“In the garden, mourning ceases to exist, it’s the gardeners’ luck: they concern themselves with the present and think about future seasons.” ~Pascal Cribier
“I’m leaving the personal aspect out, but I’m focusing more on mourning rituals and bereavement and remembrance gestures,” she says. “All of this is in conjunction with nature. How do we heal in accordance with nature’s rhythms? How do we interact with the natural environment to process grief and trauma, and realign ourselves?”
The Montreal-based artist examined both Western and non-Western modes of passing and came to this idea of “garden” as sanctuary space to process grief. “I’m doing these humble monuments; a mound of soil, which is the way graves are done in South Africa and Cameroon, where my father is from. I’m attracted to those non-Western ways of defining passing. It was interesting going through that personal experience [of my partner’s suicide] in South Africa, and then seeing how everyone in Montreal processes that differently. Here [in Canada], it seems there’s less of a proximity to trauma and death. It’s like a disconnect where we forget it’s part of that process.”
With suicide, there is an even greater taboo, which complicates things more.
“Every grief is really difficult, but I think there is something very specific to suicide. You’ll always go back and say, ‘What if this? What if that?’ You go over every moment up until it happened. At the same time, you didn’t do the gesture at the end of the day.”
The exhibit focuses on this idea of the garden, which encompasses all stages of life. “You’re working with growth, but you’re also working with death and decay. It’s all part of one process; everything is part of the same process of constant becoming.”
For Tagny, it was important to integrate the death of her partner into something greater. “This garden—to me, that’s a space where all stages of the living are present in conjunction at the same time. You have decay, growth and renewal. You have constant transformation, so nothing is fixed. For me, [it was about] integrating that very violent and sudden death within a cycle; this is a space where I can find solace, that shows me how to continue living after that.”
Going back to nature, back to the elements, can be remarkably grounding. Tagny recognizes our collective urge to be busy and productive all the time, but she hopes Sanctuaries will open up space for reflection, for working through trauma, and for processing grief. “We weren’t put on this earth to be machines that produce constantly. Sometimes we need to pause and be still and dormant and wait for time to pass.”
Sanctuaries runs from October 26 to December 1 at Xpace Gallery (303 Lansdowne Ave Unit 2). Opening Reception is Friday, October 26, 7-10 p.m.