What is a garden?

The drawing Sym is displayed in a hand-made container alongside two essays (‘Blue’, ‘Surface’) and an etymology of ‘Pairidaeza’. The texts are presented inside the lids of the box, which open in different directions. This leads the spectator gradually and tangentially to the core theme of my drawing: a visual interpretation of my understanding of the garden as a system of growth. The enveloping container functions symbolically as a garden wall of the drawing by protecting it and forming an in-between to the outer surroundings. It creates a space in which the artwork can unfold and is yet connected to its environment.

What is a Garden? (Schiller)

A garden is a system of growth; it bears the potential of a multiplicity of vegetal species that can be activated by individual care. In a biodiverse garden, plants can sustain a symbiotic relationship amongst themselves and with other garden inhabitants.

Friedrich Schiller, in his Second Letter on The Aesthetic Education Of Man, utilises a metaphor of ‘planting’ for referring to the activity of the human mind. By contrast, when Schiller describes the societal and educational system of his age which he condemns, he calls it an ‘ingenious clockwork, in which, out of the piecing together of innumerable but lifeless parts, a mechanical kind of collective life ensued’: he utilises a mechanical metaphor, as the contrary of organicity, for describing the opposite of his aims. The spirit of Schiller’s argument is characterised by the ideal of the classical era to strive for a development of individual persons’ potential instead of their dutiful acceptance of an inborn place in society. When Schiller talks about the ‘manifold dispositions’ and of the ‘formation of human nature’, this development of abilities can be seen as a nourishment or cultivation of potential, which is the fundamental reference point for a metaphor of growth in the context of education.

Elements of the Garden


Metamorph is a hand drawing made in black coloured pencil on semi-transparent paper, sitting in a bespoke black-and-white box with lids that open like wings. The drawing shows living things, featuring elements from the animal world and from the plant world. Both seem to intersect as the swan’s neck bends into a tree trunk, while from the gullet of a hatching chick grows a germ bud. The swan’s symbolising beauty and readiness to fly away contrasts with the gnarly and rigid tree trunk. Each transforms further into human hands which gently touch at the top of the picture, unforcedly closing the circle. Thus a metaphor for humankind is formed, one of the essential features of which is the aspiration of the mind to reach high while the body remains on solid ground.


This series of drawings was inspired by a code poem written in a programming language by musician and poet Magdalena Treutwein. These drawings are part of a new collaboration between Magdalena and myself, unfolding as a duet of poetry and visual art. A fascinating aspect of code is its mediatedness: it is not directly accessible or intuitively understandable but has to be learned and needs a machine to run the programme. This mediatedness is reflected in some ways in how a drawing works: for example, the image surface is like an in-between, a mediation, not only between the artist and the viewer, but perhaps more so between them both and the image content. I make this aspect visible by creating a layer in the images of this series that draws attention to the image surface, like the evenly distributed crosses in the shown drawings. 'Behind' this 'flat' layer there is another situation happening in the 'depth' of the image space. This constellation may create a feeling of 'looking through' in the viewer, looking at something that lies 'behind' the layer of the image surface. In reality, of course, this perceived depth is just as flat as the rest of the drawing.

Cut your own bread

This drawing is a response to Marina Dora Martino’s piece Abacus from her manuscript Cut your own Bread. An alternative Dictionary:

Abacus = or the place where everything starts,
where there’ s nothing to keep A and B apart
from each other. Instrument of calculus
and tricks of mathematics, tell us
a story made of numbers.
Once finished, please, don’t depart.
Once finished, go back to the start.

Text © Marina Dora Martino

This drawing responds to the chapter R from Marina Dora Martino’s manuscript Cut your own Bread. An alternative Dictionary. Excerpt:

R […]
= ! ! ! ! ! !!! !! ! ! ! ! !!!! ! ! ! !!! ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! !! ! ! !! ! !!! ! ! ! !!!! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !! !!! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!! !!!! !!! !!!! !!! !! ! ! ! !!!! !!! ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!! !! ! ! ! !!!! ! ! ! !!! !
Reality = Rain! Like bullets
through the racoon’s fur. Rain chewing
the desolate soil and spewing
puddles; rain feeding intricate
brambles of thorns. The racoon sits in the middle
of a small pool of rain and after soothing its scratched
throat, its wrecked old throat,
its doomed-racoon throat,
it falls asleep in the water.
It has a dream.
Ruin = this morning pristine sand,
tomorrow clean bones. The fire
ants are finding out what a racoon’s
made of. By noon,
the racoon resembles a broken drum.
By late afternoon, the ruins
of an ancient fortress.
By night, not much is left.
Rustle = but there is another one who is ready for theft.
While the ants, red-bellied and bloated,
finish their banquet, the devil
lizard, silent lizard
of the desert, rises
dusting off its back
layers of fuliginous
sand and makes of them
an exquisite dessert.
By morning, the racoon
in the ants’ belly and the ants
in the lizard’s belly, are moving
towards the next place
where they’ll pause.
The wind carries upon
the desert the rustle
of sand echoing
in the racoon’s
empty jaws.

Text © Marina Dora Martino