Dreams Part I: A surprise house in the woods and a bed in a field – Packwood House installations intrigue

Embedded close up
Dreams – so important for all of us, as two art shows visited on the same evening showed.
At the National Trust property, Packwood House, near Lapworth in Warwickshire, the sun shone as artist Hilary Jack led visitors on a tour of her installations in the grounds. One is a large wooden four-poster bed which was inspired by a quote from a 1930s visitor’s book at the house, which described it as “a house to dream of, a garden to dream in”.
More of this exhibition below, but it was soon off to The New Art Gallery in Walsall for Dealing with Dreams, the Garman Ryan Collection’s 40th anniversary exhibition. As one of the women, Lady Kathleen (Garman) Epstein wrote in 1973, the year before the collection was first exhibited in Walsall “I feel we are dealing with dreams and about to house them in a solid Midlands setting for posterity. How delightful.” More about this exhibition here.
Delightful would also be one word to describe Hilary Jack’s installations at Packwood House. Although based in Manchester, her work has recently been seen in Empty Nest at Compton Verney, and she was afterwards asked to work at Packwood, and Packwood Follies is the result.

Hilary said: “They will be here for two or three years, it depends very much on how they weather but they are built to last five years.
“They were made off site in my studio in Manchester and the finer details put in on site.”
She said Embedded, a large four-poster bed with a fence around it and grass mattress and pillows, overlooking the lake, came from larger themes from her research into the house, and discovering it was not really a Tudor Mansion and it had been heavily restored, and things brought in to turn it into what the owner wanted it to be.
Hilary said: “What I have tried to reference in all the artworks and the materials used is to create that dreamlike quality. The idea of having a bed to dream in – and lots of artists say they are inspired by their dreams.”

Another work is InsideOutHouse, a small house it’s possible to bend down and creep into, held up partly with branches from a tree, and the outside made of cupboard doors, chair backs and other bits of furniture. Hilary said: ” The furniture is from reclamation yards and house clearances so end of life furniture but reclaimed, to reference the Tudor furniture which is in the house.”
You come to InsideOutHouse by surprise, in the Bluebell Wood as you round the lake, and it’s a bit like a children’s dream house, but when you mentally deconstruct that it is build of lots of bits of furniture and wonder where they came from it’s also a bit spooky. Table legs, small cupboard doors with handles and knobs were once part of people’s lives.
Embedded can be seen across the lake, and from it you can see the house and the wonderful topiary in the gardens and it is indeed a place to dream.
In the formal topiary gardens are three much smaller structures, collectively called Hive, which are created from found wood from the estate – there’s also what looks like a chair back in one, to give it the appearance of a Tudor beamed house.
Hilary said: “I was thinking about how the gardeners do their industrious work around here, they take their implements from the shed and go back and forth and how the insects are busy doing the same thing with pollinating plants. It’s a homage to the gardeners and the pollinating insects. Some have already been over-loved by small children and lost their windows!”
Seen on a sunny day, the Packwood gardens are a delight to visit anyway, but these artworks are interesting and relate directly to the house and its history, so add to the visitor experience. The dreams live on.

Pictures by Abi Cole for the National Trust


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