Inspired by gardens
“When it comes to designing an exhibition, it isn’t just a question of what colour you’re going to paint the walls, it’s how people move within a space, and how they experience the paintings,” Carsen says.
With this in mind, he took inspiration from the world of garden design – breaking up the Academy’s largest gallery by creating a temporary room within a room. Visitors moving from one space to the next find unexpected vistas opening in front of them.
“The best garden designs, whatever style they’re in, manage to achieve that element of surprise.”
Carsen himself experienced moments of discovery and revelation as he worked on the exhibition.
“Joaquin Sorolla, his works were a complete discovery to me. I love that picture of Tiffany (pictured above) because it’s a psychological study of this person, but in a garden setting.
“I was amazed at how many of the pictures I really enjoyed as they went up on the walls. I would go back into the rooms and see them again when their neighbours went up, to see if I felt differently. It colours the way you read them.”
As the installation process enters the final stretch, getting these juxtapositions right becomes key. This involves working closely with both the curators and the art handling team.
“We worked again and again and again on the layout, but when the pictures went up, we changed our minds about the positions of a couple of them. You have to be completely alert – once some of these pictures are hung, you can’t change their position so you really have to imagine it. We had templates of the pictures but we still found that we had to make one or two adjustments.”
For someone so at home in the world of the stage, this final act in the exhibition process has a familiar feel.
“There’s a similar rhythm to theatre, when the opening night is coming and you want to be ready in time – it’s quite exciting. And then you wait just to see what it feels like when there are people in the exhibition, because you have this amazing privilege to be seeing it alone.”
Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is in the Main Galleries of Burlington House until 20 April.
To find out more about the Barlow Tyrie garden furniture used in the exhibition, visit www.teak.com.