Signs of Spring is a gorgeous new book by artist Simon Bray. It explores the garden from his childhood home through a curated collection of photographs from family photo albums. Tended to by his father, this celebration of the garden marks not only his passing, but also his mother’s move away from the family home, leaving the physical space and memories of the garden and his father behind, something which Simon found profoundly more difficult than he’d anticipated...
A childhood spent in a garden. My own playground. I was Robin Hood, David Beckham, worm digger, mud pie maker, treasure finder. It was a safe space. A sacred space, even.
Each year, the garden would flourish with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, carefully planted and tended by dad, enough to feed the family with enough spare to share with friends and family. Dad would spend almost every available hour of daylight in the garden, only returning indoors once darkness had closed in. His childhood spent on a farm evolved, realised in a lifetime cultivating his garden. During his last spring with us, he spent a morning teaching me about potatoes. We dug and turned the soil, spread fertiliser, raked it smooth, lined up the rows and planted the potatoes. This was home. A life lesson, part of his legacy to me, of how to provide for yourself and your family. The first planting out, the signs of spring.
My mother has now moved away from this home. It’s unlikely we shall ever return to the garden. This set of images is not a complete history, neither is it an artist’s reflection upon a place, but a collection arranged to celebrate the place that was so precious to our family. Collated from family albums, these images were taken by my parents, Peter and Anne, my sister Jess, my grandparents June and Doug and myself between 1984-2017. Call it nostalgia or a celebration of memories, our garden was a place that provided for us, where we watched the seasons change, where we celebrated new life, listened to the birds sing, reflected on our loss, took in the view and breathed the fresh air. Often, that sacred space was the answer.