15 contemporary female artists provide their unique and diverse takes of the symbolism of gardens in an exhibition at Oxo Gallery.
What do gardens mean to us? They have long been emblematic of femininity, fertility, and the origin of life. They are our refuge away from the chaos, and a pocket of land where we can get closer to nature. Religions often refer to Paradise as a garden and in the West it’s also associated with the expulsion of Adam and Eve. These stories mean the garden can represent both idyllic beauty and complex, often challenging, narratives.
“In Search of Peace and Love amongst the Flowers” provides different takes on this established symbolism through the eyes and works 15 contemporary female artists. These artists use a variety of mediums, including photography, painting, collage, ceramics, installation, and film, to explore themes like identity, belonging, memory, healing, and the female gaze.
This exhibition invites viewers to reconsider the garden and its significance in the context of the female experience. It offers a narrative that reclaims the garden from the shadows of male control, and shines a spotlight on the power and resilience of women in both society and contemporary art.
The artists featured in this collection bring their individual voices to the conversation, challenging the historical male-dominated art canon. They draw inspiration from their diverse backgrounds and experiences, each redefining the garden in a way that speaks to their unique perspective.
Hailing from different corners of the globe, these artists represent a rich tapestry of cultural and geographic diversity. Some were born and raised in cosmopolitan centres others in more rural settings, collectively they have heritage from parts of the world as diverse as Russia, Iran, Latvia, London, China, and Angola. This global mix allows for a fusion of artistic influences, traditions, and storytelling techniques that ensures each artist offers a unique take on the collective theme.
Artist Abi Ola invites us to step inside her works by making her figures faceless so we can imagine ourselves in their place, while Yasmin Noorbaksh and Latifah A Stranack focus on censorship and the process of arriving at what we deem to be the truth.
Referencing art history Olivia McEwan looks at how the materials used in art tie into the natural world they originate from and The Baroque Anarchist, as her name would suggest, draws from the Baroque era.
Further figurative artists include Ieva Ansaberga who questions the impact of the body on the environment and also how the world around us impacts our bodies too, while Esther Sabetpour is a photographer and burns survivor whose work uses self-portraiture to explore identity and memory.
Other artists included in the show are: Jennifer Nieuwland, Olivia Rose Durley, Deborah Burnstone, Azeri Aghayeva, Tribambuka, Amber Khan, Chengwei Xia and Lícia Santos.
In a world where the garden is often a metaphor for growth, healing, and transformation, these artists reinterpret and expand upon these themes. These artists sow narratives that explore the complexities of identity, the power of resilience, and the importance of the female gaze. Their collective works remind us that gardens are not only physical spaces but also powerful symbols that connect us to our histories, our emotions, our backgrounds and the natural world.
In search of peace and love amongst the flowers is on at Oxo Gallery, 15-19 November. Entry is free and there will be a talk with the artists hosted by art critic Tabish Khan on 18 November, 3pm – ticketed and free.
Images from top to bottom: copyright Ieva Ansaberga, Esther Sabetpour and Jennifer Nieuwland.