The Heart of Design

New installations by local artists and community groups in response to the theme of ‘300 years of built and natural design’.

Curated by local arts organisation Art Jar, The Heart of Design features newly commissioned artworks created in response to the theme ‘300 years of built and natural design’. Part of our ongoing Black Chiswick through History project, and resulting from collaborations between artists and local community groups, the works explore how design within the historic house and gardens has been inspired by the exchange of ideas, art and traditions from across the globe.

Image: Artwork in development by HAAYA in collaboration with Nava Ahmed

Nadine Fletcher and Aysha Khan from Art Jar said:

Empowering community groups through creativity is at the root of our practice. It has been a pleasure to work with local artists and Hounslow groups to showcase the talent of the Borough and fascinating to see how participants have responded to the theme of 300 years of built and natural design.

Featured artworks include Bound beyond the unfolding dreams of hidden daughters, where no earthly mind can enter by Tanvi Kant. This soft, floor-based sculpture, on display in the Bedchamber of Chiswick House, features a spiralling path of circular forms reflecting Lady Burlington’s cultivation of circles of friendships, family, and creativity together with her husband’s love for the geometric forms of classical architecture.

Artist Tanvi Kant said:

This project offered me the opportunity to respond to an unusual space within Chiswick House – the closet connected to the bedchambers. Only a few favoured people would have been invited into the closet as they were part of a small, trusted, and intimate circle. I was also interested by the way the building, based on classical architecture, purposefully restricted access from the exterior public area to the deeper intimate interior spaces, reflecting our exposed public selves and our deeper, private selves and psyche.

Image: Tanvi Kant

Tanvi’s work reflects on the last years of Lady Burlington’s life, when she slept alone in the red Bedchamber as a widow and having outlived all three of her daughters. It considers the connections of universality, emotion and the human experience that go beyond the grandeur of wealth and privilege.

Tanvi added:

Laying work on the ground is an act of humility. It also reflects the way thresholds, borders and sacred spaces are marked by geometric symbols in the art of ‘rangoli’ in my own Gujrati cultural heritage. The work I create considers how the human experience is collectively shared through globally diverse sacred spaces where symbols and metaphor through our age-old practices of ritual, art, and design flow into material form.

On display in the Chiswick House Cellar, is a site-responsive sound installation entitled, ‘we shed as we pick up’ – Tales of the Named and the Nameless, 2023. It consists of a collection of mythical tales devised and narrated by storyteller Leah Muwanga-Magoye.

Image: Leah Muwanga-Magoye by Joshua Fray

The piece responds to the design choices of the cellar. With no paintings to interpret or furnishings to comment on, the performance of the rest of the House falls away. It is stripped bare. The focal point of the room becomes the people standing inside it.

For the artist the invitation is direct and effective: speak plainly of how you came here, what you’ve done and what you hope to do. The names you were born into, the names you have been given, the names you would choose for yourself. Your names hold stories within them, and shared stories weave the fabric of connection.

The carefully crafted tales carry within them the power of names. Utilising the ancient form of oral storytelling, she rejects the limitation of Burlington’s Eurocentric ideals, in favour of remembering her Ugandan cultural heritage.

This is the first work that Leah has completed since the death of her mother. Leah said:

If, in the wider context, the Grand Tour is a journey taken on the cusp of adulthood, the space you travel through between one version of yourself and another, then in a sense the collection of stories in my version of that. Whilst working on the project I had to say goodbye to the home my mother had lived in for almost 20 years. It made me acutely aware of the value of a built environment, and how to begin to full the void left by the absence of it.

The Heart of Design’s curators, Art Jar, have created Design in Nature, an immersive experience for kids (and adults) to enhance interaction and exploration in the Kitchen Garden. From Friday 4 August, this site-specific trail encourages visitors to use all five senses whilst experiencing the natural world and observing its influence on built design. The trail ends with a participatory installation which visitors can add to.

Laal Lale (Red Tulips) and Paradise Garden are the result of a collaboration between Hounslow Asian and African Youth Association (HAAYA), a Muslim mother and toddlers group, and artist Nava Ahmed. Together they have created a series of tiles inspired by the Persian, Arabic and Turkish design influences found in the carpets and wallpaper at Chiswick House and beautiful Kitchen Gardens.

Sana Soomro from HAAYA said:

As Muslim mothers, being able to commit to and create these pieces was incredible. Through art, we were able to come together as women and as artists, learning about our historical influences and ultimately ourselves.

‘Laal’ is the colour red in Urdu. ‘Lale’ is the Turkish name for tulips and is also derived from the same Turkish word for turban. The stylised Islamic tile design for Laal Lale, on display in the Red Velvet Room inside Chiswick House, drew inspiration from Turkish Iznick tiles, the beautiful tulips flowering in the Kitchen Garden in early May and the repeated ‘arabesque’ wallpaper pattern in the Red Velvet room.

Paradise Garden, on display in the Conservatory is an artistic response to the beauty of the walled Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House & Gardens. The original layout of the Kitchen Garden was inspired by Persian walled gardens. The word ‘Paradise’ is derived from the Old Persian ‘pairidaeza’, meaning ‘enclosed garden’. The projects stylised Islamic tile designs reflect the symmetry, colours and flowers found in the Kitchen Garden.

Artist Nava Ahmed said:

The Iznik tile project with HAAYA was a true inspiration of the beauty of the Kitchen Gardens at Chiswick House & Gardens. It was a joy to see the florals and design their stylised forms in Islamic Art for the project. The HAAYA ladies worked passionately on their tiles and completed them to such a high standard. It was my absolute pleasure working with them and their lovely children.

Dreaming Chiswick House Designs is a series of striking prints created by individuals from The Rivercourt Project, which supports local neurodiverse adults to live active and happy lives. The group worked in partnership with local arts practitioners Kite Studios, taking inspiration from the outline of Chiswick House and the beauty of nature found in the Gardens.

Image: An artwork from ‘Dreaming Chiswick House Designs’ by The Rivercourt Project

Auriol Hereford, founder of Kite Studios, said:

Community is important for all of us but for those groups with more barriers, the value of gathering, creating, collaborating, and supporting each other is essential. This partnership between Chiswick House & Gardens, The Rivercourt Project and Kite Studios has been like planting seeds and we are now seeing and feeling the creative growth!

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House & Gardens Trust said:

Working with curators Art Jar, our community partners, artists and creative practitioners has been an incredible learning experience for all of us. We are so proud of the new perspectives and stories being told through the artworks and encourage everyone to come and experience them for themselves.

The Heart of Design officially opens on Saturday 29 July at a community launch event. As well as free entry to the House and Gardens all day, there will be an afternoon of vibrant performances (1-3pm) in the Garden Pavilion (marquee) including music and dance by the Asian British Music Company, Nathaniel JP Wills and other community performing groups. There will be an opportunity to take part in a hands-on art activity and light refreshments will be provided. Tickets are free but booking recommended.

The installations can also be viewed with a general House & Kitchen Garden ticket, available Thursday-Sunday, 11am-4pm. Also included in the Trust’s Family Fridays summer offer for half-price family tickets valid on Fridays throughout August and September. The Design in Nature Kitchen Garden trail starts on Friday 4 August.

The Heart of Design is kindly supported by Art Fund and The Linbury Trust.