‘The contemporary garden is a site of contradiction and uncertainty: part conflict, part co-operation: the garden of unearthly delights and earthly imperfections.’

— Mary Horlock, Representation and Intervening, Art of the garden, Tate 2004


Covered, 2009 is a body of work that depicts a palm tree in my father’s garden wrapped in material to protect it from frost over the winter months. The project was completed at the start of spring just before the covering became redundant as a protection from the cold weather.

The domestic garden is a controlled and contrived space, one that often has ambiguous status. Here the natural world is explored but equally is a symbol of man’s continued desire to bend nature to human will. In this project I see the garden as a studio space or stage where I have documented sculptural forms created by my father. Inspired by Paul Nash’s late photographs in which he explored domestic landscapes in reference to  ‘object-personages’ – curious or evocatively shaped forms that seemed to resemble or take on the personality of something else- I seek to highlight the way that space can function as a matrix of unnoticed possibilities. 

Thus the interpretation of the object within the photograph is dependent on projection, as the viewer may be unaware of what lies beneath the wrapping. In the photographs the plant becomes a sculptural object, the folds in the material imply jellyfish or mushroom clouds, resemble mouths, noses and eyes: anthropomorphic, faceless and silent forms. Rooted to the spot the object comes out of the ground as if fixed to a plinth. Presented as a series the images may be read as exhibits within the tradition of ethnographic display. The documentation of a ritualistic process of a north London suburban garden within which an object becomes otherworldly: fetishised and surreal.

This set is part of a wider body of work that explores other forms within the garden and represents my continued engagement with the ephemeral object in relation to photography. The photographs are a documentation of an object that embodies notions of preservation and presentation. Within the photographs the object is in a shrouded state, a stasis that will not be affected by the advent of spring.

 — Peter Ainsworth received the 2009 Hungry... bursary from the Rhubarb-Rhubarb International Review.