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Jane Le Besque

Forests, a recurring theme in Jane Le Besque's art, are central to her Moveable Garden, an installation consisting of twenty panels (2.20 x 1.10 m). Before she starts painting, Jane encounters the materiality of the forest in an immersive, sensual ritual. For example, a curving path yellowed by autumn leaves might lead her eye upwards into the rustling canopy. Here, the wind’s jiggling of twigs could move a green leaf into shadow, then flood it with light to emphasise a crisscrossing of veins. In following the swerves of such phenomenal labyrinths, Le Besque refuses to harness sunlight to detail or classify plant and animal morphologies; her harvest is the encounter, and the memories it provokes.

Entwining matter and memory, Le Besque’s Moveable Garden offers a sanctuary for meditation. Layers of cut, painted, and collaged paper, with forms that recall the semi-circular barrel vaults, rhythmic pillars, and botanical acanthus ornamentation of ecclesiastical Romanesque architecture; and the coiled snake of Michelangelo’s The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, characterise Le Besque’s installation. Its sylvan bestiary, and its tonal pallet resonate with Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Plexiglas coverings on the panels constitute portals that may either convey the viewer into the paintings, or bar their entry.

This installation invites a contemplation of how re-presentation mediates notions of cultivation. As such, it looks back - with sadness - to the imperial project of colonizing ‘Edens’, which engendered the exploitation of indigenous peoples and the biodiversity synonymous with them; and it questions the ethics of landscaping by suggesting how the notion of an ‘original’ landscape is itself a construct.

Rachel Nisbet 2014