It’s always great to see an exhibition that feels completely fresh, and Ruth Ewan‘s ‘Back to the Fields,’ is one such show. Sponsored by the Henry Moore Foundation and on view at Camden Arts Centre, the installation is meant to bring to life the French Republican Calendar, a total re-think of the Gregorian calendar stripped of all religious associations, which the French government utilised post-revolution, from 1793-1805.
What I didn’t know, was that the French state actively collaborated with artists, poets and horticulturists to create the calendar, the goal being to associate seasonality with the natural aspects of each season, as opposed to any religious holidays. Rightly so, Ewan thinks fondly on this time as an inspiring moment in history where artists worked hand in hand with government to get things done.
The exhibition itself is presented beautifully simply, despite it’s complexity. A small room with vast, light-inviting windows houses the 360 items that the Republican calendar used to denote each day of the year (the remaining 5 days were national holidays and are not included). From Amaryllis to Endive, Turkey to Manure, each item is numbered within its’ proper “month.” The 12 “months,” in this case being Grape Harvest, Fog, Frost, Snow, Rain, Wind, Germination, Flower, Meadow, Harvest, Summer Heat and Fruit.
It’s really all quite poetic and it’s the poetry that Ewan managed to bring out in the show, through the careful arrangement of each wildly different object, in a room so full of natural light, that really blew me away most. It felt like strolling through a cosy garden in winter. One had no choice but to smile.
Ruth Ewan’s ‘Back to the Fields’ is on view at Camden Arts Centre until 29th March 2015; 18A Arkwright Road, London NW3 6BG; Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10AM-6PM (9PM Wednesdays); Admission: FREE