Exhibitions / Understory, Sutton Gallery Project Space

20.10.2011 to 12.11.2011

An exhibition of new work. Drawing upon an ongoing interest in the complex relationship that exists between interiors and exteriors, Sparks has created a site-specific installation that responds to the architectural particularities of the Sutton Projects gallery space. While continuing to incorporate digital photographic wallpaper vistas that transform gallery walls into strange, immersive environments, Understory also highlights recent thoughts and developments in Sparks’ practice stemming from research conducted on the collections and architecture of key European Museums and sites. Specific references include spaces such as greenhouses and glass houses, where living things are protected in man-made structures; and the notion of infinity, with Sparks installing a mirrored room that gives the illusion of the floor plummeting endlessly below. As Ashley Crawford notes, ‘outside and inside become indifferent and abstract notions’ The works make particular reference to the lavish interiors of the Kew Gardens Glasshouse, with its exquisite spiral staircase. The constructed spaces presented explore and expand on Sparks’ journey into these glasshouses - eluding to not only their interior architecture, but also their purpose to preserve and protect. Sparks presents a display case, lined with mirrors, it is infinitely replicated within itself as is the small plant inside; this evocative use of reflection is repeated throughout the installation and continually puts into question, what is real and what is an illusion. The plant, Nematolepis Wilsonii, was presumed extinct in the wild after Victoria’s Black Saturday fires of 2009. Two months prior to the fire, the Victorian Conservation Seed bank collected from the one known site where they had naturally grown. Seeds were passed on to both the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank for cultivation, in order to restore the population in the wild. This plant’s recent history tells a story of vulnerability, survival, recovery and resilience, throughout which human intervention is key factor. Sparks’ installation mimics the infinite repetition of propagation and the global replication of environments. The works celebrate the relationship between the natural and unnatural, as well as examining existing protected spaces - inside and outside. ‘Through combining photographic wallpapers, mirrored surfaces and architectural lighting in an installation context I look for the visual threshold between the site as a form of containment and dissolution as the interior is colonised by representations of places elsewhere. I look for the spaces between different forms of visual logic that play botanic and architectural systems against each other and create tension between the natural and built environment.’ ii