Skip to main content

Brenda Riley

Associate Member

I am interested in perceptions of place and space and of framing devices, actual and implied, which alter, direct, and condition our gaze. This gaze therefore becomes merged with memory, and desire so that what we 'see' becomes a combination of the actual and the longed for and/or feared. This parallels a contemporary western attitude to landscape and the countryside whereby it is idealised and co modified so that for many it is viewed as a fiction (via 1V adverts etc) from a distance, but none-the-less highly valued. Whereas, this is primarily an urban or suburban view of the countryside I don't think exclusively so. It is possible to live surrounded by the countryside and still gain one's impression of it from images rather than the experience of it.

In my practice I am looking at notions surrounding our use of garden in contemporary culture as physical as well as imagined place, as activity, as memory, as metaphor and as an idealised form of nature. This interest picks up on both a shared and somewhat generalised take on the garden, but also allows for the particular, by which I mean the personal and often private expression and creation of place. It is in this area of overlap between the shared and the personal where I see the focus of my interest.

Over time I have been collecting garden stories. My interest has manifested itself in gathering garden related materials, which take a variety of forms. My collection includes particular garden biographies, excavated materials, photographs, various generations of gardening books and the highly conceptual and timeless phenomena of plant lists. In recent work I have been producing pieces as a response to looking at two gardens with which I have a long-term, although largely displaced, connection.

The first, at Llannerch, North Wales, was an elaborate seventeenth century design portrayed at the time in an arresting birds eye view. The original oil painting together with the faint traces left on the land provide the only evidence that this garden ever existed. The second garden at lpstones, Staffordshire, is being created by friends who have taken over a field, which runs down to a stream behind their house.

These sites have become linked in my mind by representing very different stages of their physical presence as gardens. Although their only connection one to another is my interest in them, I see them as being complimentary. They occupy opposite positions in the cyclical process by which gardens emerge from and return to the land from which they are fashioned.

For a long time the one has existed for me as an image only, and the other as a site with which I have memories and associations before the idea of making a garden from the site was ever conceived. In other words they present themselves in the form of garden as imagined place on the one hand and on the other as somewhere having a strong sense of biography of place. These notions of the garden form the focus of my current work.

November 2002


  • 2001
    • MA hons Fine Art
  • 1996
    • BA hons Fine Art
  • 1979
    • Dip Arch
  • 1978
    • MA hons Arch

Fine Art Practice

In my practice I am looking at notions surrounding the use of garden in contemporary culture as physKal as well as imagined place, as activity, as memory, as metaphor and as an idealised form of nature. I use a range of processes including printmaking, photography, assemblage and painting.

Selected Exhibitions

  • 2002
    • The Brewery Yard, Rode, Somerset.
  • 1999
    • LLoyds Offices, Bristol, Installation of translucent panels and assemblage pieces. Collaborative work
  • 1997 - 9
    • Ashridge Management Centre, Buckinghamshire
  • 1997 - 8
    • The Architecture Centre, Bristol
  • 1997
    • RWA Autumn Show RWA, Bristol, UK
  • 1995
    • The Upas Tree The Gallery, Bristol

Brenda Riley