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Wylie: Hortus Conclusus enlivens KAG

Lynden Beesley’s The Artist’s Garden Project: Hortus Conclusus, images from the spring 2014 installation in the Rotary Courtyard at the Kelowna Art Gallery. - Kyle L. Poirier/contributor
Lynden Beesley’s The Artist’s Garden Project: Hortus Conclusus, images from the spring 2014 installation in the Rotary Courtyard at the Kelowna Art Gallery.
— image credit: Kyle L. Poirier/contributor

It’s summer and that means the Kelowna Art Gallery’s Artist’s Garden Project is back for another year.

This is the second in this series, conceived and produced by Kelowna-based artist Lynden Beesley. Her idea was to emulate a medieval herb garden, as the Rotary Courtyard space at the Gallery has always reminded her of a cloister.

True to the form of medieval planned gardens, Beesley’s version, titled Hortus Conclusus (which is Latin for enclosed garden) is arranged symmetrically around a central point. In the middle of the space is a water feature incorporating a bronze sculpture made by the artist. Wood-sided raised beds in L-shapes are arranged around this fountain. In the corners of the courtyard are bench seats sheltered by arbors made from woven branches and vines.

Beesley commissioned local artist Annabel Stanley to create these, as well as a screen that masks the modern-day workings of the irrigation pump and boom box that plays medieval music tucked in one corner.

Potted climbing roses have been placed adjacent to these structures and they have already begun to creep up the dried branches and vines.

Herself an avid and experienced gardener, Beesley set out to faithfully follow the planting methods of the middle ages, so each of her four garden beds is dedicated to a specific purpose (strewing, dyeing, healing and cooking) and the plants have been grouped accordingly.

The medieval garden was considered a sanctuary, and many comments by visitors to date this spring have mentioned this feeling. There is something peaceful and contemplative about the space, not only due to the plants themselves, but also linked to the successful consideration of the proportions of the space in planning the three-dimensional elements it now contains.

The Kelowna Art Gallery’s garden projects are accompanied by web-based publications, so that images may be added to the site throughout the length of time the plants are in place. Beesley’s site contains an in-depth, illustrated interview conducted by the gallery’s curator about the history of gardens, and how gardening relates to her practice as an artist.

Beesley has a BFA from Queen’s University and normally works in sculpture and printmaking. She has lived in Kelowna since 2001 and has been active in the Okanagan as an exhibiting artist.

Each artist commissioned to create a garden in the gallery’s courtyard is given a full year so that they are allotted all four seasons. So the Hortus Conclusus will be in place until the Spring of 2015. Come to visit often, as, like any living thing, the garden changes frequently.

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