I came across Ackroyd & Harvey’s work a decade or so ago and I was fascinated by their ‘living’ landscapes and portraits which lived, which grew, which got older, not in a sinister Dorian Gray manner but rather reflecting the natural and often beautiful ageing processes of the subjects. Both landscape and portraiture have traditionally tried to capture a ‘moment’, as if all that mattered was surface dynamics and stasis whilst ignoring the complexities under the surface. An Ackroyd & Harvey artwork grows, literally. In this instance from grass seed bringing home the point that we all share to some extent similar natural cycles and that the natural world is worthy of our protection. The works to be shown in Void Gallery will be actually grown in the gallery from seed (and soil) and have local subject matter in this case houses from the Park Avenue part of Derry and a resident of one of them. The alignment of the panels in gallery 1 mirror the angle the buildings are physically on the street. The houses and human subject matter will literally be part of a vibrant, growing and innovative local landscape.
– Gregory McCartney, Curator.
The artists have been collaborating and exhibiting internationally together in galleries, museums and found sites since 1990. Sculpture, photography, science, architecture and ecology are some of the disciplines that intersect in their work, resulting in time-based acts that reveal an intrinsic bias towards process and event. They are acclaimed for their work with the light sensitivity of seedling grass and its ability to record complex photographic images, and have exhibited in galleries, museums and sites worldwide, articulating the seductions of time and visibility inherent in the transient organic image.
In 2007 they created their most ambitious public artwork to date, FlyTower, on the National Theatre’s Lyttleton flytower. Here they grew seedling grass directly on the exterior of one of London’s landmarks, transforming this iconic building into a living artwork of massive proportions. (remove – They have also just been commissioned to create a public artwork for the 2012 Olympics).
Written by curator Gregory McCartney.
Ackroyd & Harvey Biography
Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey (b. 1959/1959), England, are internationally acclaimed for creating multi-disciplinary works that intersect art, activism, architecture, biology, ecology and history. Referencing memory and time, nature and culture, urban political ecologies, climate emergency and degradation of the living planet, their time-based practice reveals an intrinsic bias towards process and event. Processes of germination, growth and decay (organic and inorganic), erosion and deposition, feature in artworks that often evolve through extended research in response to people and place, interfacing their profound interest in local ecologies and planetary concerns with socio-political paradigms. In 2019, the artists co-founded Culture Declares Emergency in response to the climate and ecological emergency.
They give high profile keynotes and public presentation and contribute writings and photographs to books and journals worldwide.
In their multi-award winning photographic work, blades of seedling grass provide a highly light-sensitive surface that the artists use to create a unique form of photography, imprinting complex images in the living material through the controlled production of chlorophyll. They have received the Royal Academy Rose Award, Wu Guanzhong Prize for Art & Innovation, L’Oreal Art and Science of Colour Grand Prize, NESTA Pioneer Award, Wellcome Trust Sci-Art Award, and exhibited worldwide including the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas; WOMADelaide, Australia; Le Centquatre-Paris, France; Festival Images, Switzerland; Hangar Bicocca, Milan, Italy; Void, Derry, N. Ireland; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA; Mostra SESC des Artes, Brazil; Chicago Public Arts Program, USA; Rice Gallery, Houston, USA.
Equally renowned for their monumental architectural interventions, Ackroyd & Harvey act upon iconic or heritage buildings with living plant material, intercepting perceptions of place and landscape. The growing vertical wall can be seen as a dislocated fragment of nature in the urban space: a gravity-defying artefact of the natural where the first shoots of living blades point to the potential of place to be renewed. Commissions include the ARoS Triennial, Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark; Royal National Theatre, London; Dilston Grove, London, UK; 9th Sculpture Quadrennial, Riga, Latvia; Wellington Festival of Arts, New Zealand; Theaterhaus Gessneralle, Zurich, Switzerland.
They have been recipients of major public art awards including a commission for the inauguration of the David Attenborough Building in Cambridge 2016, whereby they realized a series of new works following a prestigious award to work with the Museum of Zoology, Department of Zoology and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. In 2015 they completed History Treesa major public art commission for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, where a series of individual sculptures comprising semi-mature trees holding six meter diameter engraved rings mark ten of the major entrances into the park.
Beuys’ Acornsis an ongoing research work initiated by the artists in 2007. They germinated and grew hundreds of oak trees from acorns collected from Joseph Beuys’s seminal artwork “7000 Oaks”. The initial research phase (2007-2017) focused on Beuys’ statement that all towns and cities should become ‘forest-like’, and culminated in a six city road tour across France and formed the inspiration to a large-scale intervention, Radical Action Reaction,premiering early December 2015 at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris during the United Nations Conference of All Parties on Climate Change, COP21. Now the artists are involved in an activist phase to seek ecological/social justice to protect threatened rural landscapes in England from fossil fuel exploitation.
Public exchanges, keynotes, conversations and live open-ended research are integral to their approach and practice, and Ackroyd & Harvey give many high-profile keynote lectures and presentations, notably Big Botany, Spencer Museum, Kansas; How to be a COPtomist, Kings College, London; On Energy, Banff Centre, Canada; Environmental Funders Network, Cambridge, UK; COCE/Conference on Communication and Environment,University of Colorada, Boulder; ‘Nobel Laureate Symposium’ on Creativity, Leadership and Climate Change at London’s Science Museum; ‘Art + Alchemy’Trinity College, Cambridge; EARTH: Art of a Changing World, Royal Academy of Arts, London; Smith School, Oxford; London School of Economics, UK; the Royal Society, London; Royal Institute of British Architects, London; Tate Britain, London; Royal National Theatre, London; Manchester International Festival, UK; Courtauld Institute, London; Harvard University, Boston, USA; San Francisco Institute of Arts, USA; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA.
For more about Ackroyd & Harvey’s work visit their website
Void is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council.