Earthly Paradise (series)

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Earthly Paradise Series, 2008-2010

Winner of The Birgit Skiӧld Memorial Trust Prize at the International Print Biennale, 2011

Group exhibition: ‘International Print Biennale’, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, United Kingdom, 2011

Group exhibition: ‘Power House’, Old Power Station-Osney, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2011                                                

Group exhibition:‘10 Days at the Laundry’, The Yard, Old Hyde Laundry, Winchester, United Kingdom, 2009                                               

Group exhibition: ‘THIS LEADS HERE’, Winchester Gallery, Winchester, United Kingdom, 2009                                                 

mixed media (silk screen on Persian carpets and textiles, wire, nails, …)

In his remarkable work, Getting Back into Place, Edward S. Casey explains the inherent human need for place and dwelling. He describes two different places and two separate ways of dwelling. The first place is an indoor shopping arcade, which he used to traverse regularly as a child.1 Since he often revisits this place in his memory, it also represents a specific (memorised) way of dwelling. The second dwelling place is his current study room, in which he dwells more immediately in time and space and whose boundaries a more clearly defined than those of the shopping arcade.2 There are, thus, different ways and places of dwelling: Casey felt safe, protected and intimate while walking around the arcade as a child; and he felt this way when returning to that place in his memory; and he experiences a sense of dwelling while working in his study.

One of the memorised dwelling places that I occasionally revisit and re-dwell in is a garden. This garden evoked a sense of protectedness and calmness in my childhood and continues to do so in the present, when I re-dwell in that memory. Yi-Fu Tuan describes how ‘space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value.’3 The image and the memory of certain spaces remains – and lives on – in the mind of their dwellers, where it is transformed into dwelling places. The sensation of this dwelling in a memorised place is comparable to what Edward Casey describes as being ‘bounded by place’;4 or what has been expressed by Gaston Bachelard, who argues that the image of such a dwelling place ‘“clings” to its inhabitant and becomes the cell of a body with its walls close together.’5 As dwellers we are ‘enriched’ by the memories of built places, and our vivid memory of a place rests upon our interaction with it.6 In other words, our dwelling in built places transforms them into ‘living rooms’, that have the capacity to ‘implace,’ ‘anchor’ and ‘orient’ us.7 As a result, places dwell inside bodies just as bodies dwell in places.

The Earthly Paradise series directly connects to my childhood-memories of a certain garden and of several carpets in my home, which at the time inspired my imagination while I felt safe and protected. Reminiscences of that garden escort me and invite me to re-dwell in it, as I re-create it within the patterns of worn-out carpet pieces in the Earthly Paradise series. Persian carpets historically symbolise actual Persian gardens, which, in turn, acted as earthly embodiment of paradise. And their weavers used their own memories of such places to create new patterns and designs. Moreover, those looking at carpets were invited to take refuge from the often arid and rather hostile climate of Iran in these textiles’ intricate floral and naturalistic motifs and to both embed their own memoires and to dwell in them.

In a fundamental way a dwelling place (and the memory of it) equips a person with something essential that prepares him/her to face the “unsafe” world. Bachelard emphasises that ‘a house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.’8 What he means is that once an inanimate geometrical and physical space (such as Casey’s example of the shopping arcade or my garden) is interacted with, once it is experienced and remembered, and once it conveys a sense of protectedness, it acquires a social and personal dimension, which exceeds its purely physical and geometrical qualities. The inhabitants of such dwelling places learn to forget their fears in their domiciles; they embrace the intimacy of their abode set against the enmity and insecurity of the outside. 

Furthermore, the geometrical dimensions of such a space lose their meaning for those dwelling in them. Casey’s arcade and my garden are transformed into a spheres or places which, regardless of their physical dimensions, temporality, locality and position in space, encapsulate one meaning for their dwellers: the tranquillity of feeling protected. Such a space becomes a place and a uniform territory, an enclosed realm with imaginary impermeable walls providing protection and safety to its dweller or dreamer. 

The nature of dwelling depends on the way an individual relates to her or his physical surroundings, in particular on the capacity of these surroundings to convey to their dwellers a sense of safety and protectedness.

1 Edward S. Casey, Getting Back into Place, Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993), pp. 112–113.

2 Ibid. p. 113.

3 Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), p. 6.

4 Casey, Getting Back into, p. 15.

5 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas, (Boston: Bacon Press,1994), p. 46.

6 Ibid.

7 Casey, Getting Back into, p. 23.

8 Bachelard, The Poetics, p. 47.