Last Thursday evening saw the preview of A Garden Enclosed, at The School Creative Centre in Rye. More than fifty people attended.


which was more than we could have hoped for.



The set up took us most of the four previous days. Chris did an amazing job putting in the steel gantry, the tensioned wire supports for the drawings and the lighting. The terrific sound system was installed by Paul Byrne and his team, very neatly and speedily. We had eight speakers which gave us good quality localised sound at low volume.



thanks to everyone who was involved, especially Jamie Griffiths for the fantastic sound and projection work and Chris Cleere for his technical expertise.

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Last week I was able to escape the solitude of the studio for a day to tutor one of two workshops that come under the umbrella of A Garden Enclosed. Running  a drawing workshop for an unknown group of ten could seem a tad daunting but it’s also a great opportunity to get out and meet people. Towner Eastbourne have a really well equipped art room in the heart of the gallery building and a team of extremely helpful and organised staff, technicians and volunteers. The idea for this session was to explore the Towner galleries, the Kelly Richardson installation, Legion in particular.

IMG_1072  The Erudition 2010 3 screen HD video installation with sound

‘Combining the real and the imagined to visually arresting effect, she starts by filming real landscapes and then uses digital technology to distort them until they appear unfamiliar and foreboding.’

IMG_1071  Twilight Avenger 2008  single screen HD video with stereo sound

The group were asked to record their responses, using traditional drawing methods and ipad drawing apps. Everyone approached the challenge enthusiastically, returning to the studio with ideas that were developed during the afternoon, some into ambitious large scale charcoal drawings. The response from this pilot group, the first adult drawing workshop to be held at Towner, was extremely positive. photo

Towner provided a good selection of materials, including three ipads preset with the ‘brushes’ app. and rolls of Fabriano paper.

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There will be another drawing workshop in a fortnight, at Rye. If the weather is a bit warmer we will be exploring the river banks between Rye and Rye Harbour, big skies, meandering waterways and compelling landscape



It should be a great day, bring your ipad!

See details below.



The drawings for the first part of the installation are now complete, thank goodness. As you can see the deadline is galloping towards me!

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I started by exploring the ideas surrounding the notion of turning ‘space’ into ‘place’, the process  by which humans transform a wild space into a named and enclosed   place, how we manipulate nature and create a garden.  “He leapt the fence and saw that all nature was a garden” is how, in the 18th century, Horace Walpole described William Kent, the landscape designer responsible for the wonderful Rousham Garden.  I suppose in the days when there was a lot more nature than garden, the attitude to human dominance over the natural world was rather different. Now, in our increasingly overcrowded and urban habitat, perhaps our viewpoint has changed.

The middle part of the installation is about forms of classification. I started thinking about the 19th century passion for classification, for naming and claiming, primarily a male preoccupation?.  All those trays of poor butterflies and beetles pinned, labelled, kept in mahogany drawers. This led to thoughts about botanical and annotated drawings, but although I wanted the historical reference and context, I was dissatisfied with the drawings that I made.

I also wanted a contemporary aspect, after all, a big part of this project is seeing whether hand drawn images in charcoal, one of the most ancient means of making marks, can sit comfortably with contemporary technology.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Chauvet cave Megaloceros Gallery, France approx. 32,000 years old

So, for classification, I turned to  sound. I had been reading The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause, a fascinating book in which he talks about determining the extent of loss of species of birds and insects within a specified area by comparing sound recordings made over a period of decades. The sonograms (digital graphs of sound waves) offer a clear visual measure of the diminishing amount of natural sound.

Jamie Griffiths and I have been collaborating on the sound element, exploring birdsong, nightingales in particular. We have listened to the dawn chorus recorded in sussex woodland and worked with the sound, or more accurately, Jamie has done the work while I have listened and made the odd comment. One of the most poignant  that we came across is the 1942 recording of nightingales singing in a surrey garden as the Lancaster bombers fly overhead on their way to the WW II Dresden raid.           Scan

This is a sonogram of a small part of a nightingale’s song. I have been working on some drawings using this data. There’s a lot to explore here, I am fascinated by the kind of marks created by this tiny bird’s wonderful rich language. I also like the relationship between what you will hear and what you will see, landscape and soundscape become conflated. Of course the nightingale itself is absent, as it is increasingly in this country.

