Gardening is seen as a national pastime in England. Nowhere are these expressions of cultivated creativity more evident than in the verdant gardens and park of Houghton Hall, which in 2022 was marking its 300th year.
Art has been a vital component in revitalising the house for the twenty-first century, with its permanent contemporary collection. It was the first time Contemporary and Country configured an exhibition in the Stables that directly complimented the gardens and park at Houghton Hall.
Avant Gardeners celebrated the cultivated and the designed landscape behind and beyond the garden wall. While the exhibition could not reflect the full diversity of East Anglia’s horticultural heritage, the art and objects encompassed by it showed how artists and makers take their ideas from the garden.
Of the 40+ artists and makers included, some focussed their attention on the animals, birds, and insects, taking advantage of the sheltered conditions a garden provides. Others were attracted to the expanse of coastal marshland and its mitigation of the effects of inundation by the sea, while another group turned their gaze on the confines of a neatly arranged allotment or herbaceous border.
The exhibition was prompted by the book Enticing Paths, a collection of essays that focus on Norfolk’s extraordinary horticultural history, published by Norfolk Gardens Trust, edited by Roger Last.