Jaimini Patel

Part of Bring Into Being

Chiswick House and Gardens presented Matter as the densest form of energy – energy as the lightest form of matter, 2021 – an artwork by Jaimini Patel.

Patel’s site-responsive installation was composed of fallen, pruned and weeded leaves and flowers collected from the Kitchen Gardens and grounds of Chiswick House.   From January to March 2021, the artist spent time onsite and with the gardening team, who continued to work throughout lockdown, to understand the cycles and practices that are inherent and those that are implemented. Patel’s interest in natural and manmade systems informs this work. The seasons and the interventions of the gardeners within the processes of nature determine the colour, shape, size and volume of the material collected.

Image: Jamini creating her work while in residence at Chiswick in early 2021

With Matter as the densest form of energy – energy as the lightest form of matter, Patel invited reflection on the natural cycles of decay and regeneration that occur all year round in the gardens. From May to October the artist presented two works, the first at the start of the exhibition made during the late winter/early spring and the second, made in the late spring/early summer. The works and the approach made visible inside the House the continual change occurring outside.

Time was a major feature of the artist’s practice and this piece, like many of her other works, embodied both the time that it has taken these materials to grow, but also the time taken to select, wash, dry, press and freeze the leaves ready to be used.  The construction of the work was also durational: In the Upper Tribune a radial expansion of time is contrasted with a linear one in the Link Room. The symmetry and repetition in the radial work mirrored that found within nature and the House and surrounding grounds.

The artist stated: ‘The leaves are assembled using different types of symmetry, from two-fold to eight-fold depending on the availability of like-leaves, as no two leaves are identical, variation is inevitable. Their emergence and disappearance create complexity as one gives way to another – a sense of harmony is glimpsed then interrupted, frustrating an overarching logic. A considerable portion of each leaf is hidden during construction enabling the design to unfold and be revealed. The linear configuration, on the other hand, isolates the individual properties of each leaf. The leaves wriggle against the precision of the grid, which warps as they shrink and shift in and out of place. Both iterations are underpinned by the desire to find order and at the same time, resist it.’

In a site where the House and Gardens were conceived as a ‘complete work of art’ by Burlington and Kent, the House dwells inside the gardens much more than the gardens inside the House. Patel’s artwork in many ways completed the desire of Burlington and Kent to have a complete work of art by deliberately placing the gardens back inside the House. In doing so, Patel highlighted a paradox, that the gardens with their natural cycles of decay and regeneration embody a kind of permanence that the House cannot achieve. As this Grade 1 listed building is being preserved against the elements via conservation, the real permanence lies in the surrounding nature via its ability to constantly regenerate.

The subject of Patel’s work was renewal and re-imagination rather than loss. The pressed leaves capture a moment in time, a fleeting one which may not necessarily be witnessed. The materials will succumb to environmental forces much more rapidly than the stone on which they temporarily sat, underlining how all organic materials have a certain duration and lifespan before matter goes on to become energy for something else.  In many ways, Patel’s work highlighted that the permanence of something is in its ability to support the creation of something new and that our attempts to delay the process through preservation create a false idea of what permanence is and can be.