographically capture multiple reflections in Pear Pond I and II.
pear pond
A similar mirroring quality is apparent in the watercourses of the East and West Rill, with Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘silvery’ plantings amongst Lutyens’ symmetrical stonework being viewed to best effect from the gallery windows overlooking the garden where Cultivar was installed. Miniscule seeds from the Jekyll plants were drawn (using a microscope) in silverpoint, and viewed as 35mm slides in handheld viewfinders. Silverpoint renders the seed as both image and substance, with the silver gradually tarnishing, whilst the transformative act of drawing and detailed precision encapsulates each seed’s potential to flourish in the museal garden below.
Floral patterns abound in the decorative needle-points adorning the amassed footstools in “service is no inheritance”, referring to a well-worn saying amongst household servants. The 15 footstools, without their accompanying chairs, appear as a somewhat futile assembly, with their unruly stitches and reverse side workings exposed, mimicking the assorted furnishings that so frequently inhabit former stately homes.
In Seolfur silver plate embellishes the cutting edges of discarded gardening tools, recalling the constant maintenance of the estate.
Hestercombe, with its privileged past and current heritage obligations, prompts questions about dominant narratives. The recent discovery of a former Elizabethan Water Garden at Hestercombe, and subsequent research into such historical fantasies, led to the production of Island Gracing, a short video that obliquely addresses the question of authenticity, heritage and climate change.
Island Gracing

Island Gracing (2018)
sarah bennett © 2019