Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum

An historic house with landscaped gardens and a large collection of Victorian paintings seems a fitting place for an artist’s tribute to the role of trees in both urban and rural landscape and in art. Edward Stocks Massey, a wealthy brewery owner, provided the name of the room where Martin Jenkins’ work is on display. The Massey Bequest also provided a large part of the art collection, including A View of Townley Hall, a landscape from the collection that Jenkins has included in his exhibition.

The artist is clearly influenced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century landscape painting, but also land art and its documentation. History Pictures is a series of still images of trees in urban settings, surrounded by buildings and monuments. The images are projected onto a small, fine piece of paper suspended from the gallery ceiling by fishing wire. Figures pass through the projected scenes and the seasons change, emphasising the solidity and permanence of the architecture and trees. Jenkins has placed the DVD player and projector in an oversized display case, showing a fascination with the technical process behind the work by making the equipment almost more prominent than the projection itself.

At one end of the gallery is a large window, which frames a grand view of the landscaped garden outside. Sat just in front of the window, Seeing the Wood for the Trees is a site-specific work made from rectangular sheets of corrugated cardboard stacked on their ends and sandwiched together to form a block. The light and trees outside are visible through the corrugations of the card, but the view is strangely altered. Looking through this simple but effective piece of work is like seeing the landscape through a Victorian viewing device – which is appropriate considering the historical context of the exhibition.