Ursula Palla „jardin infini“ 10.6. -18.07.2020
What will remain of the earth’s bounty if it is carried off piece by piece, age by age?
Ursula Pallas’s work is always alert to the fundamental problem of nature and its exploitation through people. The mysterious beauty of nature in its paradisiacal state is ruptured and exposed as a projection, outward surface and fiction that is not to be trusted in such simplistic terms. In poetic and expansive pictures the artist creates situations that are simultaneously theatrical backdrop and narrated story, but nonetheless ultimately remain open while also bearing the bitter taste of our own personal responsibility within themselves. In the installation “empty garden”, viewers’ own experience, our own individual movement within the installation is also a necessary step on the path traced by Palla. Where are we going? Directly into the “empty garden” of bronze remnants of plants growing out of the ground. This place in which we can wander opens itself up to us: menacingly beautiful, fragile and deserted.
Ursula Palla found the inspiration for her exhibition while visiting Monet’s garden in Giverny, a prime example of cultivated nature, created by Monet as a model for his works. As a symbol for an exquisite selection of plants, this garden banishes every type of wild or unwanted plant and presents rigorously selected fauna and flora as a “natural” ideal. During her visit in January 2013, Ursula Palla found native weeds which were reconquering their place in their earlier territory, piece by piece. The installation “empty garden” deals with these original, but nonetheless unwanted natural remnants. What becomes visible in the video installation is that which is actually invisible: repressed and plucked plants.
In “empty garden”, cast in bronze, they now reach up out of the ground like plants and grasses, calling to mind a fallow field. They occupy this space for themselves and cast their own shadows before themselves in the half light. A video projection expands the scene: wild plants emerge and mix with the shadows. A surreal realm of shadow congeals – layers made up of time, place and material. As silent and lacking in colour as the “empty garden” lying before us is, it is equally beautiful.
In the second installation, “the pond”, mirror panels have been laid out on the ground and recall Monet’s garden. The contour of the two sections of pond mark out their own direction of movement and gaze, defining the spaces in a new way and reflecting the outside and inside.
The video works “cloud and foam” in the chambre jaune and “the bird” in the courtyard as well as bronze plants in the gallery expand the scenario.
“Jardin infini” displays a fracturing: on the one hand, there is the apparent idyll and, on the other, its tendency to suddenly radically shift – the collapse of harmony. The garden is simultaneously dystopia and real possibility. The question of its eradication is raised, because just as the colour has disappeared in Palla’s garden, nature is also disappearing … piece by piece. Ursula Palla’s works make it clear: our perspective on the garden has changed since Monet, it is no longer a pristine paradise but land that has been almost entirely planted and whose own naturalness has become lost through human intervention. However, the exhibition does not present an inanimate final state, but instead an indeterminate space to be filled and to be imagined for ourselves, and it raises the question of what the concept of the garden and, more precisely, the concept of the natural can mean today. Like a fallow landscape this garden opens itself up, as pure possibility, perhaps near its own end, but perhaps also as the taking in of a deep breath before the next great awakening.
Barbara Marie Hofmann, 2019
Translation : Michael Wetzel