Sunday, 6 September 2009

In The Garden

The garden has a small museum which I didn't stay to look at for long. I have looked around before and the only thing I stopped to really look at were the quotes written above the displays. It seems Barbara loved Cornwall for it's pagan landscape and St Ives for the sense of community it gave her with other artists.

Upstairs some of her smaller creations are on display along with a glass jug and a huge quartz crystal which look in need of a good scrub. And then outside!
The garden isn't that big and is in the middle of a busy town but for the most part it is quiet inside. People are driven to talk in hushed tones. There is a meditative feel to it. A small green oasis...
The garden itself is lush and green but then being blessed with Cornwall's warmth and rain and St Ives sheltered position, this isn't surprising. A path snakes all the way round the outside of the garden and a tiny network of two or three paths snakes across the middle. Along one long side is a high wall against which sits her workshops and a conservatory. Where this wall meets the bottom of the garden is her house which was not particularly big. The bottom of the garden is also walled with a seating area that acts as suntrap and a little summer house containing a bed. The other walls are lower and topped with vegetation.

So it really, really isn't very big!
And everywhere, of course, there are sculptures. Some bronze. Some stone. Some sit huge within the garden and can be seen from several points. Others nestle in a corner or an alcove and you suddenly find yourself there, on top of them, as they appear from nowhere.

They don't compete with the plants. They all sit there together in harmony. The sculptures don't even compete with each other. And they certainly don't just look good from one angle...

Her complex geometrical shapes appeal to me. They are not sharp and angular in the main, they are fantastically curved. The garden has a lovely deep energy to it. It feels feminine. It feels healing. It is very calm and grounding. I can imagine though, that Barbara bought the garden alive when she was in it. I suspect the energy of the garden changed with her moods.

I lingered in several spots, soaking it all up....
I learnt that although she died in a fire, caused by a cigarette she dropped when she fell asleep after drinking a little whiskey, that it wasn't the fire that killed her but the fumes from the plastics she she worked with to coat some of her works. The dirty jug and crystal have never been cleaned from the fire. The calendar still sits on the date that she died. Her clothes sit on the back of the big door in her workshop. Unfinished works sit around, in progress. Fresh lumps of granite lie, awaiting her touch. It as if she might return any moment, as if she had just gone for a snooze. The careful work of conservationists keeps it just so, stuck in a bubble of time.


  1. wow, so powerful.. and eerie.

    i love the sculptures, and the story. :) there are such interesting places to visit where you are!

  2. Mind you, thinking about it, the whole of Britain is like that... Dense with people and places and history. A right patchwork.

    Where I grew up is not a tourist place. There arn't famous places to go but even there, there are things stuffed with atmosphere and history within a short distance. A ancient coppiced wood, now a nature reserve. Motte and bailey castle mounds and motes deserted in fields. A barrow I have seen on a map but never knew was there. An ancient manor house, now long gone, where one of King Henry the Eights wives was held. Treasure found in fields. Old railways tunnels, bridges and cuttings for a line that has long gone. Manor houses and churches. A tree used for hangings at Deadman's Cross.

    So yes, I think the whole of these islands are like it, stuffed full of time and history, even when it looks like no one has ever been there before....

  3. Imagine having such an impact on some people that the moment of your leave taking is fixed as a a cathedral...or a monolith...imagine.

    And, yet, anyone who is loved, is fixed like that too, but quietly inside a heart that misses the one who left.

  4. Being so well known has it's sad side too. Apparently one of her son's became a sculptor but never felt he could live up to her. He drank and eventually died of scirosis.

    The thing is, although her workshop looks eerie in the photos in a way, the atmosphere isn't eerie at all.

  5. I had to backtrack a bit to catch up with this post - I love these sculptural images, and the sense of the artist's life captured in that moment of her leaving. (Wish I could join your new group, but I don't think I could commit to it - however, may you find support together to walk that spiral path with confidence and excitement.)

  6. Thank you for again sharing a historical journey. I loved living in Britain for the very things you describe above. I really miss it. Once we went to Finchingfield and discovered a couple who live there in a thatched cottage and sold corn dollies. There was always some new adventure when we rode our bikes through the country roads. Lovely.

  7. some day Andrew and I will visit Britain... Ireland... well the UK in general :)