For info about the most recent nightingale dilemma click here

theschoolt         Print

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This is quite an exciting and daunting moment, the pristine paper, everything lies ahead. On a practical note, just cutting a length from a 1500mm x 10 metre roll is not for the faint hearted! Once accomplished, the sheet is an unwieldy  beast with a will of its own. Contemplating the luxurious expanse of  open paper provides a momentary sensuous pleasure, and then you just have to dive in!

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Because these are such a size, it’s impossible to fit them onto the 8′ x 4′ bench top without the paper curling over the ends. Reaching the middle is a real stretch, so I have to curl them underneath until the centre bit comes within reach.


The method I’ve developed is to carry out the initial drawing on the flat, an act of faith really as it’s impossible to get a clear idea of how it will look when vertical. It reminds me of painting huge theatre flats, with brooms and horticultural sprayers,  for the, sadly now defunct, Nimrod Theatre in Sydney.


When I subsequently worked at the Australian Opera, they had a far more sophisticated vertical paint frame, although floor cloths were always painted on the flat.

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Once the groundwork is laid down, using chunky jumbo sized charcoal (more branches than twigs) I can carefully manoeuvre the pieces up onto the wall. I use a batten and bulldog clip arrangement to hold them up which has worked so far. Once the piece is in position I can start to see what needs to be done. This is the stage that I am now at. I hope that most of the finishing work can happen in this vertical state, teetering around on my borrowed ladder. Although I think the final sinus clearing spray of fixative is best done on the flat. (preferably near an open window)

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You will be able to see the completed work at The School Creative Centre, Rye from April 12 – 14 2013

Associated drawing  workshops at Towner Eastbourne April 3 and at The School Rye on April 20.

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The first thing I did when I was considering the idea for this installation was to start a model. For me this is the only way to start exploring the possibilities of the space. At first it is very crude, just rough shapes sketched out on detail paper that can easily be fixed to light model making wood battens. It is a fluid quick-change way of working. Initially the  space earmarked for the installation was a corridor. After measuring out the corridor it was easy to make a 1:20 scaled model out of foam board. This way of working immediately makes one aware not only of the three-dimensional space, but also how the scale of the work will seem to the audience.

A Garden Enclosed started with the idea that the viewer would move through time and space, looking at things along the way, much as one might take a country walk or a stroll in a garden. So, it was important to get a sense of circulation and general arrangement early on.

Models and maquettes are usually part of the process of design for theatre designers, architects, sculptors and sometimes, landscape designers. This is the first time I have made one for a display of drawings.


As the drawings emerge the model changes. The pics show different versions with some drawings duplicated and others that I have tried and rejected. This week we will be working out how the pieces will be suspended in the exhibition space at The School, Rye. We need to set up lighting bars which will support the work, lights and speakers for the sound element.


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The installation will be open to the public  12th, 13th and 14th April 2013.

Print           theschoolt


These drawings that I made last summer in france were the starting point for the ‘wild wood’ part of A Garden Enclosed. In the Herault region the Holm oak (Quercus Ilex) woodland covers the sloping hillsides, where they are  too steep for the vines. This wonderfully dense, scrubby maquis has the feel of ‘wild wood’ even though it is often close to villages and hamlets. Some of it is so dense that only the wild boar and hunting hounds are able to penetrate.


Wildwood is a tricky term. Used to describe a state of vegetation pre human disturbance, it is difficult to define and even harder to locate. Wildwood is back before ancient woodland. It is somewhere pre history, where myth meets forest. The truth is we can’t say for sure exactly what wildwood looked like, all we know is that there is none left. Human intervention has impacted on forests the world over. For an illuminating discussion on the nature of wildwood see Oliver Rackham’s Woodlands. For anyone interested in exploring further I can also recommend Richard Maby and the wonderful late Roger Deakin.

