The residencies, which hosted Magali Nougarède at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, Camarthenshire and Caroline Dear at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in Cwmbran, Torfaen, offered distinct experiences for the artists and respective audiences. Each artist considered, in broad terms, the interconnections between people and environment with specific attention to the subtleties regarding site, habitat, sustainability, biodiversity, soil and plants, to generate profound and compelling ideas.
Known for her hugely successful international career as a photographic artist, French-born Magali Nougarède continually strives to explore inter-disciplinary practices. Her application, demonstrated her ambition and passion to bring horticulture and art together and explore the possibilities held within gardening as a political activity. In the past year, she has embedded herself within the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, completing a course in horticulture. She says:
“My goals have been to acquire rigorous horticultural knowledge as well as giving myself the means to understand in some depth issues around sustainability and biodiversity before developing my practice further.
Too often perceived as a trivial activity or reduced to a TV makeover opportunity, gardening in the 21st century relates to key contemporary political questions including: health, food supply, climate change, sustainability, biodiversity, urban planning and social cohesion. In our current era of the green zeitgeist, where ideas of green lifestyles have been co-opted by corporate powers and marketing departments to sell more goods, what do buzz words such as ‘sustainability’ or ‘biodiversity’ really mean and how can they be implemented towards real environmental and community change? The National Botanic Garden of Wales as a center dedicated to plant conservation and diversity, offers an ideal microcosm to investigate local, national and global concerns.”
flora Artist in Residence at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre – January to March 2016.
Caroline Dear’s practice is formed from an understanding of the balance and flow within nature where she explores our changing relationship with the natural world and the subtle connections that exist between our inner selves and the outer physical landscape. She is interested in creating work which causes us to look at and experience the plants around us in new ways; learning about the deep bond which has developed over thousands of years and to understand our mutual interdependence. Referencing ancient traditional craft skills she makes contemporary and relevant work with these references as her core.
Within her aspirations for the residency she says;
“Some ideas I have been thinking about recently are exploring closely how we physically engage with the land. This is primarily through our feet, previously through the soles of our feet but now through our shoes… By selecting typical habitats and working with particular plants that exist there, a series of shoes for habitats or ‘habitat footprints’ could be created. These shoes would each use different fundamental structures and concepts, relating to the characteristics of diverse plants and the habitats selected…taking into account their Welsh, Latin and English names.”