Messums has been a feature on London’s Cork Street since 1963, but the gallery’s Wiltshire outpost is a relatively recent addition to the brand’s artistic stable. It opened at the end of last year in a restored 13th-century monastic barn in the village of Tisbury, and its latest exhibition, Material: Wood (August 11-September 3), is a showcase not only of the designers, makers, artists and artisans who are working with wood today, but also of the diversity of the material itself.
Thomas Heatherwick, for example, has used bog oak – an almost black timber that has been preserved in boggy ground for thousands of years – to make a sharply angled, contemporary cabinet (£28,000), while artist Wycliffe Stutchbury has cut the same material into tiny tiles and reformed it into a trio of large wall panels (£28,000 for the triptych or £10,000 per panel). It is named Methwold Fen after the Norfolk site where the wood was sourced, and its compelling dark surface reveals more and more intricacies the longer it is looked at.
British furniture designer Sebastian Cox celebrates English chestnut and the often overlooked London plane tree in his intricate and delicate interpretation of a console table (£11,950), while Nic Webb opts for bay. Webb works with green wood, attracted by its malleability, and his exquisite Bound Vessel (£2,800) seems to have naturally evolved rather than have been made by human hand.
Beech and ash are individually represented in a series of ethereal etchings (£320-£1,200 each) by artists Emma Buckmaster and Janet French, with each image printed on paper made from the leaves of the tree they depict. (The paper was made by soaking and boiling autumn leaves until they meshed together to form a delicate layer.)
“As a country, we produce some of the best quality and greatest variety of woods and some of the most forward-thinking and creative minds working with it,” says Messum. This quietly beautiful exhibition proves him right.