Within a Budding Grove takes its title from the second volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which follows the protagonist’s adolescence and his increasing sense of self-awareness. As a teenager, Jyll Bradley spent a lot of time sitting in her family’s greenhouse in rural Kent observing the play between sunlight and glass, a visual language that has remained integral to her work since the 1980s. Presenting recent works across sculpture, photography, drawing and film, Bradley draws on the bold geometries of espaliers: agricultural structures developed to train and direct the growth of young plants such as fruit trees and hops so that their crops attain the maximum exposure to sun.
In a series of new drawings, she repeats complex linear patterns across blue carbon paper, revealing the mesmerizing geometry of a hop garden and transforming it into an abstract architectural blueprint. Never quite settling between transparency and opacity, visibility and invisibility, Bradley’s sculptures similarly hover between states. Bright zips of neon loudly announce their presence while hazy yellow reflections dance softly across the wall. The agricultural structures they evoke can be used as both gathering places and hiding spots to seek solitude. Meanwhile, Bradley’s photographic self-portraits hint at her desire as a queer woman in the 1980s to be seen and understood but also to hide away, obscuring her face from the camera and turning to abstraction in her art as a way to express the strange and unexpected.
Within a Budding Grove accompanies the presentation of Bradley’s interactive sculpture The Hop in Frieze Sculpture 2023 curated by Fatoş Üstek. The Hop started life as a major commission for the Hayward Gallery and will find its permanent home in Poplar, East London, next year.
–Text by Debbie Meniru