Flow Gallery in collaboration with Somerset Art Works and with the support of The Arts Council grants arranged two residencies of one week for artists who work in urban environments yet whose work is deeply influenced by gardens and meadows.
Forde Abbey owners very kindly provided a perfect environment with its magnificent gardens and a grand house ( originally a Cistercian Abbey) full of history. It was to be a retreat from city life, time out to experiment and draw and write.
Katie Spragg and Kaori Tatebayashi were selected for the residency this year.
An exhibition of the works resulting from the two residencies will open at Forde Abbey on 22nd September until 31st October 2017.
Here's Katie Spragg's wonderfully descriptive account of her recent residency at Forde Abbey House and Gardens:
"In May earlier this year, myself and Kaori Tatebayashi spent a week at Forde Abbey, a still family-owned grand house, gardens and surrounding land on the Somerset/Dorset border. We arrived from London on a glorious May evening and immediately set out to explore the gardens.
It was certainly very picturesque with the golden light dappling across the great lawn and dazzling off of the three ponds dotted across the gardens. The gardens at Forde Abbey are a great mix of curated, planned landscaping and areas left to be 'wild'. The meadow grass, a particular favourite of mine, as those who know my work will know, was in full flower with purple clovers and yellow buttercups. Circling the great pond at the top of the garden we found an overhanging tree with ferns growing from it, and the beech house, a highlight of our brief planning-visit a few months earlier, then a mass of twisting curling branches was now a leafy outlook across the lake.
For the next three days it rained. But still the two of us set out exploring, each with our own agendas; Kaori was interested in the paintings and art work in the house and had a list of wildlife she hoped to find to model from, while I was inspired by the architecture and materials used to build the house and the composition of the landscape as a whole. Spending time at Forde Abbey, you realise there are many layers to the history of the building, the gardens, the land and those who's ownership it has passed through.
In these rainy few days we occupied ourselves with sketching and painting, drawing outside when it wasn't wet, taking hundreds of photographs, visiting the local Harvey Stone quarry where I filled the back of Kaori's Mini with lumps of stone from their waste pile, catching newts with jam jars and a bright torch late at night, sleeping in our four poster beds in the abbey, eating hearty lunches in the cafe and going on a tour of the family's goat farm, pick-your-own strawberry farm, private pond and learning some of the details about farming. It felt like a completely different world to what I know from my suburban upbringing and now living in London.
For our final two days the weather improved. I spent a day running a workshop for a group of local school children; we toured the gardens - painting with sticks and dandelions and using the 10 foot fountain to create a 'drawing' before the children made an amazing installation from clay, modelling two worlds that merged in the middle - one a landscaped garden, the other a space where nature had taken over.
On the last day, myself and Kaori completed our residency by driving to the families private pond where I took my first outdoor dip of the year, it wasn't as cold as I'd (feared and) expected!
I became really interested in the confluence and contrast between the curated nature of the Forde Abbey gardens; the lumpy topiary yew trees, mowed lawns and the shapely ponds alongside the untamed areas free to grow bracken, bramble and dock leaves and areas of meadow grass. Also the planted rock garden and then the welsh poppies, maidenhead ferns, succulents and clovers that grow from the stone of their own accord. It was this that has inspired five new works that I have created for our exhibition in the abbey in September, as well as being inspired by the materials of the abbey itself - I have worked with stone and coloured glass for the first time."