Friday, 24 July 2015

Scraps from the Savage Garden

I went to see Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A for my birthday. It was insane. The Exhibition Road Tunnel was first a festival-crowd shuffle, and then closed. Queues at the entrance went round the block. We waited with poor patience for the three people arguing with the guards, flapping our pre-paid e-tickets, until they let. us. in.

I'd taken out my sketchpad in the 3pm queue, to draw the crowd, but on the way in, the No Sketching signs appeared, so the pad had to go back in the bag. No notes. Which is a shame, because halfway round the exhibition I realised something. The exhibition reminded me of a garden. A really specific garden, in fact; grandiose, arty, over-the-top, spectacular, colourful Stourhead Gardens, aka my Mum's favourite day out - with just a hint of Waddeston Manor.

We opened with a huge formal bed of punkish tatters, like a late summer long border which has been deliberately allowed its fall to wither, seed and ruin; that sobering touch of vegetal mortality. Then a formal, understated area of bordered with tailoring; almost practical, but with the hint of exoticism, a kitchen garden studded with plants impractical, poisonous, wrong for our climate. Then the grand rose garden and aviary, with roses and birds vying for attention, all damasks and golds and velvety richness. The the grotto, sinister and ludicrous, dim and cool and shockingly over-decorated, full of bizarre statues looming from the gloom. Then a bright avenue walk through a gallery of floral spectaculars and grand statuary. Then into the stately home, for the gentleman's cabinet of curiosities, the ghostly lady lingering in the hallway, and the glass cases full of dusty treasures from a bygone era. Then the long way out through the tiring rooms and vanities, the past the educational/entertaining dioramas of long dead and semi-theoretical inhabitants of this half fantasy space, and the final walk through the lush and elaborate water gardens.

And then, the gift shop.

I found myself doubly regretting the lack of the sketchpad. Not just because there was far too much to absorb, but because there were gardening ideas here. Lots of ideas. How fortunate, then, that Alexander McQueen, with his predilections for celebrity, spectacle, controversy, offence is (of course) all over the internet. So I've grabbed my scrapbook and started collecting garden ideas from Alexander McQueen.

Follow Jeremy's board Alexander McQueen's Savage Garden on Pinterest.

It's full of ideas for my own garden. Though I will have to work at a rather smaller scale.

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