Lurking in Our Neighbour’s Garden

 

Last week my husband and I were locking up our Victorian terrace here in Southampton. If you know much about terraced houses in the UK, you’ll know that the houses were built with each pair reflecting each other. Meaning each door is about 300mm apart from the neighbours!

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On occasions, as you can guess, we leave our house at the same time as our neighbour; and when this happens, our elderly gentleman neighbour is always ready to share, in story form, a part of his live.

Last week we listened to an explanation of his back garden. Being really kind, it looks like an abandoned village in the middle of a long forgotten jungle. I know because it can clearly be seen from our back windows. A scape that we didn’t see when buying online from NZ!

I digress.

He told us that many years ago he developed a labyrinth in his back garden. As you do!

This maze, in its heyday, beaconed the interested through many ‘worlds’, experiencing the illusion of standing inside parts of the human body – lungs, made of plastic bottles, an enormous eye, enabling a view through a pupil.  There were inanimate object as well, such as a four-foot-tall wedge of Swiss cheese to walk into and peer out the holes. All made with whatever media he could find to achieve the look; you get the idea.

We found his telling intriguing and it certainly unlock the mystery of their garden.

Then it happened! My ears pricked as he announced he had also created in this Folly, a couple of replica paintings in 3D. Tell me more! He excitedly explained that a person could walk through the paintings…

The first one The Scream of Nature by the expressionist painter Edvard Munch 1893, National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. When I look out the window I found the landscape gone, the tumultuous orange sky is now left to mother nature, who does on occasions oblige. but still there, in gut wrenching distortion is the 3D figure still with mouth a gasp and hands frozen in position against his cheeks!

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Arthur Lubow has described The Scream as “an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time.” Impressive!

The fourth version (pastel, 1895) was sold for $119,922,600 at Sotherbys Impressionist and Modern Art auction 2012, the fourth highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction. Bet you didn’t know that! I didn’t.

I owe my new found knowledge and interest in this iconic painting to my neighbour. I have been able to successfully extricate my opinion of the painting from the influence of Hollywood movies and costumes found in Emporiums.

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The remains of the other painting, The Persistence of Memory, known as The melted watch I have not found amidst the overgrown shrubbery and holly trees now boasting autumn red berries.

I have heard references to the painting on television and in video games, been into shops and seen real, working ‘melted’ clocks on sale, but that is as far as my inquisitiveness or lack thereof had taken me. How about you?

The persistence of memory 1931, Salvador Dali, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA, 24cmx33cm 9.5”13”! is an example of Surrealist art. They do not concern themselves with logic and order. However, here in Dali’s work we do see pieces of the real world, insects, (ants in his paintings symbolized decay) and mountain scapes, amidst the abstract, dream like composition.

Dawn Ades wrote, “The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order”. Hmmm!

…Time had shot by and we were now running late to our engagement; our neighbour finished by adding that he didn’t have grandchildren when he created the maze, but now he had a granddaughter who he takes for a walk through it. What a fascinating way to plant art appreciation in the heart of a small child; to hold their hand and walk, not talk, them through a masterpiece; albeit tangled in the undergrowth.

To be honest, my opinion of the back garden has changed. Even in its saddened state I now find myself standing at the window scanning and dare I say it…yes in a strange way, wowed by the remnants of his vision and like an archaeologist delicately working in some newly discovered Anglo Saxon village dig, figuratively speaking, I do the same.

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