About Common Ground

The radical and vital work of Common Ground – the Dorset-based arts and environmental charity – is presented through archive material in the Garden Gallery as part of a continued collaboration. 

Founded in 1983 by Sue Clifford, Angela King and the writer Roger Deakin, Common Ground work with artists to seek imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment. The idea of ‘local distinctiveness’ is at the heart of everything they do, and for the last 30 years they have captured the imagination of people all over the country by creating projects like  Apple Day, Parish Maps  and  New Milestones, all of which continue to inspire new projects and unearth the strong connections that communities have with the landscape that surrounds them. 

In the Garden Gallery, an archival display documents some of Common Ground’s most iconic initiatives over three decades. The New Milestones project in Dorset helped communities commission sculptures for the landscape by artists including Peter Randall-Page, Andy Goldsworthy and John Maine. Trees, Woods and the Green Man explored the cultural and natural value of trees and is represented through drawings by David Nash made to illustrate the publication In a Nutshell, and diary works from Andy Goldsworthy’s residency on Hampstead Heath in 1986. The display also features letterpress posters and pamphlets by artist Dennis Gould; black and white photographs of orchards, apple-picking and traditional processing techniques by James Ravilious; commissioned works from the landmark publication England In Particular; and original artwork for the newspaper LEAF! by artists including Tom Frost, Alice Pattullo and Jonny Hannah.

The Bothy Gallery exhibition concentrates on Common Ground’s work with a new generation of contemporary artists. It shares the outcomes and documentation of new commissions developed by Common Ground to mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, in collaboration with the Woodland Trust. Throughout 2017, Common Ground invited Assemble, Owen Griffiths, Kurt Jackson, Christine Mackey, Alec Finlay and Harriet & Rob Fraser to create a series of works that explore the relationship between trees, woods and communities. Spanning Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, from Cumbria to Cornwall, these residencies are represented through documentation, film and objects.

Extending the exhibitions into the open air, YSP presents Supernature (2018), a sound work by South African artist James Webb in which the artist tells stories and creates conversations between trees within the YSP landscape. Broadcast from speakers concealed within trees around the Park, Webb gives an audio reading of the Bretton Estate, paying special attention to the presence, history and imaginative possibility of trees.

The exhibition also offers visitors the chance to see Arcadia, a provocative and poetic new film co-produced by Common Ground about our contradictory relationship with the land, crafted from footage in the British Film Institute National Archive.

Longstanding Common Ground collaborator, letterpress printer Dennis Gould, has designed an exclusive range of merchandise, which will accompany the exhibition. A publication produced by Common Ground will also be available.

Looking into the future, the show highlights Common Ground’s recent engagement with emerging practitioners, emphasising the contemporary importance of environmental action.

- Aesthetica Magazine