ORNAMENTAL HERMITS (2020)

 

This series intends to explore the relationship between man and nature, taking inspiration from the ancient tradition of 'ornamental hermits' employed by 18th century English aristocracy as 'living ornaments' for their private gardens. At the time hermits were seen as another attraction alongside the temples, fountains, and sweeping views.

By quoting this British eccentric short-lived fashion, I would like to reflect both on our experience of self-isolation within the city during the lockdowns and, in a broader sense, upon our current position as human beings within the ecosystem. 

With the Covid-19 outbreak and the consequent lockdowns we have become somehow ornaments of nature ourselves. The pandemic has directly and indirectly raised issues about the environment, sustainability and our future. If the contagion is the symptom, the infection is within the ecology as Covid-19 may be only the first of a series of pandemics and natural disasters.

During the self-isolation time, gardens and parks (which were already a key element of British culture) became for Londoners the only consolatory space of freedom and connection with the world. 

During this time I have portrayed people in private or public gardens in London carrying one of ornamental hermits' distinctive symbols, a lantern. In each image the anthropic nature of the garden turns into an overwhelming 'sublime' landscape, source of pleasure and horror (as for the Romantic painting tradition), reflecting our ambivalent relationship with nature.

© Ottavia Castellina 2020 All rights reserved