This project is a work in progress. It began in 2001, originally inspired by Boboli Gardens in Florence, with its intriguing paths and secret spaces, as an exploration of the garden as a place of discovery and transformation, but has grown as each new body of work or presentation generates new ideas.

It includes video works, texts, sculptural books, three-dimensional works (the columns), photos, mixed media work on transparent papier non tissé, performances and installations.

Rea Stavropoulos Florence 2006


Lost gardens



Impossible gardens

Gardens entered only in dreams

A garden suspended for ever

within the curly letter of a medieval manuscript

Paradise Lost

Gardens of contemplation

Gardens for cultivation

Hands in the earth

blisters splinters scratches cuts

worms snakes and insects –

A gardener’s friends

Backache and a spade

A hoe a trowel a hosepipe.

Gardens with vistas

Walled gardens

The secret garden

Do you have the key?

Gardens for lovers’ trysts

Le Roman de la Rose

A scented rose arbour

A perfumed bower

A child’s garden of verse

Poetry and flowers.

“Mary Mary Quite Contrary

how does your garden grow?

With silver bells

and cockle shells

and pretty maids all in a row”

The opposite is wilderness chaos and confusion

The untameable jungle of weeds (and words)

The uncontrollable passage of time 

The destructive desiccation of the desert

(But even there it’s surprising how many plants

will grow, flower for a day and then

are gone…)

The transience

To identify with creation and continuity

To have a hand in Infinity

A place in the future.

“I had a little nut tree

Nothing would it bear

But a silver nutmeg

And a golden pear”.

Rea Stavropoulos

Florence – 2001


Da: Stavropoulos Rea Zoe []

Inviato: lunedÏ, ottobre 29, 2001 11:32 AM

A: Giovannim@Gmt-Ils. It; Javier Quintanilla; MarÌa Gloria Andrade

Oggetto: Secret Gardens – Artist’s Statement

(Not sure about including this.)


Javier Quintanilla invited me to come to Barcelona to exhibit my current work in September of this year, when the world seemed to be falling apart.

At the time, I was working in the studio and outdoors on ideas relating to “Secret Gardens”, ideas of enclosed circular spaces, of nature as a source of solace and inspiration. Every day I worked on paintings of flowers for my circular books: examining the exquisite variations and subtleties within a single plant was like a form of meditation. But then I would switch on the TV and see that another aeroplane had crashed, a newspaper headline announced that biological warfare was imminent, bank clerks in Florence were now wearing protective white gloves, a close friend was critically ill, there were health problems in my family.

The general atmosphere of doom and uncertainty was reinforced by my visit to the Biennale of Art in Venice, where so much work dealt with violence, horror, anxiety and claustrophobia, both personal and universal. Was I being influenced by the current world situation to notice only those elements (I visited the Biennale after 11 September) or was this another instance of the artist’s ability to prophecy?There was the fear of travelling by plane, the fear of any form of travel, the fear of leaving the house, the fear of life itself. My own personal circumstances involve travel as a way of life: I live in Italy but my mother lives in Athens and I have commitments in London. My conversations by telephone and e-mail with friends and colleagues around the world reinforced the belief that there was a general state of apprehension, of waiting for the next apocalyptic event, everywhere. In this climate, I wondered what the point was in continung with my work.But one morning as I was working on one of the “Secret Garden” books, the words I was copying out, “my” words, gave me an answer:

“The transience

To identify with creation and continuity

To have a hand in Infinity

A place in the future”is the natural response to:

“……wilderness, chaos and confusion

The untameable jungle of weeds (and words)

The uncontrollable passage of time

The destructive dessication of the desert”.

The physical act of travelling with my work to show it in another country (Spain), involving my lifelong friend Kallitsa who will be coming from yet another country (Greece)to perform, this is an act of faith – a reassertion of a belief in fundamental human values of love, friendship, creativity, continuity and renewal.

Despite the apocalyptic world events, the rhetoric of world “leaders”, the climate of fear, one of the e-mails I received from a friend in London was accompanied by a petition from members of the University of Chicago – an open letter addressed to George Bush and other heads of government pressing for dialogue, urging them to search for other solutions to war. the letter gathered over 700,000 signatures – a small voice, maybe, among the many louder voices in the U.S. clamouring for war and revenge, but out of such small seeds large plants grow.

Rea Stavropoulos, Florence, October 2001
(E-mail sent in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 to collaborators in Barcelona, Madrid and Florence, whilst preparing for “Jardines Segretos”, the exhibition that was to travel to Larac (Loft de Arte Actuel) in Barcelona. This text was a possible introduction to the exhibition catalogue, but was not used.)