Gardens & Memory
Gardens and memory is a series of discussions with artists, historians and gardeners alongside research texts and artworks about enclosed gardens and their symbolic and sensorial dimensions. It charts my own personal interests in an expansive history by focusing on the female body within the garden, how these spaces incite memory and the myths they narrate alongside their architectural motifs from follies to fountains, drawing out the metaphysical connotations that make gardens ripe for mystical and philosophical transformation. The interplay between the sculptural object, narratives and the natural world creates a special meaning that can renews our relationship to the not-human world.
These conversations were supported by Arts Council England
Female sublime & esoteric narratives
With Kemi Onabule and Dr Edwin Coomasaru we look at the depiction of the body in the garden landscape, specifically exploring the gendered, the sublime, the esoteric and the garden as symbol of power and chaos.
Kemi Onabule has a BA in Fine Art: Painting Wimbledon College of art: BA (Hons) 2016. Her work has a particular focus on the human relationship to the natural world, looking to the past and to other cultures to understand our place in the cosmos. She is interested in looking at the close ties within non-western societies to the environment. It is a belief system that puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of women and their significance in linking humanity to nature. The artist is heavily influenced by her multicultural upbringing, having grown up with a Nigerian father and a Greek-English mother coupled with the rural setting of her education and family home. Exhibitions include: Untitled (but loved) Bosse and Baum 2020, The Catch Feelings, I Catch Bodies, Sim Smith Gallery, London (2020); Autumn Exhibition, Thompson Gallery, London (2016); Clyde and Co Art Award (2016). She was shortlisted for the Hix Award in 2017 and the Ingram Young Artist Prize in 2017.
Edwin Coomasaru is a historian of modern and contemporary art. Currently a Research Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre, he is researching a project on ‘Masculinity and Apocalypticism in British Art, 1968- 2020’. He was awarded his PhD on gender, sexuality and the legacy of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ (1968-98) in visual culture from The Courtauld in 2018. His 2018-19 Sackler Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Courtauld studied representations of gender and race in Brexit’s art.
This conversation is accompanied with a sound piece from my performance Sonic Arrangements in the Infinite Fill (2019)
With Natalie Angus and my brother Benedict Powell-Williams we explore memory by discussing the memorial garden they work in, how their garden is designed and planted to relate to our real lived experience of grief and memory and drawing attention to the reciprocal and evolutionary relationship between our bodies and the not human, examining the notion that we carry within our nervous system memories of the ancient world of our ancestors.
Natalie Angus is the Head Gardener at Birch Remembrance Park and Crematorium in Cheshire. Previous positions include Head Gardener at Combermere Abbey, Gardener at National Trust’s Little Moreton Hall and Biddulph Grange. She has RHS Level 3 in Horticulture from Capel Manor College and HGBTP Management of historical and botanical gardens. She specializes in Native plants and flower, restoration projects woodland gardens and meadow implementation.
Benedict Powell-Williams is also a gardener at Birch Remembrance Park and Crematorium in Chesire. He has a specialism in horticulture, garden history and conservation. Previous training and positions include Broxton Old Hall Cheshire, Dunham Massey National Trust Garden, Historic and Botanic Gardens Training at Wrest Park Bedfordshire and Merrist Wood College.
Mary Hurrell is an interdisciplinary artist working across sound, performance, sculpture, video and text to explore choreography of the body and its incorporeal fluidity. She is interested in forms of language and movement in relation to the sensorial, affective and perceptual fields of the body.
Recent performances and exhibitions include; Blush Response (2021) for Nicoletti Audio; UNDEX at Jupiter Rising Festival, Edinburgh (2019); Cafe OTO, London (2019); Movement Study 6 (Maxxinna), The Bower, London, (2018); ちょう¬, Yamakiwa Gallery, Japan (2018); 3 (OXIORCAD), Flat Time House, 2 (AERIAL), Kunstraum, London; 1(Pitch), organised by fluent at Centro Botin, Spain (2018); StereoSkin, Herdubreid Biosal, Iceland (2017); Movement Study 5 (Pearlex), David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2016); EROTIC MECHANICS, 10 Martello Street, London, (2016)
Commissioned by Jupiter Rising Music Festival and Edinburgh Art Festival, Hurrell choreographed a site-sensitive performance of sound and movement within the Charles Jencks ‘Cells of Life’ at Jupiter Artland. The live performance combined soundscapes composed of hydrophone recordings, live and digitally processed vocals and movement within a deconstructing waterproof gown. The work explored ideas of water and its attendant notions of fluidity and surface tension in relation to the body and its thresholds.
Getting Lost & Found
Franziska Wittenstein and I explore labyrinths and their metaphorical meanings in different cultures.
Franziska E. Wittenstein is currently a team leader and gardener for the School of Horticulture at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden at Wisley. As well as working for a number of farms and nursery’s in the UK (including Fenton House, Chelsea Physic Garden, Kew) and the USA (including Quarryhill Botanical Garden) she has a MSc from University of Kent in Ethnobotany, RHS level2 & 3 from Capel Manor College and Historic and Botanic Gardens Training at Wrest Park Bedfordshire.
The accompanying sound piece is from my performance Orbit within the Echoes (2021)
Objects in the Garden
Dr Rebecca Gill and I explore the architecture of the garden from religious building to folly with field recordings from Robert Lye.
Dr Rebecca Gill is an experienced university lecturer, researcher and museum curator in the field of Renaissance art and architecture. Between 2016 and 2020 she was Research Fellow and Curator in Art and Christianity, The National Gallery, London and Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Arts and the Sacred, Kings College London. Previous roles include Teaching Fellow in History of Art, University of Birmingham; Tutor in Renaissance Art, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds; Rome Scholar, The British School At Rome; Tutor, Department of History of Art, University of Reading; and History of Art Assistant, The British Institute of Florence. She has a PhD from University of Reading, department of History of Art and Architecture and has delivered papers at various conferences and has numerous essays published.
& field recordings from Robert Lye