This exhibition explores the significance of the garden as both a physical and a symbolic place of refuge. The garden is a meeting of humankind and nature in a mutually supportive endeavour. It is a place where wildness and the raw force of nature are nurtured, controlled and manipulated to create a space of recreation and contemplation.
A trip to India in 2018 inspired me to explore the idea of temple gardens. In this context, the garden wall becomes significant, keeping out not only wildness, but also the pressing intensity of humanity. The existence of the walls implies the presence of an exterior space, an environment beyond the safety of the walls. My trip to India brought up nostalgia for my own childhood in subtropical, colonial Durban. As a child, my family garden, and the gardens of my friends, were an important part of my world.
I called to mind other artists such as Monet, Matisse, Khalo, Jarman and the Bloomsbury Group, who were intimately involved in the creation of their own gardens as works of art.
I had already started this series before lockdown began, and I was a on a happy trajectory of work during the first few weeks, enjoying the uncluttered space that lockdown provided. However, as the restrictions of the lockdown and the severity of the pandemic sank in, I became unable to work. I moved from my studio into my garden where I was able to calm my depression and anxiety with digging, planting and pruning. My garden quite literally became my refuge. Working in my garden, I was able to ground myself and gain a new perspective on a changing world. I found myself back at my easel.
In the paintings, the gardens are imaginary spaces, with an intense colour palette suggesting a hyper awareness of the physical world. Human presence is implied in the structures of terraces, pathways, monuments and follies. The metaphor of the safety and the comfortable mystery within the walled garden, and the fear of the unknown outside of the walls became the perfect metaphor for lockdown and the pandemic. In these works, the garden remains the refuge.