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Helen Riches: Artist in Residence

Helen Riches

An Artist at Darsham Nurseries

Now showing in the Summer House

An exhibition of paintings made at Darsham Nurseries, 2017 – 2018

July 3rd – August 31st, 2018

Artists’ reception Sunday, 8th July


Since the spring of 2017, Helen Riches has been Darsham Nurseries’ first artist in residence.  This show exhibits the work that she has made on site this past year.

Helen was born in Belfast and since attending Norwich School of Art at 18 to study graphic design has spend much of her adult life in East Anglia.  She works as a garden designer, although in recent years has prioritised painting in oils, a skill she has learned from establish London artists Tony Rothon and Sarah Nutley.  Becoming Artist in Residence at Darsham Nurseries ties together Helen’s life long interest and professional involvement in art, design and horticulture.

About the residency:

Helen says, “The nursery at Darsham is a highly creative and visually stimulating environment, presenting a series of vignettes that deserves to be captured in paint.  At least, that is how it seemed to me as an artist / gardener, strolling through the beautifully presented potager, nursery, shop, cafe, and quirkily bespoke summerhouse.  In the spring of 2017 I asked for the opportunity to record these glimpses of life at the nursery as an Artist in Residence.  There was no such position, but they said ‘why not?’  Before long I was setting up my easel; My preference is to paint from life.”


The goal of working at Darsham. 

“There is much satisfaction in simply capturing a fleeting moment; Cyclamen in flower; Black Eyed Susan racing up a hazel wigwam; A bowl full of crab apples bringing a stab of winter colour to a cafe table.  It’s been fun seizing that snapshot in the growing year by painting flowers in bloom, crops freshly harvested and making a record of small pivotal events; The amaranthus brusquely pulled from the display beds creating armfuls of pendulous tassels to drape in a vase; The arrival of spotty Jean Cameron MacIntosh ceramics in the nursery shop; Such a pleasure to pop an African violet in a bowl to interpret Jean’s ceramic artistry in oils.  In February I was there to sketch the fine dusting of snow as it settled on the veg beds, just before the nursery had to close due to heavy drifts.

“In a nursery environment there are some moments that are ‘particularly arrested’, if there can be such a phrase.  Plants that are containerised in small pots do not fulfil their potential until given their freedom in a garden.  A rambler, once planted, can romp joyfully up trees and houses.  For now they sit passively in their shiny plastic pots on the apron of concrete, waiting.  In committing a containerised rose to canvas, perhaps I’m wishing to endow it with beauty and longevity, whether or not it ever gets released from its plastic black bonds?

“There is something about spending time quietly with plants that make us wonder about bigger things; Plans for the future, our longevity, or simply if there is room in the garden for another Himalayan birch.  For me though, just concentrating on putting paint on canvas is a therapy and aesthetic pleasure in itself.  The paintings I created for the residency are mostly in a square format which is ideal for the subject matter and indeed for sharing on Instagram.  The paintings are posted under darsham_in_residence.  Please follow me there and let me know what you think.”

Helen Riches

Artist in Residence Darsham Nurseries




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