gardening at night by Cig Harvey

It is curious to consider how I have come to a consideration of this work that instantly moved me. There is the student in me that might suggest that this is maybe a learned response after immersion in a subject; or it maybe that the work chimed within me, to an inner sense inscribed in the work that I had, and perhaps never will have, any control over. When the sensation of attraction to a work becomes instantly and engagingly visceral, before any engagement to any deeper intellectual sensibility, there is a provision within me to instinctively hold back. I usually desire to reserve that impulse to consume it, lest it’s core is less than its surface. But with this work I didn’t resist; it was both engaging and beautiful, it pulled me into into its fictive world. So should I regard it as a student or as layman, am I either?

And so, initially as a student, I write: The first few pages of ‘gardening at night’ by Cig Harvey contains no visual images, but images through text, ostensibly in the third person, a self portrait that situates the work as a whole, anchors the narrative providing context in a lyrical and poetic way. The tones that are wrought in these few pages continue to reverberate throughout the book. The notions of identity, love and the effects of time.

There may be some that might question the veracity of any of the story, but I felt drawn to this fiction. One that is rendered in an edit that seemed to be everything that I might want to create in my own work. Images created from words and photographs, where I felt that sometimes the visual image held primacy over the written image, where the contest between the two developed into a sum greater than the parts, and where those parts hold individual and inspirational beauty.

In the interview with the artist by Sharon Boothroyd the artist states: “I love the narrative structure of a book. Gardening [at night] is very much a story from start to finish. It is sequenced in multiple ways: visually, by season…” I noticed seasonal structure, but also the temporal that I felt was a vital element running through the ‘story’. The edit, which was accomplished as a collaboration with fellow artist Deb Wood with whom she has worked before, provided (in my view) layers of narrative augmenting greatly to the pleasure of reading. I noticed the use of colour toning to bring image pairs together and again in the interview the artist talks about “I always say that I like to make pictures about things, not of things, and I try to avoid drawing from only one genre or subject matter. For me, the story is always the most important element and all the formal concerns of light, frame, style are all in support of that narrative.”  This is something that I feel strongly about my work; I do not think of myself as ‘Landscape’ photographer, nor a ‘Documentary’ photographer, in fact I don’t think I fit into a genre as I want to create fictions, and the fictions may appear in the “land’ or in a domestic situation, it may be staged and with or without people. It might deal with events that have occurred or that might be about to happen. I am a photographer?

The visual images are all full bleed, which I felt contributes directly to the work. I felt a sense of (pleasurable) anxiety about what might be outside of the image, that the images – miniature narratives in themselves – only tell a part story. The imagery in the text, whilst beautifully rendered is less ‘Open’, more descriptive and I wonder whether this unbalanced perspective is purposeful or whether it is a happenstance of style. Again, as with other books that I have taken inspiration from recently, there is a clear linear narrative that begins at the start of the book and winds its way to the end. It is ‘Open’ in that there is no ‘ending’ to ‘Close’ the fiction, the reader is left to develop whatever closure might be apparent to them. And by ‘Open’ I mean it to be able to contain an energy that allows it to continue.

And if I read this book not as a student (even if that is feasible), I get the sense of the rapture of life, a celebration of the notion of how sublime the transience of identity and identities can be. Ageing has been forever been alluded with the seasons and use as metaphor, but I felt no sense of an ending as the autumn fell to winter, no ‘Winterreise’, perhaps, even the opposite as the work ends with the words – in manuscript: “I am running towards us”. These last few words, perhaps the most ‘Open’ of all the texts, suggest that the ‘us’ could be all the ‘identities’, or it could perhaps be that the ‘us’ is the both the author at the start and the end of the journey, an accumulation of the twin perspectives of a life into a single ‘I’.

So much to enjoy and learn from.


18 thoughts on “gardening at night by Cig Harvey

  1. I’m pleased you enjoyed it as well. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the heart. In one of the videos she says she would love to have an Exhibition in the UK and I hope that happens.

    • I have watched this video while preparing my last AOP assignment more than a year and a half ago and it was very inspiring and touching for me. I recommend it if you want to explore identity and narrative.
      I have found great also the next video where Cig Harvey was the juror of the contest “Id – The Object of Self” which resulted in an exhibition with the same name:

  2. It is a very interesting book with super ideas. It makes me feel that you do not have to say everything in a collection of images but allow your reader to fill in the rest. Great blog.

    • Thanks Anna, I agree about allowing the reader to draw their own narrative conclusions, for me it is vital, however the fine balance of opacity and direction is one that is not achieved overnight….

  3. Pingback: Purgatory heat | Body of Work

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