What is a Garden?

It is the last day of the Easter Holidays here in Wiltshire, and while my partner is taking our son off swimming, I have been taking the opportunity to have a play in the kitchen and garden, layering found imagery with ink-jet prints of my own photographs, hand-written text, and compost.

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The photographs come from some I took last week on a walk in Savernake Forest, for a new project I’m working on with First Steps, Bath, Twerton Primary School and 5x5x5=creativity.

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I’ll be posting a lot more about the ‘Play Together, Learn Together’ project here soon, but essentially in the first session I took along photos and finds from my walk to share with the group of pre-school children that I’ll be working with, with an offer that we could all go for a walk together next week, and they could show me ‘their’ woods.

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It’s some of these photos from Savernake Forest that I have been playing with today, layering them with words to share and process the things that I’ve noticed. I started off in the kitchen, tearing and sticking the found imagery, then put the collages through my long-suffering ink-jet printer to add the photographs, before going outside to see what the garden had to offer.

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I ended up focusing on the relationship between boundaries (e.g the hedges and fences of my garden, the cut and stacked wood piles of the Forest) and the fluid, ever changing reality that permeates them (the sparrows flying through, the sounds of my neighbours calling to each other).

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What is a garden? is printed across one of today’s pieces, and I responded to that question by recognising that our intention is to define and control a space so that it becomes ‘ours’, although the wind blows through, sparrows live between and plants grow where droppings have fallen.

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This conceptual and physical layering of the fixed and linear, with the ever-changing nature of organic reality, is a recurring theme of recent work, linking with the focus of my recent Block Chain residency, and a conversation I had with Kathy Mead Skerritt. Kathy is an artist based in the U.S. who is working to ‘re-wild’ (my description) her land and remove non-native species, and sees this as an integral part of her practice.

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What interests me in all of this, is the relationship between the planted garden (or planted/managed Forest) and the world beyond its boundaries. For me, this relationship speaks of the way that we divide the world in parts, according to fixed and linear ways of thinking, rather then acting with an awareness gained through direct sensory experience, an experience of connection and inter-species community.

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