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"Dandelion" - Robin Hutt

"Dandelion" - Robin Hutt

A garden in the half light

During PhotoHastings this  year there have been exhibitions in wonderfully, diverse and original places; Bottle Alley, Hastings and Warrior Square station. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths’ passions are both photography and the natural world so when she heard of a photographic show in a garden she just had to visit.

First, I ought to declare my connection with PhotoHastings. I am co-exhibitor in two shows  and  have helped with the administration of the event, however, I don’t think that clouds my review.

So, the attraction of a garden as a studio was irresistible to write about. I meet artist Robin Hutt in her gallery. As I enter a drift of leaves crunch and rustle underfoot. This, as I am to learn, is her current artistic practice, bringing the outside, in. Wild flowers, grasses, spring fruit blossoms are photographed in situ, picked to be dried or for flower arrangements, vegetables sit outside the kitchen, ready to be brought in to be eaten.

This year, from late February/early March until September, Robin’s garden has been her studio.

"Magnolia" - Robin Hutt

"Magnolia" - Robin Hutt

“I get up at dawn and photograph the garden and don’t take another one until dusk. That’s when there is the best light. Then, there is no-one else around and I am in complete peace and calm. I take a different route around the garden each day. Then it is as if I am going on that journey for the first time and discover everything afresh.”

Gardens and weather change perpetually, light too, it’s always different angles, intensity, throughout the year – and light is everything to photography.

“I follow the light around the garden. I wait for the sun to cast its rays on a specific point or emerge from behind a cloud and I run across the garden to get that low cast of light at a particular place.”

"Grasses" - Robin Hutt

"Grasses" - Robin Hutt

Robin really loves the intensity of the process. She really gets down and into the garden to achieve the specific shot that she wants. She strides and fights her way through long grass, she lies amongst the grasses in the wild meadow, sometimes tucking grass fronds under her armpit, restraining and constraining the spikes to achieve the required silhouette, always waiting for the image she has seen in her mind’s eye.

Spring blossom, bulbs come and go, Robin catches their beauty emerging, blooming then fading. One frustration she felt was with the snake head fritillaries: a shy plant, it shoots up, hangs its delicate head and then dies. Difficult to capture at its peak. And impossible when there literally was a snake in the grass; a mystery predator would bite the heads off and leave the immaculate flowers, decapitated on the ground.

In the studio are examples of her photographs. With a beauty and clarity, they look 3-dimensional; you can almost touch them. Displayed are wonderful different squash species, in various colours, sizes and nobbly bits. Also exhibited are her pictorial journals. The plants are photographed and named, and where in the garden they can be found; memories of her and her husband, Chris Hutt, casting seed around the big pond; the changing colours and species – first year mostly daisies, then ragged robin, lady’s smock and orchids; David’s dinner – asparagus and broccoli.

The day before the exhibition, she was going to tie coloured twine around different areas of the garden, devising a little treasure hunt by colour coding the photographs of the plants photographs with areas they could be found.

Except for the rustle of scattered leaves in the studio-cum-gallery, Robin has not worked out a way to denote sound in her oeuvre. Yet. I feel that is something that might creep into her work. Out in the garden early morning and evening, alone with nature she is in her world: in deep concentration, looking, discovering the dawn and dusk, obsessed by the light, sounds clamour for attention – plop of frogs into the pond, early morning call of song birds, the caw of carrion, the hum and zizz of insects, the swish of the wind.

When Robin was studying art at St Martin and Camberwell she made films about dance and movement, something that she used to teach. She has a dancer’s agile physique as well as stillness. I freely admit I was enchanted by the work and the garden, I leave with the image of her as a sprite, running through the dawn or dusk chasing the light as it lands on the pond, in the wild meadow; or her lying in the grasses, motionless, eyes darting from left to right, up and down, waiting to capture that unique moment.

Dawn and Dusk : The Fairlight End Garden Journals, Fairlight End, Pett Road, Pett, East Sussex TN35 4HB. October 18-19, 24-26 11am-4pm.

 

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Posted 22:46 Friday, Oct 17, 2014 In: Photography

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