Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 7

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 7. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)

THE LITTLE BLACK GALLERY

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What’s this, I hear you cry. This isn’t a garden, it’s an art gallery. Ahhhh… but what’s inside it? An exhibition especially for Chelsea Fringe

The Flowers exhibition  features work by Lisa Creagh and Hiroyuki Arakawa. And if Lisa’s name seems familiar to you – and not just because you know her beautiful work – it may be because I nabbed her to read a Jane Eyre extract at the weekend.

The two artists use flowers in very different ways in their work. Hiroyuki’s are structural, beautifully lit portraits of single blooms, while Lisa weaves hers into intricate patterns.

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I want to concentrate on Lisa’s work because I’ve been reading up on her process for our ‘in conversation’ at the Gallery on Friday, 6.45-7.45, (places are free but limited, so do email info@littleblackgallery.com if you’d like to come). It’s been a fascinating journey and not just because reading Artist Statements is a guilty little pleasure of mine. They throb with meaning, in a way I’ve never seen a Writer Statement doing. We tend to meander round the subject until we end up having to write whole books worth about it.

Anyway, back to Lisa because it IS genuinely interesting… On her website, Lisa writes that on a study tour round Giotto‘s work, she started to notice the patterns which ran alongside the frescos. And then, when she drew these out in her journal, she found the same pattern in places varying from The Book of Kells, the feet on a Buddha statue in the V&A, and even scientific drawings about separation of cells as a human egg is fertilized.

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It was, however, when she was studying Dutch Flower painting that she got the idea of her award-winning series, The Instant Garden. The 17th century painters combination of botanical studies and invention allowed her a freedom to try new techniques, and also to think about what flowers meant for her. This ended with her unique combination of a photograph – a ‘trapping’ of a moment within linear time, and decorative arts – a different cyclical temporality including cycles of birth and death. It is a connection and disconnection between the hand-made element of crafts with a digital manipulation technique. I read up a little about this, and was interested to see that this painting below, by Rachel Ruysch, although each flower is technically correct, it is also part invention – the flowers would not have blossomed at the same time…

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So it comes back to what it means to control nature, and this is central to any garden, surely? I really can’t wait for Friday night to talk about this more. Come and join us!

The poem I have chosen for Lisa is from an unknown Sufi source, and is based on a Persian carpet.

Here in this carpet lives an ever-lovely spring

Unscorched by Summer’s ardent flame

Safe too, from Autumn’s boisterous gales

The handsome wide border is the garden wall

Protecting, preserving the park within

For refuge and renewal, a magic space

For concourse, music and rejoicing

For contemplation’s lonely spell

Conversations grave, or lover’s shy disclosure

Here, sense and reason in concord blend

In harmony and proportion, in unity transcendent

The mind of God revealing

By our tangled errors so darkly hidden

The goal of all desire

The opener of all doors

The answer to all questions

The reason for all reasons

From snares of self set free

In tranquil beauty

The Beloved’s face at last you see

And there attain our journey’s end

Our life’s reward and final destiny

Refuge and fulfilment in his infinity.

And, following on a little from yesterday’s prompt about the plant as observer, I invite you to write about Flowers, either real or metaphorically, at the different stages of their lives. You can put them altogether in one poem even, rather like a Dutch flower painting.

Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 3

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 3. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)

GEFFRYE MUSEUM, HOXTON

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When I first arrived at the Geffrye Museum, I thought that the ‘garden’ was the stretch of grass at the front. Nice, I thought, but not that inspiring. And then I walked round the back.

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This is a museum of the home, situated a bit poignantly in former Almshouses, and just as the rooms inside take you from century to century, so there are a series of historically researched garden rooms outside. It was fascinating to wander through from the 16th century to the 18th century via the 17th century and back again.

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But never dry. All the senses are engaged such as when you walk past a bed dripping with hyacinths…

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And can’t quite resist touching the coloured knot garden to see if the textures are as subtle… Or you would, of course, if you weren’t as well behaved as me…

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It’s a constant feeling of exploration and yet a sanctuary too.

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Given the weather, it was also lovely to see the indoor garden reading room. I could have stayed in this spot for weeks.

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Another garden magazine? Or a book on historic interiors? Yes please…

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In fact, the whole garden is so peaceful that’s it is hard not to imagine you are well away in the country..

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Until a train comes by to remind you of just where you are!

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As well as the museum, there are two almshouse rooms furnished as they would have been for residents. These  are open at certain times of the day, and well worth a visit. I couldn’t help thinking of a governess like Jane Eyre living here, if she hadn’t of course married Rochester. A comfortable attic at least…

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So here’s Lisa Creagh, an artist who has a show at the Little Black Gallery for the Chelsea Fringe, reading an extract from Jane Eyre. That’s Lily, her baby, you can hear in the background… because she’s named after a flower, it seemed appropriate to keep her in!

And below is the view from ‘Jane’s’ room. Your creative writing prompt for today is to write about a garden seen from a window…  here’s a poem by Emily Dickinson for inspiration.

Tree in Winter

Emily Dickinson

Not at Home to Callers

Says the Naked Tree –

Bonnet due in April –

Wishing you Good Day –

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Please note, Lisa and I will be in conversation about flowers, gardens, art, writing and creativity at the Little Black Gallery on Friday 24th May. Places are free but limited so do nab one if you are interested in coming by emailing info@thelittleblackgallery.com.  We hope to see you there! More details here.