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I’ve been thinking about the difference between this residency and the one at Boldshaves garden last year. Boldshaves was a private garden open to the public for the Wealden literary festival and in the week in the afternoons at certain times of year. Russell Gardens is fully public but was part of a large private estate and is still formally linked to the private garden at Kearsney Court.

Like all gardens they are bounded spaces and also open to the universe: sky, land, water, trees and plants from all over the world; curated spaces which remind us that we are part of a world beyond any borders we may set up.

Gardens can be sanctuaries too: the formal layout and design of Russell Gardens provides a setting and a kind of calm that is a backdrop for the turmoil of our emotions and disruptions that life throws at us. Kearsney Court gardens have been a place of personal tragedy and also healing.


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So, I’ve managed to edit a first teaser (on vimeo) called The art and craft of gardening after the book of the same title by Thomas Mawson. This is a non-chemo week so I am relatively full of energy and feeling quite well.

I’ve set up a mini workspace at home for days when I am a bit too groggy or don’t have much energy and have been making work using leaves brought home with me from the Gardens.

My research is also taking me into the private and personal meaning of the Gardens in ways I didn’t expect, but is what happens by spending time with places and people.

And, I am loving being part of a bigger project involving 9 other artists. The weather was perfect yesterday for a wonderful event in Kearsney Abbey Gardens devised and curated by Gabor Stark.


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So in between impromptu parties organised by friends and visits from my family I have actually managed to make a start on editing the film! But much as I get really stuck into the editing process, I find it hard to stay away from the studio so snuck in there to make a couple of monoprints (work in progress but might leave them as they are as a pair):

Apart from that I’ve been trying various other processes with varying degrees of failure.


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From Giverny, Monet could hear the guns of the first world war as he painted. He conceived his towering series of nearly abstract water lilies canvases as his response to the carnage. “Yesterday I resumed work,” he wrote in December 1914. “It’s the best way to avoid thinking of these sad times. All the same, I feel ashamed to think about my little researches into form and colour while so many people are suffering and dying for us.” Explains Dumas: “Monet saw painting almost as a war effort, his personal patriotic gesture.”  From The Guardian, 15 Jan 2016, Flower power: the gardens that caused modern art to bloom.

I have quoted that whole paragraph as sometimes I have questioned the validity of my own art practice in these, our own times of political and social change, competing “facts”, the so-called post-truth era and the apparent rise of populism (though it has never not existed).  I found the quote very affirming to read and it confirms my belief that  art is my personal form of resistance and my way of asserting the values of care, beauty, nurture, vision for a peaceful future through a focus on gardens as a place of culture.

The article is particularly relevant to me now, too, in that it talks of the shadows that hang over the gardens in many of the works included in the show. My current shadows are on my liver and hanging over my future. In the immediate here and now I have a film to edit and gifts in my lifetime to make.


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Actually I think I’ve been drawing box hedges but there are yew hedges as well…! I’d like to get back to Kearsney Court Gardens one more time this week if I can, in between upcoming surgery and oncology appointments. Drawing and blogging and focusing on this project are helpful but cannot quite stave off the anxiety that comes with waiting for the diagnosis to be confirmed and wondering what the treatment plan is.

 


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