Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reading a garden

In July I spent two weeks on the Birr Castle Demesne in County Offaly, Ireland. This is a very historical property belonging to the Parsons family since 1620. Lord and Lady Rosse, descendants of the original owners, still live in the castle and now rent out two properties on the grounds. The Bothy was our home for two weeks- peat fireplace and rain included.

The 120 acres of cultivated land included: walkways, fernery, lakes, wildflower meadow and formal garden to name a few. The gardens are open to the public daily and there is a science centre and an exhibition centre on site. Our access to the gardens through a door in the wall from out Bothy property was a major bonus. Many mornings I could be found roaming the grounds with book and camera in hand. After two weeks I thoroughly documented every aspect I was interested in.

While exploring the garden, I used a viewing framework proposed by McIntosh in
Gardens of the Gods – Myth, Magic and Meaning to guide my documentation of various aspects of the property. He contends that if one understands the "parts of speech' of a garden, it is actually possible to read a garden as one would read a text. Obviously, with my background in education and literacy development this whole notion was very intriguing.

I arrived back home with over a thousand photographs and a notebook full of observations and questions. This material is forming the backbone of my current series. I plan to create 16 mixed media paintings on board. At this point 6 are complete and 2 in process.

No comments: