An Art Project in Deal

August 5, 2009

in Articles, General Interest

An Art Project in Deal

by Christine Finn

Birds have been making art in my garden. Over the past weeks they have been blurring the lines of a yin-yang symbol fashioned from bird seed and cat litter.

This attempt at natural balance is part of a project inspired by the deep roots of attachment to my family house and garden, a depth only realised when I attempted to leave three years ago.

Leave-Home-Stay began as a whole house excavation, conducted when I returned to the home I had known for 35 years after the deaths of both of my parents. The overarching idea was to mediate the emotions and thoughts, and provide a catalyst for the public as part of RIBA South East’s annual celebration of Architecture.

The house framed the writing and broadcasts which tracked my progress over three summers. The garden is still overlooked by the Gasometer of my 70s childhood. It had a neat lawn then. Today it is one of the few wild ones in the area. In celebrating what I haven’t planted, I reveal the influence of wabi sabi, as I investigate the demise over time of this suburban semi on the Kent coast.

Year One, 2007, was a conscious attempt to tell a story, drawing on a 1970s sea-flood, the loss of local greenery since under housing estates, and developers circling for careworn old houses with big gardens. My father was a keen gardener until he was struck down with Parkinson’s disease. I made his garden tools into an installation snarled up with fishing line.

An Art Project in Deal - Image 2Over the March spring tides, I gathered fishing line from the beach, sorted it into colour, and ‘painted’ with it, filling the leylandii and fruit trees, and constructing small installations which I dotted around the garden. Among them, a 12 foot long tangle of line which I left curled under the bushes like some Prospero’s pet.

For Year Two, the house focus was the randomness of mantelpieces, and that was reflected in the garden works, ‘Lost Property’, constructed from domestic scrap. I made an end-of-garden hearth with a marble mantel, from three cast iron Victorian fireplaces, supported by charcoaled driftwood. It was lit with votive candles, evocative of the Shinto animist shrines I’d seen on Japanese islands.  A set of stairs and balustrade was salvaged from flats in Margate High Street, and a banister-like hand rail from a London church side chapel, was flecked with gold fingerprints.

An Art Project in Deal - Image 3This final year, the ‘sea creature’ came inside, to lie in front of the sitting room fireplace. The garden hearth is ablaze with orange fishing line, and the stairs sink into of a year’s unhindered growth in the garden. There is a new path through the grass, a ‘cat walk’ cut by a stray since December. Near the kitchen door the yin-yang symbol is disintegrating and blurring like a Buddhist sand painting.

An Art Project in Deal - Image 4And as dusk falls, I project film shot clips over the three years onto a Utility era sheet on the washing line. No sound effects, only the sound of birds and the occasional roar of the central heating boiler. All filmed and recorded, to show in a new space somewhere, distanced from its roots.

Christine Finn

Christine Finn’s website and Journalisted listing

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