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Jyll Bradley-Pardes: A Review

White woman with short grey hair stands with her arms open parallel to a oblique green plexiglas installation while wearing a green dress
Thursday 2nd December 2021 11.31

As an oil painter almost invariably restricted to the two-dimensional plane, I generally operate on a different frequency from the world of large-scale installation and sculpture. So, when I heard about the opportunity to see and review Jyll Bradley’s commission for the Fruitmarket Gallery’s new warehouse space, I figured it was time to dip my rather tentative toe back into the realm of the 3D. 

Jyll Bradley standing underneath 'Pardes' in the Fruitmarket Warehouse.
Image credits: Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk

I really had no idea what to expect from Bradley’s work, but an insightful conversation with Owen O’Leary (an independent communications consultant at the gallery) remedied my dreadful pronunciation of the sculpture’s name and provided me with some context. The piece itself, Pardes, is custom-made for the space, and the result of the artist’s research into walled fruit gardens. It would remain in the Warehouse from November through April, sharing the space with the numerous events Fruitmarket resolved to host: gigs, dance performances, yoga sessions, and whatever else might crop up in the next few months. Bradley was keen for her installation to be a sort of interactive gathering space for visitors to the gallery; perhaps an attempt to bring people back together within arts spaces in the wake of the pandemic. Encouraged by the promising nature of the work, I set about embracing the third dimension.

Pardes drapes across the space like a large luminous green leaf, reminding me of exotic plants I’ve seen before at the Edinburgh Botanics. Its material - translucent Perspex and wood - speaks of a large, literal green-house. This makes sense - I’m told the word pardes” refers to the old term for a particular sort of walled fruit garden used to harness the extended hours of sunlight offered by the Scottish summer. “Pardes” also has links with the modern word, “paradise”, and indeed Bradley’s installation did conjure up images of verdant gardens and botanical hothouses - a welcome and warming thought to fight the biting cold of Edinburgh this time of year. 

Certainly, the installation does make playful use of light, bathing areas of the room in a curious green glow that just begs to be stood (or danced) in. The piece responds to the exhibition space of the Warehouse bringing together nostalgia for the original rustic fruit market building with the sci-fi feel of the neon lights of the dancefloor as the Warehouse did have a brief stint as a nightclub. I also found the term “pardes” can mean “land” or “country”, which I enjoyed given my observation that its numerous wooden frames resembled the Scottish flag. I have no idea if this was a deliberate design choice but nevertheless, I appreciate this patriotic nod towards the sculpture’s current place of residence. 

Viewed whilst empty, Pardes seemed to lie dormant in anticipation of the lively activity it is meant to accompany, and I will certainly be interested to see it in action: especially if its glasshouse-feel helps us through the cold winter months ahead.

Image: Jyll Bradley standing underneath 'Pardes' in the Fruitmarket Warehouse.
Image credits: Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk