Turning Point

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Natalya Critchley

Art & Architecture Shop, 129 Kew Road, Richmond, UK, August 2011

The starting point for this residency was a view that Turner had painted from Richmond Hill, looking down over Petersham Meadows and the bend in the river. It has been preserved because he painted it, so a prime bit of real estate in south west London (Richmond) can look like you’re in the middle of the countryside with a picturesque sweep of the river complete with cows in the meadow.

There are some amazing old houses along the river too (Ham House, Orleans House, Marble Hill); some are quite eccentric (Strawberry Hill) and lots of royal residences (Hampton Court, Windsor Castle), all worthy of another residency and more work on the ideas of where things came from and what they were for. It is beautiful though. I really enjoyed tramping along the riverside pretending to be Turner (who apparently used to sleep under trees on his several-days-long painting expeditions) waiting for the high tide and cursing my weakness for drawing on large pieces of paper that I lug around for miles and miles. Great fun and stiff arms.

I also enjoyed the prim aesthetic of Kew Gardens, the botanical gardens in whose latest model greenhouse was consumed the deadly deed of germinating rubber trees from seeds stolen from Brazil in 1876 in order to establish rubber plantations in the British colonies where labour was less anarchic than the Brazilian Amazon forest.

Kew is one of the few places to see wonderful Cedars, Oaks and every other tree that I don’t know the names of grow in absolute splendid example of it’s species unedited by cows grazing or whatever may trim it down. Nice vegetable gardens, rose beds, lily ponds and other Victorian follies.