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I Was Here
Opening: Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 October, from 2-5 pm
Exhibition > 20 November 2021
Geukens & De Vil, ANTWERP

Barely a Ripple
Opening: 29 October
Exhibition > 06 March 2022
Friends of S.M.A.K. GHENT (more info)


Exhibition views. Photocredits 'I Was Here': David Samyn, 2021. Photocredits 'Barely a Ripple: S.M.A.K. Ghent, 2021.


I Was Here/Barely a Ripple

A body of work made by Finbar Ward for the exhibition space of the Friends of S.M.A.K Ghent (30.10.21 - 06.03.22), and Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp (23.10 - 20.11.2021)

‘And what have I achieved when Pliny’s miraculous villa can vanish with barely a ripple?’ asks Derek Jarman in Modern Nature. Pliny the Younger’s letters survived but his cherished Comedy and Tragedy villas disappeared without a trace, they are long buried someplace in the area surrounding Lake Como. Yet, following a recent successful Art Fund campaign, Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage continues to grow out of a shingle desert, braving the blustering weather of Dungeness, at England’s edge. Jarman bought Prospect Cottage in 1986, after testing positive for H.I.V at the height of panic over the virus. In his diaries, Jarman wrote of the respite, restoration and healing that building his garden provided.

The last year and a half has been defined by collective fear; an unknown virus circulates the globe as temperatures rise and fall unusually, fires blaze and floods submerge. We have been confined to our private spaces and perhaps some of us, amidst the chaos, have been reminded of the grounding gratification found in caring for the place that we call home.


A 64,000 year old red hand stencil in a cave in Cáceres, Spain is the first known indication of the human desire to leave a mark. It is for the surfaces of our earth to decide which of our imprints will remain etched in time. In 600-530BC, Cyrus the Great built his spectacular garden palace Pasargadae in Iran, unbeknownst to him that his paradise garden would be the garden from which all gardens in history derive.

The pioneering geometry of Pasargadae thrums through the pathways of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s enchanting creation at Sissinghurst Castle. Sackville-West’s devotion to her beloved garden can still be felt there today. ‘Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks,’ said Ian Hamilton Finlay, who left us with his Arcadian ‘garden-poem’, Little Sparta, in Scotland. The still beating heart of his life’s work, Little Sparta, is five acres of concrete poetry and sculpture, 270 artworks in total, that are set into the surrounding nature and landscapes.

Now, let’s go inside, to Niki de Saint Phalle’s kitchen where she built a clay model on her chopping board of what would become her tremendous sculpture park, The Tarot Garden. Her bedroom in one breast, kitchen in another and the dining room a dazzling mirrored mosaic grotto. Peggy Guggenheim also slept amidst her life’s work; Surrounded by her collection, in an elegant Alexander Calder bed framed by turquoise walls that her earrings hung from.

In his essay, In Praise of Shadows, Tanizaki writes ‘We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness,that one thing against another creates’. It can be the shapes of shadows and it can be the eccentric clashing of colourful patterns, as in the interior designs of Antwerp’s maximalist Gert Voorjans. There are many possibilities for intimate and personal expression within our private spaces. Our taste is our own. As Princess Pignatelli said to Peggy Guggenheim ‘If you could only throw all those awful pictures into the Grand Canal you would have the most beautiful house in Venice’.

Rosie Reed


I Was Here

Finbar Ward's (°1990, UK) sculptural installations, paintings and works on paper aim to be chameleonic in ambition. Using a combination of organic and raw material, foraged matter and studio detritus, Ward’s practice reflects on and is physically determined by the histories, traditions and narratives surrounding the location it will inhabit. In a time of infinite exposure to imagery and an increasing estrangement from the physical, it is a visceral engagement with the work that he strives to elicit from the viewer.

This new body of work made for the exhibition space of the Friends of S.M.A.K, Ghent and Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp is born out of a reaction to the 2020 lockdown. The research

spans from antiquity to the contemporary day in search of individuals who have devoted themselves to their homes and gardens as a place of self expression and solace. The work

takes the use of Larariums in ancient Rome as its source. These wall mounted structures acted as shrines to the domestic deities and guardian spirits thought to have watched over the

day to day life of a household. Ward has adopted this gesture to create a series of ode to works dedicated to his pick of ‘home makers’ found throughout history and contemporary culture. Each work has been made with an assemblage of materials chosen to reflect the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the individual and the spaces they have built, tweaked,

decorated and mused upon. It is a body of work which hopes to applaud the endeavour to care for and maintain our immediate surroundings, and to consider the ancient and enduring need to say ‘I Was Here’.

Individual works. Photocredits I Was Here': David Samyn, 2021. Photocredits 'Barely a Ripple: S.M.A.K. Ghent, 2021.

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