Trail: Curious, West Norwood Cemetery, London, June 22 – July 20 2012
The 175-year-old West Norwood Cemetery was once considered finer than the graveyards at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
At the end of the 19th century, its luminary patronage saw it tagged The Millionaires’ Cemetery, and its Romantic landscapes and Gothic Revival features are the resting places of various thinkers and artists associated with The Great Exhibition, as well as 66 Grade II-listed monuments.
All of which sounds like rich pickings for 26 artists who have placed works around this ghostly Victorian South London site in a new trail, signposted by a map in a range of responses exploring burials and history in one of the capital’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries.
The craggy architecture and overgrown foliage will be put to theatrical effect: an animated film by Jo Lawrence will glow inside one of the mausoleums, Sophie Herxheimer pays tribute to cookery doyenne Isabella Beeton, and a huge painted ship sculpture hangs in the Greek section, preceding a bus stop to the afterlife, a tree full of bird boxes and a Victorian train which doubles as a rickshaw you can ride between works in.
The idea is to illuminate a sense of storytelling through a journey encompassing sculpture, film, textiles and ceramics such as Julian Stair’s pottery pieces, which are a reflection of the local area’s Doulton and Lambeth urn connections.
Saccharine sculptor Brendan Jamison has also made a work out of sugar cubes (a tribute to Henry Tate, the baronet and sugar magnate buried nearby) in a project overseen by curator Jane Millar, who has made the most of insights provided by the knowledgeable team behind the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery.
- West Norwood Cemetery, Norwood Road, London. Open until 4pm daily. Admission free. The Portico Gallery will be hosting accompanying workshops until early July 2012. Live event takes place in the Greek section of the cemetery on July 7 2012. For more on the Friends of the Cemetery, visit their website.