The term ‘wildwood’ is perhaps most familiar in the context of Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. The line drawing by EH Shepherd captures the sense of scale and mystery. Poor old Mole,  alone and yet watched by unseen eyes.


I have also been reading Sara Maitland‘s new book, Gossip from the Forest in which she explores the history of particular british forests and retells traditional fairy stories. The fascination of  wildwood is shared by many. A hankering for the woods of our childhood, a subconscious stirring of the collective memory, myths from The Golden Bough. The woodland contains a magic for us,  both real and cultural.


The powerful light of the Herault creates wonderful pools of shadow and strong monochrome contrasts, the black stems and the luminous pools of sunlight.

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I think the image below, that comes from the Popes’ Palace in Avignon, has something of the mystery, light and magic that I find so compelling. The figure looks less like a hunter, more as though he is lseeking to learn the art of flight from the birds.



A Garden Enclosed drawing workshops 2013

For details of the first of my drawing workshops  for 2013 click on


Whilst we were pottering around Avignon museums a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t help noticing the proliferation of birds in the medieval paintings, especially goldfinches, in the hands of the infant jesus.


Virgin and Child by Taddeo di Bartolo Sienna 13C

There are several theories explaining the significance of the goldfinch during the 13th and 14th centuries.The bird has been used to symbolise the soul, resurrection, sacrifice and death. Quite a big mantle of responsibility for one small bird.

For instance, the story goes, that during the crucifixion, a goldfinch landed on Christ’s head and began to pluck out the thorns from the crown of thorns, to relieve His suffering. A drop of Christs blood fell on the head of the bird resulting in the familiar red poll, a symbol of the salvation Christ would bring through the sacrifice of His Blood. Appropriately, the European Goldfinch Carduellis carduellis habitually forages and nests in thistles and thorny shrubs.


 Virgin and Child Florence 13/14C


 Virgin and Child Florence 13/14C

These paintings are all to be found in the collection at the Petit Pallais . The website has a good catalogue of reproductions from the collection.


Madonna of the Goldfinch Raphael

Whilst this work by Raphael (at The Uffizi in Florence) is probably the most well known painting to include a goldfinch, the bird has also figured in work by Leonardo da Vinci and Tiepolo.


Finally, the frescoes at The Popes Palace are beautifully painted and feature a variety of birds amongst the stylised foliage.


I couldn’t help but think about how we no longer easily recognise the symbolism of birds, animals, insects and perhaps we don’t hear the poetry of bird song either.

This is my first entry for a new project that will be created between November 2012 and April 2013. It came about like this:

Last year for open studios at The School Creative Centre in Rye, I hung some large drawings from the ceiling as there was not enough room on the walls. These were based on a series of drawings that I had made at Great Dixter Gardens in 2010.


Wanting to build on this, I have been developing a method of presentation in tandem with ideas about the historical evolution of the garden. My interest is in our philosophical approach to gardens and by inference, nature on a wider scale.

The circulatory quality of gardens encourages movement, walking and looking. I decided that a more theatrical experience, turning the audience into the actor, a promenade performance, worked with the content.

I started thinking about the work in this theatrical way rather than a traditional exhibition of drawings. This led me to consider other elements of theatre, words and sound. I could see that sound would add another dimension. At this point I talked to Jamie Griffiths, a brilliant sound, video and techno artist.

The management at The School encouraged me to apply for ACE funding for the project. Christine Harmer Brown offered really useful support in preparing the application. the application was successful and the project went live in late November.

A Garden Enclosed will be created in my new, larger studio at The School in Rye,East Sussex.

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We are planning to show this audio-visual installation in April 2013 at The School.

There will be associated workshops next spring at The School and also at the Towner Eastbourne.




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