This October the South London Gallery
opened a new permanent garden designed by Gabriel Orozco.
Created over the past two years by the artist, with support from 6a architects and horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this extraordinary garden is open to the public every weekend and used by invited groups during the week. It introduces a new, planted entrance to the garden for residents of Sceaux Gardens housing estate, where the SLG has run art programmes for a number of years. The opening of the garden marks a pivotal moment in the SLGs history of working with artists on ambitious and challenging projects which aim to inspire, attract and connect with large and diverse audiences.
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 SLGs main building into a unique sculptural garden as part of his artistic practice.
Spanning sculpture, drawing, photography and video, much of Orozcos 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 assymetry, 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 york stone. 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 gallerys 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 chosen with expert advice from horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
About the project Gabriel Orozco said; The invitation to create a garden at the SLG as a permanent art work presented a unique opportunity to extend my work into new territory. From my first visit I was impressed by the SLGs commitment to its local community and neighbourhood and intrigued by the relationship between the garden space and its different audiences, and the idea of creating something which could provide an inspiring platform for all of them. I started to think about various geometries emerging from the architecture surrounding the space and how they might be re-integrated into it as the basis of a design. It has been a fascinating process working directly with the gallery, architects and horticulturalists to develop the plans for the work which I am excited to see become a reality.
6a architects have a history of working with the South London Gallery, having designed its award-winning 2010 expansion into a neighbouring house and new Clore education space. The practice is also working on the renovation of the former Peckham Road Fire Station, donated to the South London Gallery by an anonymous benefactor and due to open in 2018. 6a architects are known for their work with arts organsations and artists, with projects including the award-winning gallery, Raven Row, Sadie Coles in Davies Street, Juergen Tellers studio and, currently in progress, the major expansion of Milton Keynes Gallery.
In celebration of the gardens opening, working drawings and a film capturing the transformation of the garden over the past year are shown in the first floor galleries from 1 October 2016 until 8 January 2017.