Five2Watch: Garden

For #Five2Watch this week we've selected five artists whose work considers the garden: Claire Douglass, Holly Slingsby, Anne-Mie Melis, Helen Robertson and Nicolas William Hughes

The Garden of Earthly Delights, 2016

Claire Douglass

A depiction of contemporary earthly pleasures in three panels
123cms x 258cms

Acrylic on MDF panels

2011- ongoing.

Frequently asked questions.....

Will you ever finish it?

Yes. There’s a fat lady singing sketched in on the left hand panel and when she’s finished it’s finished.

You can follow the progress here

Are you celebrating celebrity culture and consumerism, or condemning it?

I have tried to keep my views out of it as much as possible. I set out to document the culture and times I live in and leave the value judgments to the viewer. Generally the criticism directed towards this painting (that I’m aware of) relates to a fear that I’m championing all the activities and personalities depicted. I'm assuming this is coming from position that sees late stage Capitalism, consumption, excess and celebrity culture as entirely toxic. However we are where we are, we all participate to some extent with this culture whether we see it as toxic or not.
The neutral position hasn't always been maintained though. I also view the garden as a place of sanctuary, 'somewhere over the rainbow'. I have added groups that experience either shame or violent persecution in the outside world, this is true of the picnic scene where all the participants are well known LGBT human rights activists in Uganda who are in constant fear of arrest and worse. This is also the case in the parade where Adult Babies and Transvestites can party without shame, generally I am just looking at us all and thinking how profoundly extraordinary is the world we have made for ourselves and I want you as the viewer to see that too.

How many people are in it?

Last time I checked there were 385 people, 19 dogs, 8 cats, 5 horses, 5 rabbits, 1 otter, 2 swans, 3 cygnets, 3 deer, 1 duck, and 6 ducklings.

Claire Douglass

An Enclosed Garden, 2021

Holly Slingsby

This video performance work combines the shared experience of lockdown gardening with figures in isolation: Homer’s Penelope; anchoress Julian of Norwich; abbess Hildegard von Bingen; and the Virgin Mary as hortus conclusus – an enclosed garden. The work asserts these women’s relevance as emblems of solitary contemplation. Shot in several horticultural spaces, the piece irreverently evokes monastic herb gardens and medieval hortus conclusus paintings. Compost heaps are included as reminders of the possibility of patiently generating something new from discarded remnants of the past. Many of the actions performed are reversed or undone, echoing Penelope unpicking her weaving each night. This doing, undoing and re-doing reflects our uncertain present moment. But by being situated in cultivated sanctuaries for healing and transformation, the actions suggest an affinity with Julian’s description of salvation as an ‘again-making’. The garden is a space in which to be regrown.

Commissioned by Margate NOW 2021: Sunken Ecologies which is guest curated by Anna Colin and is only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Kent County Council, and support from the Sunken Garden Society, Interreg Experience and Visit Kent.

Holly Slingsby

Watch My Garden Grow (type B, type F, type I), 2015

Anne-Mie Melis

These graph drawings are embedded in the tradition of botany, but a contemporary visual language is used. Plants and flowers, traditional icons of beauty, are dissected and reassembled to create virtual organisms referring to remnants of a future nature. Playful, but also disturbing, the work falls somewhere between science and art, between natural creation and interference.

Anne-Mie Melis

Enclosed garden, 2015

Helen Robertson

'Enclosed Garden' included scaled down cut-outs of Cy Twombly’s painting cycle Untitled (A Painting in Nine Parts) incorporating these into a choreography with surfaces (painted and mirrored) and objects. The work was a response to the garden and wider garden history.

A starling in my Garden number 6, 2011

Nicolas William Hughes

A starling in my Garden, Performance, Photography, Starlings are great mimics they often copy the utterances of other birds, they were very popular caged birds for their ability to learn songs and tunes, in the project A starling in my garden I am querying the anthropomorphising of our garden birds, trying to engage in friend- ship with the starlings in my garden by mimicking their characteristics.

Nicolas William Hughes


Published 26 August 2022