Tag Archives: art

An Artist and Her Art

Why do I have a problem with conceptual art? Or could it be that it is just conceptual artists who bother me?

In principle, conceptual art can be great. Artists can have brilliant ideas that are original and thought provoking and make you appreciate life from a different perspective. My problem is with those artists who only ever seem to have one idea that they flog to death in countless variations; and with those artists who never get their hands dirty, leaving the practical realization of their idea to underlings.

Jennifer could never be accused of that; she gets her hands dirty, and how!

Jennifer’s current art-work is The Mediated Garden.

So, think of a garden as a work of art. Do you imagine a beautiful arrangement of trees and shrubs designed to please the eye or calm the troubled soul? Forget it. Jennifer doesn’t do pretty.

Think of a roof garden. Do you imagine Japanese minimalism to flatter the ego of the penthouse dweller? Forget it. Jennifer doesn’t do flattery.

Except she flatters me, perhaps, for I am one of an exclusive group of visitors whom she has led down her garden path.

Think the Blue Peter Garden and you are nearer the mark. Jennifer’s garden is a living paradox: it is a garden for everyone which hardly anyone can visit, except through the medium of the internet. So I was flattered to be taken high above the rooftops of Liverpool as a stiff breeze was ruffling the surface of the Mersey and a dramatic sky was framing the Welsh hills in the distance.

Jennifer’s garden is not a feast for the eye, her palette is not colour, her composition does not rely on form. I saw her as a Jackson Pollock of taste and smell as I meandered round an almost random arrangement of flavours and scents from the savoury richness of rosemary to the sharpness of oregano to the sweetness of chocolate mint. This appeals to me. In my own feeble interactions with horticulture I have always prized the scented and the edible.

In her miniature way she is a Turnip Townshend of the rooftops (indeed, there were baby turnips peeping from under their blanket of soil). Jennifer rotates her crops so that carrots follow potatoes and are themselves followed by herbs. But most important of all, Jennifer’s garden is interactive. Like all gardens her creation is organic: it is a growing, ever-changing life form that will constantly respond to its environment but also to the suggestions of its visitors. Very few of us will have the privilege of being led down the garden path by Jennifer just as few of us ever set foot in the Blue Peter Garden, but everyone can visit on the internet and perhaps we can leave our mark on this work of art.

For one, I will suggest she finds a corner for some garlic.



Untitled I

Now is the time of year when students return to university. For the majority of my life, I doubted my suitability as a potential student. I would walk past university buildings, feeling that I would never be able to cross that boundary,thus enabling myself to obtain a university education. It would be patronizing to say that everyone should have a degree. But I believe that everyone, no matter how poor, should have the opportunity to study at university and then decide for themselves.We are all aware of the increase in tuition fees from 2012, which I consider an absolute disgrace. People who have similar backgrounds to myself will be repelled at the prospect of having to pay so much money for their education.
Placing the issue of combined tuition fees and student loans to one side, there is still a fundamental problem. There are certain people who simply cannot imagine themselves at university. Perhaps their parents didn’t encourage them enough, educating yourself was not seen as worthwhile. Maybe they have criminal records or ill health; perhaps both. I don’t believe that I am the only person whose background seemed a hindrance to going to university. There have been many people before myself and I have even met a few, who have overcome obstacles and who have thrived in higher education. I must admit though, for the first year I seemed to constantly expect a tap on the shoulder and to hear the words “How did you get in here?”
Now as I sit looking out of the university library on the other side of the boundary, there is something I want universities to do. I want them to open their doors to anyone who wants to study,who is passionate about a subject or just wants to learn more. For so much of the time parts of the university sit empty. So what am I doing about this?
On a module last we were set the task of creating an imagined project which had to include plans, costings, dry runs etc. I designed a twelve week project aimed at adults on Incapacity Benefit, which consisted of utilizing different narrative techniques, in order to write about themselves from differing perspectives. I was partly inspired by Nick Rowe of York St. John University and an arts project he helped in designing (see “Border Crossings: Art and health work in a university”, Journal of Applied Arts and Health, vol 1, no.3 2010, pp241-250. This offered mental health services users to opportunity to participate in university life.
I realize that everything costs money, but there is no reason why final year and postgradute students could not assist in the delivery of the course. The aims of these projects are for participants to produce a final piece of work and gain some insights into themselves. Perhap most importantly, it could be the first step in crossing the boundary into university, if that’s what the participants so desired.
Universities should reach out to the groups that much of society has written off. These boundaries are still in place and people still are or feel excluded. As I sit on the inside looking out and if I do nothing- What does that make me? The challenge I have is making the imagined become real.

Breaching Boundaries

If the boundary of a space is breached, can new perspectives be found?
Last week during the rain storm my roof began to leak. This has happened many times before. As the rain cascaded through the ceiling, while arranging five different containers,something occurred to me. The external weather had made my indoor space appear to have the characteristics of an outdoor space. A boundary had been breached, the inundation of water gave the impression that it was raining indoors.
The rain reminded me of the ability of the natural to cross over into the human built space. I must admit, I’d rather the rain didn’t pour through my ceiling. Though there are times when I take a secret pleasure at the natural world’s success in breaching built space.
When I’m walking down a street and see a plant that has forced its way through slabs of paving stone, despite the council’s best efforts with a barrage of weed killer being sprayed over our streets. The plant has found a way to reach the light. When I see plants that appear to be growing out of a wall or a Buddleia tree existing on inhospitable land, I smile inside.
I had the same feeling when visiting The Fact Garden for the first time. Jennifer has created and nurtured a green oasis that produces food. A pleasure is taken by the visitor at the sight of pots of green life that now fill the space.
As I looked out across the vista of the city, I imagined what it would be like to see greenery on every flat rooftop. It is not only about breaching the boundary from concrete roof to garden, it is also about crossing the mental boundary between what a city is at present and what it could be in the future.
It would seem that The Fact Garden at least offers a sense of possibility for other city dwellers to think about.
I hope to write more about the breaching of boundaries of certain types of space and hopefully to get my roof fixed.