Holly Slingsby

An Enclosed Garden

Credit: Thierry Bal

This video performance work combines the shared experience of lockdown gardening with figures in isolation: Homer’s Penelope; anchoress Julian of Norwich; abbess Hildegard von Bingen; and the Virgin Mary as hortus conclusus – an enclosed garden. The work asserts these women’s relevance as emblems of solitary contemplation. Shot in the Sunken Garden, Quex Park and two private horticultural spaces, the piece irreverently evokes monastic herb gardens and medieval hortus conclusus paintings. Compost heaps are included as reminders of the possibility of patiently generating something new from discarded remnants of the past. Many of the actions performed are reversed or undone, echoing Penelope unpicking her weaving each night. This doing, undoing and re-doing reflects our uncertain present moment. But by being situated in cultivated sanctuaries for healing and transformation, the actions suggest an affinity with Julian’s description of salvation as an ‘again-making’. The garden is a space in which to be regrown.


Holly Slingsby’s performances, videos and paintings explore belief in a variety of contexts, and examine representations of women.

Her visual language reflects a fascination with iconographic traditions, drawing on Biblical imagery, myth, and contemporary culture. She uses historic material as a lens to look at the present, and invites viewers to consider the transcendental. 

Slingsby’s recent work draws on lived experience of infertility, siting the female body in gardens and greenhouses. 


Holly Slingsby (born 1983, UK) is based in Margate, UK. She studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University; and the Slade School of Art, London.

Slingsby has had solo exhibitions and performances at CRATE, Margate (2019); Margate Festival (2018);  Bòlit, Centre d’Art Contemporani, Girona (2016); Tintype, London (2015); DKUK, London (2015); and SHIFT., London (2012). Her work has been shown at The Nunnery Gallery, London; The Horse Hospital, London; CCC Barcelona; LABS Bologna; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Katzman Contemporary, Toronto; Matt’s Gallery, London; Pump House Gallery, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Modern Art Oxford; the Freud Museum, London; FEM Festival, Girona; Art Licks Weekend, London; the ICA, London; and the Barbican, London. In 2018 she published an artist’s book with Publication Studio London and The Bower.


Camera: Jordan Mary
Production assistance: Jon Arden, Harriet Parker-Beldeau

The artist further thanks Lee Cavaliere, Peacock House and The Powell-Cotton Museum at Quex Gardens.