Melbourne Botanical Gardens

Oasis In The City by Geoff Harrison

In my exhibition scheduled for June 2020 at Tacit Galleries in Collingwood, I will be exploring the recuperative and consoling powers nature has to offer to all of us. The exhibition will be based around Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens which I have visited many times for psychological recovery from the challenges of modern existence, such as losing one’s job, difficulties in relationships or even working one’s way through art school. It’s the responsibility of art to make us appreciate the importance of modest moments in our lives, such as the play of shadows cast by a tree on a path.

Hill Of Contentment Oil On Canvas 102 cm x 102 cm

Hill Of Contentment Oil On Canvas 102 cm x 102 cm

Modern advertising often specialises in glamourizing the unattainable; that is, places that are rare, remote, costly or famous.  Yet here we have an exotic location right under our noses that we can visit at any time.  And the sun need not be shining to appreciate the mysteries of these gardens.   A visit on a quiet and drizzly day can be an oddly therapeutic experience as you get the feeling that you have the whole gardens to yourself – tearooms and all.  Without the perpetual buzz of sight-seeing aircraft overhead, one can absorb the almost surreal beauty of the gardens, the thought that has gone into the landscaping and the far flung vistas.

Grey Day In The Gardens Oil On Canvas 71 cm x 107 cm

Grey Day In The Gardens Oil On Canvas 71 cm x 107 cm

Thanks to the barrage of advertising that constantly assails us, we lose the value of things that are close to hand, such as a quiet secluded area that allows time for contemplation. We become ungrateful for things that are free or don’t cost very much and we lose the value of ideas and feelings.

Casting A Long Shadow Oil On Canvas 102 cm x 76 cm

Casting A Long Shadow Oil On Canvas 102 cm x 76 cm

In this series I have not bothered with depicting precise species of plants as this is not meant to be an exact botanical record.  It’s a mood, a feeling that I’m intending to convey.


The Consolations Of Nature by Geoff Harrison

A recent article from the School Of Life discusses the importance of nature, that we should spend more time in its presence for the sake of our mental well being and therefore our health in general. What is less well understood is that “nature is as important to us as a source of nourishment for our souls. Nature is a kind of book, and when we open our eyes to it, find its pages filled with distinctive lessons about wisdom and serenity.”

Casting A Long Shadow, Oil On Canvas, 102 cm x 76 cm

Casting A Long Shadow, Oil On Canvas, 102 cm x 76 cm


Reference is made in the article to psychologically nourishing landscapes, and that is certainly what I encounter in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens which have been the setting for most of my recent work. I always feel refreshed and reinvigorated after a visit to them and it’s always a wrench to have to leave.

Nature give us an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the everyday, “an evening sky can lend legitimacy and dignity to our melancholy states.”

Grey Day In The Gardens, Oil On Canvas, 71 cm x 107 cm

Grey Day In The Gardens, Oil On Canvas, 71 cm x 107 cm

If you want to experience solitude in the midst of the vast city, visit Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens when it’s raining. Some may find the experience melancholic, but it can be a refreshing change from a world obsessed by buoyancy and cheerfulness. With few people around and no annoying sight-seeing aircraft buzzing overhead, one can really discover the mystery of the place, the variety of plant life and the thought that has gone into the landscaping.

It is argued that for many people, it is not until they reach middle age that they start to appreciate what nature has to offer. “There are so many grander things to be concerned about …..such as romantic love, career fulfillment and political change.” However, by middle age some of our earlier aspirations would have taken a hit, perhaps a large one. We will have encountered some of the intractable problems of intimate relationships. We would have encountered a gap between our professional hopes and available opportunities. “One will have had a chance to observe how slowly and fitfully the world ever alters in a positive direction. One will have been fully inducted to the extent of human wickedness and folly. “

Hill Of Contentment, Oil On Canvas, 102 cm x 102 cm

Hill Of Contentment, Oil On Canvas, 102 cm x 102 cm

So, by middle age it is argued, nature can present a “genuine pleasure amidst a litany of troubles, an invitation to bracket anxieties and keep self-criticism at bay, a small resting place for hope in a sea of disappointment; a proper consolation – for which one is ready, a few weeks of the year, to be appropriately grateful.” I can only agree. There have been many times I’ve visited these gardens for palliative care.