by Kara Wallace
Taking its title from the leisurely excursion into nature, Picnic by Andrea Gardner presents a series of photographs and sculptures that explore artifice and reality in faux outdoor settings.
Her works clearly looked staged, with their bright saturated colours and mix of the familiar placed in unexpected and unusual contexts. She includes a myriad of materials, such as taxidermy animals, constructed mud boulders, astro turf, gingham cloths, to name a few. Gardner acknowledges this artifice, indicating that there is no pretence, and thus crafts a space to consider the human effect on nature.
The condensed staging of her art is reminiscent of vanitas painting, a type of still life painting popular in the 17th Century which featured an array of symbolic objects that question mortality. And Gardner does indeed query the mortality of our environment. She is interested in exploring the relationship between culture and nature, themes that are bound up in romanticism and nostalgia, as well as having an awareness of modern science and the overarching environmental concerns of the 21st Century.
This relationship between nature and culture is undoubtedly becoming more complex over time. Gardner plays on this theme of a ‘picnic’, which can be seen as a domestication of nature, a taming of one’s pastoral surroundings, by including a subtext of ‘no picnic’. The high artificiality contributes to a disconcerting sensation that arises from her work, and Gardner hints at other issues which are unsettling and problematic.