As the seasons turn in London, I thought I would finish the last print that I had planned for the Lansu project from this summer’s residency in the Chinese Garden in Portland. It’s a linocut 30 x 80 cm, called Lansu Pine, and I’ve shown it here in two halves as the image is so long and thin. As in the other prints in the series, there are lots of little people leaping around: are they playing or trying to escape? I have reprinted the whole series in black and white, which I think works well.  Originally I thought the prints might form a long book, but now I’m not sure, as each image needs some space to breathe. Something to ponder as the days draw in…


Ever since I visited the US on a double residency in 2007 I’ve been in love with Portland, Oregon. The summers are always warm and sunny, the city walkable and full of quirky independent shops, dominated by leafy avenues and rose blossom, old-style porched houses and glittering forest. This summer I’ve been invited by the Portland Chinese Classical garden (Lansu garden) to explore their space, make art and have a show. The project was initiated by the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology.


The Lansu garden is like a romantic gem – filled with lovingly crafted rocks, hand-carved windows, authentic architecture, inscriptions redolent with history and symbolism, and at each turn a divine unfolding of borrowed landscape and harmoniously arranged shrubbery. In fact the components of the garden were mainly built in Suzhou (Portland’s sister city) and shipped over to the US, where a team of Chinese worked for over a year to create this aromatic haven.



When I arrived this week the air was heavy with the fragrance of gardenia; in the scholar’s courtyard trees were sporadically dropping ripe plums. There is a sense of completely different time when within the garden, as each step reveals new perspectives and moods. The fat ornamental carp rustle elegantly beneath the lily pads, and shadows flicker on the whitewashed walls. You feel like you are on a journey within an elaborate immersive installation that’s almost perfect.




It is the Lansu garden’s location in a slightly seedy corner of the red light district that is incongruous. This garden is a sanctuary, but located close to the city’s large train station, where trains frequently blast out a powerful brassy moan. The garden’s many carved windows look out on the street where dreadlocked drunks like to cluster, and beyond the pavilion’s curved roofs rise some glossy tower blocks.


Every now and then a car alarm goes off, or buses rattle the hand made window panes. To enjoy the garden to the full you should, as most do, ignore the other visitors and pose as if alone, and listen to the charming Erhu music and ignore the fact that it is playing an off-key version of Edelweiss or Twinkle Twinkle little star.


I am reminded of other gardens such as the Garden of Eden where fallen humanity was unwelcome, and the garden that belonged to the selfish giant who was so selfish that spring herself was not able to enter. This is certainly not the case with the Lansu garden, but I observed people clearing rotten plums from the borders, dusting cobwebs from the windows, and talking about moving trees to make the garden more perfect. It is evident that the nature here needs to be trained and tamed.


With such an oasis of greenery, my initial thoughts are how difficult it would be to compete with such a lovely experience. I have been sketching a little, but not keen to try to reproduce the garden’s beauty – that would be redundant. Instead I am weaving a narrative in my mind about the original nature of the garden as an jewelled cage, a place of enforced seclusion and whispered relationships… Not sure exactly what this means I will make visually, but that’s the current theme…


The show opens on the 2nd August and will be on for the month. I will give a talk on 11th August. For more information please see the Chinese Classical Garden’s website here and the Sitka Center fr Arts and Ecology website here

Update: from the 16–23 July I shall be working in the garden in the mornings. They’ve made me a special place to carve! It’s located between the teahouse and the Scholar’s Study  (sorry, between the Tower of Cosmic Reflections and the Celestial House of Permeating Fragrance), in front of the north exit, tucked behind a huge ornamental dustbin. I’m in paradise!IMG_7286_e

PS> I just had to add a pic of LA airport below just to remind myself that I am not in China!


I have developed an unhealthy obsession with Costanza, the heroine of Malatestan medieval history, who was murdered after having a string of lovers in the 15C, and been trying to create a sequence of images of her ghost in the room where she lived in the castle of Montefiore Conca. Well, it isn’t her ghost, it is me jumping around like a cricket pretending to be a ghost, but at least it’s a start! I think I’ll be working on some better files, and making it smoother in the next few weeks. In the meantime, have a look!

The amazing Baron Mordant has made sound for the piece, (MMoth) which really fits in with the crashing fluttering moth-like feel to the jumps. I love it! Have a look at the latest version here:

The ancient fortress of the Malatesta family in Montefiore in Italy is more than 600 years old and full of tales of mystery, madness and revenge. Wandering around the old rooms with whitewashed walls and imposing panoramic views it is difficult to imagine a series of love affairs and arguments taking place in the same bit of space that we now occupy. However, when I got to a room near the top of the castle, with a high arched ceiling and spot of sunlight tracking across the bare floor, I felt a strong feminine presence, and was intrigued to hear that it used to be the room in which Costanza used to live. From what I can gather, she was extremely wealthy and had had a string of lovers after her husband was killed in battle, only to be murdered herself by her very own uncle who had objected to her German boyfriend. Her ghost is supposed to be there, and I managed to terrify myself a lot by taking pictures with a flash and staring appalled at a series of photos with floating white circles in them… real evidence of ghosts or was it the lens?

When I finally got over my fear of Costanza, I made a series of photos of my feet leaping and dancing in the space. If you view them sequentially and rapidly, the feet look like they are flames that lick and lap at the floor. I’m not quite sure what the final piece will be: possibly an animation, possibly prints, (maybe even a mezzotint!) but will go back to take more photos in July. For more info please see

Okay I’m not sure if Costanza had white knickers on from Marks and Spencers, but you get the idea…

I spent one week in Mirfield, installing the show Chasing Tales and teaching a course in Japanese woodblock technique, and one week thinking about my work and doing some dance in an empty studio in the Arthouse, Wakefield.

After making work about the absent body, I think these images are more about presence and solidity.

I’m not sure what they are or mean, how they connect, where they will turn up or how they will develop yet…