Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £15 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website www.friendsofsmag.org

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Janet Boulton's Garden

Janet Boulton had a beautiful exhibition in the gallery a couple of years ago, celebrated by an in conversation with Sophie Cummings, organised by the Friends and written up here.  Following that evening, a Friends' visit to Janet's garden was arranged last summer, and postponed because of unfavourable conditions for gardens, and Janet's heavy schedule. When at a recent Private View of 'Touring the Collection: 60 years on', at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Janet suggested a visit, I jumped at the chance.
It's a wonderful garden, described on Janet's website with an informative and thorough accompanying video, and also in Gardens Illustrated


Janet Boulton’s narrow town garden represents the journey through her life as an artist since coming to live in Abingdon, near Oxford, in 1979. It is adorned with inscribed installations in wood, slate and glass, and other objects with artistic and personal associations. Every day she spends at home, Janet walks up the steps from the kitchen, across a witty chamomile lawn and past ‘flight’ – the word is carved into a slate tablet as a poem to joy – along the winding gravel path to the heart of the garden and through the arch to the studio. “The garden is as much a declaration of my commitment to still life and to Cubism as to the gardens that have inspired my watercolour paintings.”

 Erica Hunningher, Gardens Illustrated, September 2002


 Here's another accolade:
'Janet's house and garden are remarkable. and totally inimitable, almost as individual as Derek Jarman's and probably more approachable than his'.

When I visited Janet, I was encouraged to walk down the garden with my own thoughts, without any explanations. It took me about half an hour to walk down the garden, appreciate the end part of the garden and come back, seeing things very differently than on the way there.
I took a series of photos on my way down the garden:

The clipped box and greenery is often interrupted by bright splashes of colour like these Martagon lilies
This is Hearth, placed at the centre of the garden. Hear. Heart. Earth. Art.
And below this says WILD/NESS
Below is Flower show. Nostalgia. Celebrating a village event.
In this area were these rather amazing Rudbeckia sommerina
This is In memoriam. An old apple picking ladder. A dedication to all lost orchards and Janet's lost apple tree.
I'm not sure what this plant is called, Janet kindly gave me one of hers.
Behind the studio, at the end of the garden is a beautifully laid out very small garden. ML11 8NG is the postcode for Little Sparta- a reminder and an acknowledgement
Beautifully juxtaposed arrangement
Here's the seating area at the end of the garden,
looking at the lavender and postcode for little Sparta
To the left is a shed with the following writing on it: 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin' a quote from Candide. Voltaire's summing up 'After all, the best thing we can do is cultivate our garden'
How true.
Walking back towards the house, the garden looked quite different.
Horizon - a 3 metre horizontal with lettering derived from INFINITE/ INFINITY/ NONFINITO a work evoking the experience of looking at a panorama placed below eye level at a dark part of the garden.
I do know about this, it's 'This is not an Attack' In Ian Hamilton Finlay's Detached sentences on gardening, he writes 'Certain gardens are described as retreats when really they are attacks'. A humorous piece where the spouts of the watering cans could be seen as either trumpets or guns.

This is a Homage to Juan Gris a still life on a table of slightly exaggerated proportions (implying an altar)
A huge Nicotiana sylvestris by the house
The allotment holder depicts a vertical allotment
This was a beautiful geranium with the reddest flowers
And this is a bit hard to see, it's a tribute to Paul Nash, it's a bird's nest
I've included a few of the pieces in the garden, there's lots more in this fabulous garden.