sarah bennett


materiality: provisional states

Materiality: Provisional States (2018-19) was a site-based project exploring labour and the management of landscape and nature within Hestercombe House and its historic gardens in Somerset, resulting in five new artworks by Bennett: Pear Pond I and II; Cultivar; 'service is no inheritance'; Seolfur and Island Gracing.

The work was exhibited in November 2018-February 2019 alongside new artworks by artists Megan Calver and Philippa Lawrence, and curated by Tim Martin.
Sarah Bennett: cultivar installation at Hestercombe House
Pear Pond I and II

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.
Sarah Bennett: PP image 1

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A similar mirroring quality is apparent in the watercourses of the East and West Rill, with Gertrude Jekyllís 'silvery' plantings amongst Lutyens' symmetrical stonework being viewed to best effect from the gallery windows overlooking the garden where Cultivar was installed. Seeds from Jekyll's 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 act of drawing and detailed precision encapsulates each seedís potential to flourish in the museal garden below.
Sarah Bennett: cultivar images

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  Service is no inheritance

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.
Sarah Bennett: service is no inheritance image

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In Seolfur - old English for silver - the cutting edges of discarded gardening tools are embellished in silver plating, recalling the constant maintenance of the estate. With the wooden shafts removed, the polished silver contrasts enigmatically with the sullied and patinated steel or iron surface of each hoe.
Sarah Bennett: seolfur image

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  Island Gracing

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 screenshot
selected images from Island Gracing (2018)

Island Gracing screenshot 2Island Gracing screenshot 3Island Gracing screenshot 4Island Gracing screenshot 5Island Gracing screenshot 6Island Gracing screenshot 8

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Island Gracing (2018)
(complete video)
  Camerawork: David Salas
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