Gardening as an Artistic Medium
gardening and art
What is art, this question may be more difficult to answer than it appears. I have seen work advertised as art that is pretty but has nothing to say; works that would work well in my living room but seem out of place in an art gallery. Is a piece art because it hangs in a gallery or is it art because of what it took to create it.
The definition I like of art is simple, art is form and content. This translates into all art must consist of these two things.
When referring to form we are referring to:
- The elements of art,
- The principles of design
- The physical materials that the artist has used.
Form is thus concrete and can eb readily described, regardless of the art work in question.
Content is based in a concept or idea. Concept means
- what the artist meant to portray,
- what the artist actually managed to portray
- How the viewers responds to the intended and actual messages.
The elements (society, religion, politics, for example) that influenced the artist are also part of the content.
Plants are the materials the gardener works with and how they are arranged or planted as well as the underlying reasons the garden was created help determine whether gardening itself is an artistic medium.
Does form play a role in garden design? The elements of art are space, colour, shape, texture and form, for example. A garden design includes all these, how the gardener makes use of these elements determines how the work is received.
The principals of design are balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis and unity. The principals are used to organize the elements and give meaning to the work.
Meaning takes us to content and what the gardener was attempting to say and how that was received by the viewers.
The materials the gardener/artist sues are alive and will change over time. A gardener requires a clear vision of what the finished work will look like before he or she plants the first seed.
Unlike other art mediums, gardens are works in time and space, and are always a work in progress; works that can be change by moving a plant or adding another one.
Gardening invites experimentation and participation. The garden may be collaboration in both design and implementation. In fact, even non-human partner can and indeed must share in the process if the plants are to thrive.
Gardening is a cooperative, challenging and rewarding medium that can engage the gardener/artist for a lifetime.