Siân Davey

1964, United Kingdom
Nominee - Prix Elysée 2022-2024

Siân Davey is a photographer with a background in Fine Art and Social Policy. For the past 15 years she has worked as a humanist psychotherapist. Her photography work is an investigation of the psychological landscapes of both herself and those around her, with her family and community being central to her practice.

After visiting the Louise Bourgeois restrospective at the Tate London (2007), Siân Davey was immediately inspired to translate her history creatively. In 2011 she found her medium, the camera and committed to the process of photography.

In 2012 she entered an MA programme and followed it though with an MFA in photography. Siân Davey has since produced work about each of her children and which serve as a portal to her unconscious world.

Siân Davey has recently completed her MA and MFA in photography. She has been the recipient for numerous awards including the winner of the Arnold Newman Award for New Directions in Portraiture, Prix Virginia Woman’s Photography Award and three consecutive years the National Gallery Taylor Wessing Portrait Award. Her book Looking for Alice was shortlisted for Paris Photo-Aperture Best Book Award in 2016 and shortlisted for the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award. Her second book Martha was published with Trolley Books in 2018.

Projet

The Garden

The pandemic put the brakes on Siân Davey’s international work, forcing her to retreat solely to the perimeters of her home and from there reflect on what was creatively possible within her existing intimate space. What was happening globally, politically and spiritually demanded that she translates this paradigm, this global shift of consciousness, into a living philosophy so as to illuminate the unrecognised narratives at play both in her family and the world. Siân Davey is choosing to specifically reflect this onto her own back garden, abandoned due to working away and living as a single parent to four children.

The Garden is a natural combination of Siân Davey’s previous work as a family photographer, using the idea of growth as a metaphor for the landscape of humanity collectively. Her neglected garden is a metaphor for what is happening in the world the reclaiming, waking up, shining a light upon and readically redressing that which had been abandoned. It is also an inquiry into what is possible creatively close to home.

The project will demonstrate the possibility of living gracefully between the extremes of neglect and forceful imposition that we see in the natural world today; the relentlessly aggressive model of continuous growth on the one hand, and the flagrant destruction and abandonment of our environment and species on the other. In this project, Siân Davey aspires to work sensitively with the garden as it reveals itself to her, she then in turn responds – a continuous exchange. The work is essentially about interconnection the relationship between people and the environments, it is about joy and love and hope.

Siân Davey has a 3ft garden wall and the path that runs along it busily leads people down to the river. The garden wall (both physically and metaphorically) is an alive interface between her personal domestic life and the public eye. The wall has also come to serve as a metaphor for the separation experienced during the pandemic. It also acts as a safe interface, a confessional space giving people permission to share their stories, often vignettes of how they have experienced the past two years and their lives in general. It is always moving and intimate.

With the pandemic, Siân Davey’s son returned home from his two-year monastery retreat for them to work in collaboration. He has taken on the role as art director creating the space for the work.

In essence, the garden was restored in the spring 2021 rewilded, organic seeds were sourced locally and the garden was planted bio dynamically. Siân Davey wanted to create a garden that would feel completely immersive. Last year was a test run to understand what was creatively possible. This year she will build upon and significantly develop the work from last year, and postproduce the series and collate all her writings to design the book.

The Garden will be filled to joyful capacity with flowers and colour, an essential vision of hope, going beyond assumed limitations and dreaming the unimaginable.