GARDEN OF ENGLAND – ALICE KETTLE AT THE QUEEN’S HOUSE, NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH
14 MARCH – 18 AUGUST 2013
Acclaimed British textile artist Alice Kettle creates three specially commissioned works for the Queen’s House this spring, in the inaugural project of the new Royal Museums Greenwich contemporary arts programme. Garden of England responds to the history and architecture of Inigo Jones’s celebrated building, as well as the stories of the queens and courtiers who once graced this ‘House of Delight’.
Made from stitched linen and cotton, woven and laced thread, embroidered thread and lacework, the works take the form of a sculpture in the Tulip Stairs, a ‘flower garden’ in the building’s North West parlour, and a portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, which hangs amongst historical portraits chosen by the artist from the museum’s world famous collection.
Hanging in the Tulip Stairs, Flower Helix marries fashion and horticulture while responding to the baroque flower motif in the stairs’ banister metalwork. The floral tribute forms a deconstructed geometry, creating the impression of the tulips in the banisters growing and tumbling through the central space.
In the centre of the North West Parlour Flower Bed is a textile garden echoing the rich patterns and embroidery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when European court dress was characterised by richly textured, colourful embroidered motifs, drawn from the natural world. Individual flower heads scattered around the room can be picked up by visitors and taken away.
Also in the North West Parlour, Queen Henrietta Maria is a stitched portrait depicting the woman who oversaw the completion of the Queen’s House after the death of Queen Anne of Denmark for whom it was originally commissioned. Henrietta Maria’s relatively plain clothing contrasts with the exquisite costumes worn in the portraits that surround her.
Taken together, the three pieces in Garden of England reflect on the original use of the Queen’s House as a retreat set amid the gardens of the Tudor and Stuart Palace while bringing a fresh vision to what is now at the heart of Royal Museums Greenwich and the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.
For the Garden of England exhibition Akleriah a performance art group will be in residence in the Queens House with a cast of musicians and dancers in costume experimenting with traditional hand crafts and up cycled waste of contemporary consumer society.
The seventeenth century Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones, was the first Classical building in England – it is known for its perfectly proportioned Great Hall, original marble floor and beautiful Tulip staircase. Now part of Royal Museums Greenwich the Queen’s House is a Grade I listed building of unique architectural importance and forms an important part of the UNESCO Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. The house has featured in many films and television shows, including Sense & Sensibility and the recent big screen adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Visitors to the Queen’s House can see highlights from the National Maritime Museum’s fine art collection, including: Turner’s largest oil painting, The Battle of Trafalgar; famous portraits of former Greenwich residents Henry VIII and Elizabeth I; and exquisite examples of the work of the van de Veldes.