I am delighted to have been invited to be the artist in residence for the second Wealden Literary Festival in the Garden of Boldshaves in the Weald of Kent and Sussex. Many thanks to Kate Beaugie who was the artist in residence for the first festival in 2016. This year’s festival runs over the weekend of 15 and 16 July 2017 and will feature place, nature and travel writers talking about their books and their passion for the natural world.
This unique festival will explore the rhythms and patterns of place, reflecting upon the fragile relationship between people and their surroundings and unearthing some of the ways in which the natural world can sustain and enchant. (from the Festival website)
I am so lucky to have an enormous barn to work in on site. On my first visit I took a few photos of the garden and have started to do some research into the garden as an ambiguous space.
I didn’t make it to the Garden this week but went to the studio instead to carry on with my mono print experiments. Experiments partly because I have never actually systematically focused on printmaking and what learning I have done has been through one-off workshops.
I continue to think about the significance of gardens and ask myself what it is that seems to have ticked all my boxes about this project. Some of the answer lies in this paragraph from a review in the Guardian on the show at the Royal Academy: Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, that I came across the other day:
Monet died in 1926. The 20th century had even worse horrors to come than the slaughter that made his willows weep and it’s in that shadow that his painted gardens matter. They are glowing islands of civilisation and hope in a modern world guilty of so much barbarity and violence. Monet is not just one of the world’s greatest artists, he is one of the most moral.
I decided to go to the garden later in the day and although my decision had nothing to do with the weather as going later was already part of the plan, it turned out to be very fortuitous as the sun came out just as I arrived, but was not too high in the sky to wash out all the colours.
I took a few photos and some more video footage and go pro footage of myself drawing; the film is starting to take shape in my head at least … so I need to start organising the clips.
I then settled down in the warm sunshine to do a one-hour charcoal drawing with the go-pro on my hand. That got rather painful after a while but perhaps it was a good thing as it distracted me from worrying about the drawing. I haven’t drawn from observation for ages and I really enjoyed myself; it was stilling and calming. Slow looking perhaps (quote from the title of a show at Tate Britain) but concentrated physical engagement, movement and a record of my own presence in the upside down and sideways shots of the go pro.
What a difference two weeks makes; the sun was out this time and the tulips were glorious; the magnolias were still in bloom with the bold shapes of their fallen petals covering the grass.
I walked around taking photos again and was greeted by the resident collie.
I found Duncan the gardener hard at work and learnt a bit about the garden and its different sections, also that many of the trees were planted for the millennium by different members of the family. There is a list somewhere of who, which tree and why. I like the idea that there is a story for each tree.
I have embarked on a series of monoprints as part of my work for the residency at Boldshaves.
On arriving I couldn’t help but be drawn to the stunning camellias, which reminded me of my year in Japan, about 30 years ago. At the time, I was planning to do a PhD in 7th Century Chinese literature and was learning Japanese so I could read the secondary sources …. I tried it for a year but instead of studying, spent most of my time at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, drawing!
Anyhow, I quickly got on my weatherproof gear and was greeted by Laura, who unsurprisingly simply handed over the key to the barn and went off to somewhere warm.
I had decided that I’d get some footage, whatever the weather; projects are good like that, you end up doing stuff you wouldn’t otherwise do. Cold wet days for me are generally when I only meet other dog walkers.
I did about an hour’s filming and was rescued by Peregrine Massey, who along with his wife, Dee, owns the house, and treated to hot black coffee, chocolate digestives and wonderful conversation, by a warming fire, covering the history of the house and the garden and touching ever so gently on politics – establishing some points of reference. It turns out we have geography and friends in common: he grew up in Liss, near my old school and was also at Cambridge, though down the road from me! I have also just found out that he was Kent’s High Sheriff in 2010/2011
The footage I have is an interesting start and I’ll be doing more filming over the next few weeks as the garden changes. I am also starting to think about how to show or rather install it and this is taking me to thinking about Japanese/Chinese dividing screens.