North Wall Text

Imagine Wild Oxford: 

Ecological Artist Addy Gardner

Featuring photographs by Selly Gardner


“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” – Terry Tempest Williams

Imagine Wild is a new body of work which Addy Gardner has been working on for the past two years. The collection is primarily mixed media paintings and drawings, small sculptural installations seen on the plinths and photographs of native wildflowers by Selly Gardner. The primary aim of this work is to evoke both a sense of our strong emotional and physical connections with nature and the wild, as well as a sense of the methods by which we ‘other’ it; both destroying and polluting it for material gain.

The aim of this exhibition is to raise awareness about the plight of biodiversity in the UK and the human impact on wild spaces. The works are based primarily on the landscapes created by nature whilst in a state of rewilding and expresses the artists desire to illustrate the fundamental importance of nature in our imaginations and psyches. It is hoped that this body of work conveys a sense of the magic, adventure and the feeling of ‘being at one’ with the world that nature provides, synonymous with being ‘in the zone’ whilst working creatively. Gardner says; 

“These paintings represent a newfound feeling of freedom that I have connected with as both an artist and a human being. I began to learn about rewilding through books, media and visits to rewilded landscapes. This research is the backbone of my work. What rewilding feels for me is however more visceral, more wild and hard to put into words: painting it was instinctive.” 

The works are closely tied to the artist’s interest in a utopia of the natural world: freedom from rules, ownership and the manicuring of nature with which we are all familiar with. They are concerned with human impacts on the natural world, specifically in the UK. The rewilded landscapes allow for things to just be without the rules we humans strive to control nature with. Nature’s own visual language. Gardner states; “I often feel connected with this when I dream, when I paint, when I sit alone in a natural environment. In painting these works I wanted to feel connected to that same sense of freedom that painting allows me; without thinking about rules and without the confines of working in a certain way. They are about how rewilding land is starting in motion something which is immensely freeing for both humans and nature.”

Rewilding is not just about natural environments for Gardner, it is a whole awakening. “For me it was seeing how humans are destroying the world and themselves through their focus on ownership. I became interested and concerned with climate change and the Degrowth movement. I became interested and tried to change things through activism but quickly realised that for me, activism is my work. It is allowing nature to thrive. It is recognising that nature can heal the world far quicker and far more effectively than we can. To reflect this, I wanted the paintings to be in constant flux. I wanted them to contain symbols to act as markers for navigating a passage through the piece but I didn’t want to build a road with defined edges. These paintings are not abstract and they are not figurative. What I hope is that they are: joy, freedom, fairy tales based in overgrown forests, creativity, natural form, lines referencing roads shown in maps, housing estate plans, collage text from ‘swiss family robinson’…… things that I felt described what our human world is, versus what a wilder world could be.”

As well as paintings are small installation works and photographs. The photographs are by photographer Selly Gardner who happens to be Addy Gardner’s sister: “I asked Selly if she would take some photos of wildflowers and native plants. Part of rewilding in towns and cities has been allowing verges and peripheral natural spaces to thrive without being cut, weeded and sprayed. Her photographs celebrate the beauty and wonder that these plants provide in both their form and the support they provide for other wildlife. A beauty and form that is also changing our natural living spaces. The photographs reference a feeling of longing for the magic of the ‘old ways’ and a hope that they might be returning. My sister has found a new found passion for these plants and delight in photographing them. I hope what this means is that gradually nature is again being allowed to occupy a central space in our lives and in our world.”

None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” ― John Muir

Addy Gardner

Selly Gardner

* Biodegradable and reused packaging is used where possible on acquisitions. Both artists take care to recycle and reuse materials and strive to create works which will last for years to come.