Swiss Garden 1-5 (2018, mixed media on paper)

Swiss Garden 1

Named for a garden created in the Victorian era by the 3rd Baron Ongley at Old Warden in Bedfordshire, this lapidary series of mixed media miniatures evokes the deep green foliage, bright splashed of blossom and carefully-crafted little vistas typical of the eponymous garden.

Swiss Garden 2

Deep greens, cobalt blues and flashes of purple combine with intriguing root-like patterns created by pressing paper onto thickly-layered paint and allowing the resulting capillary patterns to dry before working further into the image with gems and further brushwork. The palette is evocative of the heavy use of evergreens and rhododendrons in the Swiss Garden as well as Ongley’s remarkable achievement of height and undulation in the garden’s earthworks – no mean feat in the flat countryside of Bedfordshire.Swiss Garden 3

The Swiss Garden also has something of an ambivalent heritage, as it’s creation contributed to the bankruptcy shortly after its completion of its creator Baron Ongley, whose family had owned the estate at Old Warden since 1690. After some 20 years of disrepair the estate was bought by the industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth, who demolished the mansion but restored and further developed the Swiss Garden. As landscape, then, it showcases in microcosm both the large-scale whims of England’s wealthy elite (Ongley also modelled the adjacent village on his Alpine fantasies, and tales recount that villagers were expected to wear red neckerchiefs to look suitably picturesque as Ongley passed in his carriage) and also the changing nature of that elite over the centuries, as landed wealth increasingly gave way to that of the industrial merchant class. Swiss Garden 4

Today the Swiss Garden is much restored and is open to the public all year round. The sense of delicate close-up, of exploring hidden pockets of horticultural or sociohistorical interest, suffuses these five paintings inspired by the Farden’s strange blend of fantasy, overreach, somber evergreens and jewel-like charm.Swiss Garden 5 (Grotto)