Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Chesters Walled Garden exhibition

I have thought of several creative projects to celebrate the life of the garden rather than just let it peter out as it closes and one of these happened this week. The Queen's Hall arts centre in Hexham is hosting an exhibition of work inspired by Chesters Walled Garden, with artists, printmakers, photographers and a ceramic artist putting work into a wonderful mixed show. The preview was last week and these photos show just one aspect of it - a collaboration between me and my long time friend Kim Lewis, who is well known as author and illustrator of children's books. Kim entitled it 'Sanctuary'.

I chose 12 special plants to represent all the planting in the garden and selected 3 for each garden wall, north, south, east and west, writing a short piece of text, just 50 words to express what I felt about them and the memories that they hold. Kim then illustrated them in her delightful, expressive linocuts, each one getting to the essence of the plant's nature. We discussed them as she went along, so that they have exactly the right 'feel' for the plant's way of growing and the emotion that it evokes in me. Using a square format to echo the four walls of the garden, they are like arts and crafts tiles, very lovely and much admired at the preview.

A leaflet with all the text and prints on it, which Kim has called a 'keepsake', a lovely word, is on sale at the Queen's Hall for just £2, a price only possible because of the help from the printers, Alphaset Design in Chillingham Road, Newcastle. I wanted it to be a low cost so that as many people as possible bought it as a memory of the garden.

As well as Kim and my collaboration, there is work by Northumberland artists: Birtley Aris, Beryl Dixon, Karen Melvin, Brian Waters, Margot Waters, Tony Jolly, Janet Dickson, Eileen Heywood, Rosalind Reid, Mary-Ann Rogers, Jane Veitch and Rosie Villiers-Stuart. Photographers Simon Fraser and my son, Tom White, have also put work in and Jo Aris is exhibiting a series of meticulously made beads that she has fashioned from the soil of the garden collected from various places important to her. Like tribal artefacts they are laid out in a glass case alongside the memories book to which people are invited to contribute. Add to all this the memorabilia on display and it has resulted in a magical evocation of the garden. It runs until 3rd July.

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