A show at the Fitzwilliam Museum featuring the work of contemporary British artists Michael Landy and George Shaw explores the places in between town and country where nature takes a hold on no man’s land and weeds find niches in the concrete.
Landy wrapped the roots of his specimens in damp cotton wool, according them a tenderness that contrasts starkly with the shredding of his goods and chattels."
In 2001 thousands of people poured into an empty store on London’s Oxford Street to watch artist Michael Landy destroy all his possessions - from his socks to his Saab car – in an installation called Break Down. †He followed this up in 2010 with Art Bin in which works of art, some of them by famous artists, were thrown away.
The book that meticulously records the precise details of each of the 7227 items that Landy destroyed for Break Down lies open in a case at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, where some of the artist’s recent work is displayed alongside that of George Shaw in a two-man show called Edgelands.
Both YBAs (Young British Artists), Landy was born in 1963 and Shaw in 1966. Landy studied at Goldsmith College, and took part in Freeze the show that launched some of the most famous names of the contemporary art scene. Shaw studied painting at the Royal College of Art where he was a student of Peter Doig.
Beginning with Scrapheap Services in the mid-1990s, Landy has made a name for installations that explore of waste, consumerism and the commodification. Item no 4126 in Landy’s inventory of destruction of his belongings is Richard’s Maybe’s book Street Flowers, a compendium of the flora of wastelands.
Now in a series of etchings called Nourishment, Landy puts weeds - shepherd’s purse and creeping buttercup, herb Robert and common toadflax - centre stage on large sheets of blank paper. These plants are the great survivors, finding succour in cracks and crevices. Recorded in fine line, the delicate shapes of root and stem are centred on large sheets of blank paper.