Drawn to conclusions

Most gardeners know Great Dixter well, either from visiting or from photographs. Anny Evason’s large charcoal drawings give us a different slant on a familiar garden.

Words: Stephanie Donaldson

I live in a town frequently referred to as an ‘artists community’. There are more galleries than butchers, bakers and candlestickmakers – and if I felt inclined I could go to a private view of a new exhibition twice a week – or more. The result is a certain degree of art overload, so when something stops me in my tracks I know it is pretty special. Anny Evason‘s powerfully energetic large-scale charcoal drawings of Great Dixter had just such an effect. Stripped of colour, the strong sculptural shapes of the hedges and topiary become the dominant features of a garden that is more usually known for its vibrant colours and exuberant planting.

Anny’s route to her recent exhibition has been somewhat circuitous, including expulsion from school, five years at art college, some hanging out in Sydney, theatre design for fifteen years, a Masters in Landscape Architecture and her ongoing garden design work as half of Julia Fogg Associates. “It’s been a long journey” she tells me “the great thing about returning to painting and drawing and other forms of art is that it is all been informed by my experience in theatre and landscape – I think I now have a much better grasp of space.”

Anny knows Great Dixter well and realised it would provide her with plenty of interesting material for her drawings. However the narrow paths make it quite difficult to draw when the garden is filled with coachloads of visitors, so Anny landed something of a golden ticket when Fergus Garrett (the head gardener) offered her the opportunity to go there on Mondays when it is closed to the public. “I was in heaven” she tells me “I went every week from March to November and had the place to myself. In early spring there was very little growing and it was a marvellous time to really see the structure without the distraction of the colour. It helped me develop an insight into the spaces and the atmosphere. I do have a great affection for Dixter – I think that the spirit of a domestic garden resides there and it manages to be quite intimate. It’s important that in some areas of the garden you see out and in others you don’t – it’s all about prospect and refuge.”

Anny made many pencil sketches at Great Dixter, always using a mechanical pencil. “I really like the directness of working on site” she says. “I enjoy the speed and observation and the intensive focus. Then I return to the studio to rework the drawings somewhere where the paper doesn’t threaten to fly away. I find they take on a life their own as I develop them. I work in charcoal because in some ways I’m happier with tone than colour and I like the texture of charcoal. It has many guises. I guess those large, solid, dark hedges at Dixter are well expressed through the medium of charcoal.”

They certainly are Anny.