Patterson began working on the collages in this exhibition in her studio in Jamaica, before completing them on a residency at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, AR, in 2019. Alongside this studio-based series, the artist has been planting a physical garden as a test site, inspired by the poisonous garden at Alnwick castle, UK. Patterson has planted with no regard for traditional hierarchy, instead allowing poisonous plants to grow alongside those with healing properties – thereby becoming a garden of survival.
In Patterson’s work, she explores the idea of the garden as both real and imagined, in relation to the procurement and legacies of postcolonial space:
“I am interested in how gardens – natural but cultivated settings – operate with social demarcations. I investigate their relationship to beauty, dress, class, race, the body, land and death.”
For …to dig between the cuts, beneath the leaves, below the soil…, the artist has moved into the undergrowth of a garden gone awry. Luscious, bright plants bursting with untameable life lure the viewer closer. Amidst the vegetation, objects are unearthed – discarded shoes and children’s toys create an uncanny feeling, whilst beneath the leaves are twinkling eyes and silhouetted limbs. With an eerie absence of a body, the scene slowly reveals itself as ominous.
Patterson states that she uses beauty as a tool to trap the viewer ‘physically, psychologically and emotionally’ in an intricate and seducing composition. Shrouding figures almost completely – there is a presence of bodies no longer there, raising pertinent questions about the those who are not visible. People become memorialized in Patterson’s gardens – each piece is a marker for bodies overlooked. Life fervently continues, and those who live in the garden persist in finding ways to survive.
Feature image: Ebony G. Patterson, ‘…sunsets and monarchs come to feast, snakes come to discover as she remains lost in plain sight…’, 2019