Gardener and artist Janis Hardiman exhibits paintings of her Vale of Health plot

Interior with Head of Peace (1999) by Janis Hardiman image courtesy of Art Space Gallery

Interior with Head of Peace (1999) by Janis Hardiman image courtesy of Art Space Gallery - Credit: Archant

Gardening correspondent Ruth Pavey visits the Octogenarian painter in the beautiful garden that inspired so much of her work

Artist Janis Hardiman pictured in her Vale of Health Garden

Artist Janis Hardiman pictured in her Vale of Health Garden - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Now in her 80s, Janis Hardiman has lived in the Vale of Health since 1953 and painted around the Heath for more than four decades.

She works outdoors on big boards or in her small studio which is crammed with paintings that have hitherto only been seen by a few close friends.

It was when Dr Jon Wood of the Henry Moore Foundation visited to research her sculptor father Alfred Hardiman RA (1891-1949) that he upon a treasure trove of work which is on display at Arts Space Gallery in Islington.

Janis' paintings of the Heath, allotment and her garden are displayed alongside a selection of sculptures by her father who created several large-scale, public sculptures including, 'Peace' and the Southwood Memorial at St James' Piccadilly and 'Monument of Earl Haig' near the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Janis studied at St Martin's from 1959-61 followed by two years at Camberwell School of Art. Brought up in a household full of sculpture, several of her father's works including his bust of Winifred Knights feature in her interior scenes.

Ham&High gardening correspondent Ruth Pavey visited the exhibition and the garden that inspired so much of Janis' work and writes:

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"Pictures of gardens often show them from a slight distance, but in Janis Hardiman's paintings we are parachuted straight in, landing among lush rows of artichokes, beans, nasturtiums, comfrey, cabbages.

Embraced by trees, these abundant plants mainly grew at Fitzroy Park Allotments, Highgate, nor far from the artist's home in the Vale of Health.

There, it seems, it is always late summer, with a soft dusk light giving way to shadow. Janis Hardiman's paintings are well displayed at the Art Space Gallery, Islington. Having heard that her own garden was also good, I met her at the exhibition opening and arranged to see it.

Sure enough, late summer abundance was there in the Vale of Health too, in an outburst of colour beyond the kitchen door. Not vegetables, with their ambient green, but more an impression of gold, orange, red, white, as begonias, dahlias, cosmos, Japanese anemones, white lilies, marigolds, geraniums all jostle together. Wide but not deep, the garden is banked up like a display stand, with a hedge of bay and olive at the top. Janis and her mother and sister moved to the house in the 1950s. The garden then was flat but Janis asked for earth to be brought to make the sloping border.

At that time she could plant directly into it, but tree roots have since filled it up. Much of her planting is now in pots. Janis's father, who died when she was young, was the sculptor, Alfred Hardiman. She says that he loved gardening, and was just as much a perfectionist with his dahlias as with his sculpture.

She, a child brought up for years without the constraints of formal education, used to watch him. From very young she was also thrilled by the way light plays on leaves, which might suggest that she was always heading towards becoming a painter. But instead she went to RADA, only arriving at painting after that.

Janis describes her painting methods as a "funny, labour-intensive way, I'll start and change things as they grow".

This means that the (early summer?) plants disappear under thin layers of paint, and three months may pass before they take up their final form.

It is not so much about drawing, she says, as about shapes, and the way one colour works with another."

The exhibition runs at Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter's St, N1 until October 4.

Open 11am - 6pm, Tuesday - Saturday.