Magazine article Art Monthly

Judith Dean

Magazine article Art Monthly

Judith Dean

Article excerpt

Judith Dean 3[degrees]W Gallery Grasmere December 11 to March 31

Last autumn, Judith Dean burrowed into the Marquess of Hertford's pristine Capability Brown lawns, with her Jerwood Sculpture Prize-winning piece, Field, 2006, at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire. A few truncated furrows of freshly ploughed farmland were cast in bronze then transplanted into Ragley's neat emerald green turf. Camouflaged by its loamy patination, the sculpture was instantly at home, but also at odds with its surroundings. What could be more natural to find on the ground than soil? And yet how mischievously incongruous to encounter the evidence of rough agricultural toil amid the serenity of an aristocratic pleasure garden.

Dean's new exhibition, 'Plot', at the 3[degrees]W Gallery, continues to explore the tensions between the working landscape and the leisure landscape. It plays with notions of cultural and agricultural production, nature and artifice, location and mislocation, earth and what lies beneath and beyond it.

Growing out of a six-month residency with the Wordsworth Trust, 'Plot' unfurls the quirky narrative of Dean's stay in the Lake District, focusing upon the village allotment, painstakingly reclaimed from the brambles, which became her principle passion. Using materials scavenged from the local area, a trail of found, altered and wittily juxtaposed objects serves as a kind of postcard home--offering a playful account of the artist's new surroundings, and how she spent her time. Proximity to the ancestral poetic neighbours also seems to have seeded a lush crop of linguistically acrobatic titles.

Overturning the protocols of the interior and exterior environment, the gallery invites the outside in. Leaves that blow in, stay in. And for visitors who have just been fell walking, there is no need to fret about traipsing mud into the gallery. There is plenty of that already. Inside the door, where you might expect to wipe your feet, you'll find instead a mound of earth with an old television set sitting on top Partially Uplifted Telly (all works 2006). On screen, awash with summer sunshine, a molehill quivers with unseen underground activity--a few seconds of looped video captured unexpectedly at the allotment. Despite the glorious frisson of anticipation, no whiskery snout ever appears (after all, it does only promise to be partially uplifting). This is wildlife-watching au naturel, unmediated by a BBC Spring Watch film crew, and with all real life's inherent disappointments.

Taking her cue from the mole, Dean has set about rearranging the topography of the gallery. Nooks and alcoves which had been boarded flat in order to turn this old stone cottage into a contemporary art space have been prised clear, allowing the walls to undulate unevenly once more. …

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