The Garden of England by Alice Kettle at the Queen's House is the inaugural project of the Royal Museums Greenwich Contemporary Arts Programme. The artist has worked with the existing collection of Tudor and Stuart portraiture at the house, as well as its history as a site of leisurely retreat for courtiers. Just visiting the house itself, which is free, is a pleasure – architect Inigo Jones' wonderful proportions are entrancing, and clearly had an influence on Kettle's artistic responses.

The first work, Flower Helix, hangs in the Tulip Stairs. Kettle indicates in the panel that she was inspired to create it by the black-and-white floor of the Great Hall. This is a very lovely piece, and its positioning in the stairwell creates the sense that delicate, jellyfish-like fronds are hanging serenely down its length. It's a wonderfully complex work, comprising gauzy butterflies and lacy flower heads – mostly in whites and creams, sprinkled with tufts of reds and blues – all around a twisted metal framework, intertwined with a confusion of threads. It responds to the space by bringing out the fine tracery of the staircase ironwork through its delicacy, as well as to the complexity of costumes that would have been worn by visitors to the Queen's House in Tudor times.

The remainder of the exhibition is housed in the North-West Parlour on the ground floor: here one finds Flowerbed with Contributions. This work is in two sections – the main piece, Flowerbed, has been placed on the floor in the centre of the room, and Contributions in the fireplace niche. These pieces respond well to each other: the profusion of Contributions in the niche really works – there's a sense of bringing the outside in with this carpet of flowers made in collaboration with other workers. The different styles and compositions of its contributors extend the richness and complexity of the piece – once again, commenting on the complicated make-up and costuming of Tudor and Stuart courts. Flowerbed appears to be more the artist's own work: a tapestry of different fabrics, techniques and scatterings of flowers and petals. In both pieces, Kettle is not only highlighting the importance of garden design in the period but commenting on the nature of the Queen's House as a woman's place. 

The last work in the room is a portrait worked in textiles, Queen Henrietta Maria. Executed in the artist's trademark "painting with thread" style, this Henrietta sits behind a web of single threads wound across the frame, emphasising the costume of this period. The artist's use of colour, complex techniques – including padding out of the image – certainly reflects on the richness of the portraits in the permanent collection, but I'm not sure it captures their dazzling sumptuousness. This Henrietta seems to recede into the portrait, becoming almost a ghostly outline presence. In areas such as the bodice of the dress, usually occupied by lace, pearls, beautiful brocades or a hint of cleavage, there is nothing – perhaps this is Kettle's point, but, for me, it loses something of the complexity of costume in this period that she so successfully manages to convey through the other two works.

Overall, this is a great exhibition that shakes up the collection a little bit at the Queen's House, bringing into Inigo Jones' wonderful architectural piece a sense of its original function as a house of delight and pleasurable country pursuits, and, above all, that it was built primarily for a woman's presence.

The Garden of England, at Queen's House, GreenwichRita Fennell's review of The Garden of England at Queen's House in Greenwich.3