Anthea Hamilton

The Garden

Feel free to dwell in our Anthea-Hamilton-designed garden. 

Anthea Hamilton was inspired by the vernacular gardens of South London. Hamilton moves between reference points which include walled kitchen gardens, the rich colours and bold geometry of 70s design, and organic surfaces such as charred oak, which nod to the architecture and materials of Studio Voltaire’s 19th Century gallery. The garden’s raised beds, pergola, seating areas, fountain and tiled walkway are defined by their formal structures and tactile finishes, reflecting Hamilton’s generous approach to materiality.

Planters formed from handset yellow quartzite pebbles draw from folk art sculptures assembled from stones and shells, as well as elaborate pebble mosaics. Throughout the space, Hamilton has made use of ochre-coloured ExCinere tiles. Produced by design company Dzek in collaboration with Milan-based studio Formafantasma, these volcanic ash-glazed ceramics draw from lava’s long and rich history as a building material. At the garden’s centre, the tiled fountain includes a unique cast bronze font shaped like a cauliflower. This playful gesture continues a long-standing motif in Hamilton’s practice, with squashes, mushrooms and lichen all previously featured in her work.

Hamilton invited artist Nicholas Byrne to design a gate for the garden, forming a second entrance from the south, which further opens up the garden to our immediate neighbourhood. The gate takes its sinuous design from onion plants, as well as the metal loops found along the garden walls lining the adjacent William Bonney Estate.

The planting scheme combines ornamental flowers with edible plants and fruit trees. We are working with a local gardener to grow many different varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs onsite, which change with each season, and are harvested for use by our onsite artists. Subject to the varying growing cycles and life–spans of plants, the garden is a long–term and ongoing commitment. We hope to provide a place for playful, unexpected and inspiring encounters with art beyond the gallery in a space open to all our neighbours and visitors.

Hamilton is an on-site studio artist and resident of our local area. The artist was commissioned to design a new courtyard garden forming the public entrance of our building, which opened in October 2021.

“What I find interesting is there’s always these practical, pragmatic reasons why certain things happen, and when I was invited to think about The Garden - being a studio user here already and seeing the past life of the garden, there was this skeleton of an old raspberry bush that people would take fruit from, and you could see there was a sense of needing that comfort and I wanted to kind of bring that back, just in a renewed way, more framed way.

I didn’t want to make a garden which performs, in a way. I think a lot of the garden spaces that I go to are about the performativity of plants rather than just the functional use of them.

Everything in The Garden is edible, in one way or another, whether it’s the leaf, the root, the fruit that it makes. But I am still completely drawn by beauty and materials as well, so it was significant that that functionality is framed within. I love to look at all those pebbles, I love to think about that charred bench that’s there, so it’s a kind of bringing together of things. Always.”

Anthea Hamilton

As a living composition, The Garden requires daily care and attention to ensure it remains a space for all to enjoy.

If you are able, please support this work by donating here.

  1. Anthea Hamilton (b.1978) lives and works in London. She is renowned for sculptures and installations that incorporate a rich tapestry of references from the worlds of art, fashion, design and cinema.

    Hamilton's work is always site–specific: a consideration of the location and the cultural and political environment, as well as her personal circumstances at the time, provide a framework for her research. Often making unexpected use of materials, ambience, scale and wit, Hamilton’s works are rooted in multilayered strands of research. Conversation and collaboration are key to her practice.

    Hamilton’s art oscillates deliciously between kitsch and the sublime, sculpture and installation, theatre set and performance. She describes her works as “performative sculptures”; their tinge of theatricality is prompted by their spatialisation and a skilful juxtaposition of ambiences, surprise effects and simulacra.

    Major solo exhibitions have been staged internationally, including Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA), Antwerp, Belgium (2022), Secession, Vienna, (2018); Tate Britain (2018); The Hepworth Wakefield (2016); and SculptureCenter, Long Island City NY (2015). Her work was included in May You Live In Interesting Times, 58th Venice Biennial (2019) and in 2016 she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

    The Garden is her first–ever permanent public commission.

  2. Nicholas Byrne (b. 1979, UK) lives and works in London. His works unite abstract and figurative elements with a strong sensibility for colour and formal harmony. A key part of Byrne’s work is his interest in symbols and forms with recurring motifs and geometric shapes, which the artist overlays with areas of colour rendered in different textures.

    Solo and two-person exhibitions include Liver of Sulphur, VI, VII, Oslo; LOVE, Cold Shower, with Anthea Hamilton, Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin; Finish your sentence, and Roleplay at Vilma Gold, London; Faces, with Nora Schultz, dépendance, Brussels; Divider, Studio Voltaire, London.

    Group exhibitions include Death, Volcano Extravaganza, Fiorucci Art Trust, Stromboli; Burning Down the House, with Anthea Hamilton, 10th Gwangju Biennale; Public Private Paintings, Kunstmuseum Ann Zee, Oostende; The Dark Monarch, Tate St Ives, St Ives.

  3. Anthea Hamilton, The Garden, 2021, a Studio Voltaire commission. Images courtesy of the artist. Photo FRENCH + TYE.

  4. Supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund. With additional support from Dzek.

Studio Voltaire
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