The Royal Academy of Arts has just got a new website. It’s a rather jazzy affair and continues the current website design trend of displaying information in a multitude of varying sized teaser boxes across a full-width page like patchwork. This design allows for a fast inspection of a lot of stuff with just a downward scroll. What caught Plant Curator’s eye at this initial viewing was the number of images with plant content and in particular, the topiary art of Norman Stevens.
Topiary is in again. In recent years overly manicured gardens have seemingly become dispensable. Everyone was talking permaculture, back yard wildflower meadows, and bringing back the bees. Now that a fair bit of this has gone on, some of us are calling for more order to be put back into our cultivated spaces, along with some imagination and well.. glamour. Topiary certainly gives that, as the beautiful artworks of Norman Stevens show – shapes, the light and shadows they create, spectacle and fantasy – these living plant sculptures can be a thing of wonder.
Norman Stevens ARA (1937 – 88) came from Yorkshire and was the son of a signwriter. He studied at Bradford School of Art in the 1950s, the same place and time as his friend David Hockney. He started his career as a landscape painter and teacher but later found success as a printmaker of some repute. It was using various techniques in this medium that he produced a series of works displaying an innovative view of topiary. Stevens was elected a Royal Academician in 1987 but unfortunately died the following year. Pieces of his work are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery and the Arts Council.
Norman Stevens ARA Selected Prints exhibition is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until 26 May.