land art, Lewes

Chris Drury, Heart of Reeds (2005)

September 3, 2010

As the heart relates to the body, so does this piece of land art relate to both its geographical setting as well as the social context in which it was created in 2005.

Its location is a nature reserve in the centre of Lewes, a town of more than 16,000 people. Such wild habitats, it is implied, are the emotional wellspring of an urban population.

And just as the heart connects with every other part of the physique, the project has pulled together teams of botanists, entomologists, environmentalists, landscape architects, planning officials, district councillors, arts bodies and fundraisers, as well as members of the general public.

If art became the focus for all of these people, then nature was always central to the art. This is not a heart of oil paint or marble or even neon. The eponymous materials are water reeds.

Yet the piece is designed to be looked at. Two spiral paths invite you to climb to a viewing area on a raised mound. This is just like any other panorama in the natural world, except we know that everything has been put here for a reason. Instead of brush strokes it has birdsong and crickets.

In the absence of God, there is some comfort in a man made natural scene. The elevated view also confirms that the waterways trace out the shape of the organ which makes us most human.

But this double vortex is taken from a cross section of the heart, which puts anatomy into the mix, alongside nature and art. This heart has many compartments. There is no centre.

Get more info on the project website. You can find Heart of Reeds at Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve, accessible from Railway Lane.

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