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The Lark Descending

The Lark Descending

By Ackroyd & Harvey

As part of the Surrey Unearthed programme, Ackroyd & Harvey explored Leith Hill, its history, geology, ecology and culture. Their exhibition in May 2018 was built around six key elements: Air | Terra | Soil | Water | Clay | Oil, assuming the multiple layers of the land itself, and referencing the imminent threat to Leith Hill, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, from exploratory oil drilling.

Leith Hill is a special place. The first notable moment in history is a battlefield scene between the Saxons and Danes, in the 19thcentury where Charles Darwin did formative experiments into earthworms, where Tennyson wrote poems and where the celebrated composer Ralph Vaughan Williams lived and wrote the transcendent The Lark Ascending.

These international artists are local, and deeply connected to the area. Over many years Ackroyd & Harvey have spent time on the hill – walks, photography, nature nurture and forest feasts – embracing the touch of wildness the place offers. Their sense of revealing the vibrancy and vulnerability of the hill was integral to their evolving exhibition, to ‘unearth’ why we strike a deep relationship with this landscape and place, and why people are compelled to protect it.

The Lark Descending exhibition formed an interactive space that evolved with more artworks day by day, as the artists explored the layers of Leith Hill. The space in Dorking town centre welcomed people for talks and workshops throughout the three weeks. The Lark Descending, a playful take on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ piece “The Lark Ascending”, seeks to reveal the fragility, beauty and deeper chords of influence yielded by Leith Hill.

Dilston Grove, Ackroyd & Harvey, 2003

Ackroyd & Harvey

Ackroyd & Harvey’s practice encompasses sculpture, photography, architecture and biology. They are acclaimed for their large-scale artistic interventions, highlighting the temporal nature of growth and decay in sites of architectural interest as well as in contemporary galleries, museums and found sites worldwide. Their pioneering work making organic photographs utilising chlorophyll in seedling grass, actualises themes of ephemerality, landscape and memory and has garnered widespread international recognition.

Examples include their largest temporary living artwork FlyTower, on the exterior of London’s National Theatre in 2007; and HistoryTrees 2012 at the ten main entrances to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. As part of their ongoing cycle of works, Beuys’ Acorns, they produced a ‘tree roadshow’ travelling to five locations in France and culminating in a major artwork in Paris to coincide with the COP21 climate talks and in 2016 completed a commission for the University of Cambridge integrating a slate artwork into the David Attenborough building.