Gardening is Not a Rational Act

Gardening, for many artists, is an integral part of the creative process. It nourishes, stimulates and challenges – offering a creative space without the constraints of concepts, materials and audience. It’s a fascinating and often incredibly fruitful relationship. An upcoming exhibition in Melbourne, titled Gardening is not a Rational Act, explores this connection. It features the work of 10 artists who also garden, and is curated by Tai Snaith.

Gardening is not a Rational Act will take over four gallery spaces of C3 Gallery at the Abbotsford Convent and features the work of Eleanor Butt, Kate Daw, Kate Ellis, Eugene Howard, Chaco Kato, Sean Meilak, David Rosetzky, Tai Snaith, Kent Wilson and Alice Wormald. It opens on September 20 and runs till October 15.

Curator Tai Snaith has written an essay exploring the exhibition theme and has allowed us to publish an edited version of it below.

'Combination1, 2017. Gelatin silver print (67.2cm x 57.2cm), by David Rosetzky.

Gardening Like an Artist
Tai Snaith

Gardens have always been both a place of philosophical contemplation and fertile subject matter for creative people over the ages.  From the famous gardens of Athenian philosopher Epicurus in 306 BC to the Garden of Earthly Delights painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch, or more recently the compelling photographs capturing her spiritual and physical connection with the Earth by feminist Ana Mendieta in the 1970’s.

The process of gardening is still analogous with the many varied processes of art-making today: progress through materiality or trial and error, understanding of beauty (consideration of colour, texture, composition and light) and the creation of a complete, shared living environment.

The garden is also, literally, a site of digging up history and planting new futures, creating the essence of community and highlighting the politics of place and activity ‘on country’ both indigenous and introduced.”

For many of artists, the garden provides a parallel site to the studio in which a kind of intuitive knowledge can be accessed. Whether it be pruning a dying shrub in order to save its life or harvesting the seeds of a vegetable and re-connecting with a primal understanding of survival, the garden taps into a kind of unspoken psychology or ‘gut instinct’ that many artists know well.

There is also a sense of experiential memory that is integral to the avid gardener and also to the artist. Of knowing and remembering the seasons, the pests, the angle of the morning sun, the mature heights and life cycles of different species, but also the lay of the land and the shape of a place.

Gardening is a radical act of generosity. As artists, we glean so much from this daily, or weekly practice of getting our hands dirty. It is a ritual tonic for the senses, a physical assertion of instinct and ancient knowledge. Sometimes it is a new beginning, an unexpected frost or an inexplicable flowering.

Not unlike the practice of making art, gardening is a kind of commitment to magic.”

The initial, tiny germ of an idea for this exhibition was planted the first time I read this quote from Margaret Atwood; “Gardening is not a rational act,” she wrote. “What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

Gardening is Not a Rational Act opens on September 20 and runs until October 15.
Location: c3 Contemporary Artspace, The Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street Abbortsford VIC
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm Wednesday to Sunday during exhibition periods

Featured image at top of post: Crop of  Lyu, 2017, Gelatin silver print (67.2cm x 57.2cm) by David Rosetzky.

'The Border in Colour', by Alice Wormald
'Study for a Metaphysical Garden', 2017, (210cm x 160cm x 150cm), plaster, mdf, wire, pva and acrylic paint. By Sean Meliak. Work Courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne. Photo: Peter Rosetzky
'Delara' by Eleanor Butt
'The Language of Seeds' by Tai Snaith
'Albertine' by Kate Daw