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John Newling

Dear Nature

4 March — 31 May 2020

An exhibition of work by Birmingham-born artist John Newling (b.1952) – a pioneer of public art with a social purpose, his works explore the natural world and social and economic systems.

At the heart of Ikon’s exhibition is A language from the garden (Nymans language) (2017), a grid of marble slabs on the floor, reminiscent at once of teaching aids for children and sculptures by Carl Andre. Each slab is inscribed with plant forms Newling found at Nymans, a National Trust garden in West Sussex, that resemble letters in the modern English alphabet – hence Nymans Language, an officially registered downloadable font. On a wall nearby it spells out verses from the first chapter of Genesis referring to humanity subduing the Earth.

Recently Newling has been making Soil Books with soil from his back garden to embody the idea of the Anthropocene, our current geological age in which human impact is evident. He refers to us “signing our names in the soil” and is determined to grasp “what is it to know that we have affected the effects of nature/our environment …”.