Skip to main content

Kokedama: The Fragmented Garden
Installation by Paul Chartrand
Beginning Sunday 3 August 2014


Kokedama is a form of bonsai which originated in Japan during the 1600s. A bonsai tree would be grown inside a pot until the root ball was tight enough that it could be removed and displayed without the vessel. Eventually moss became part of the style, covering the root ball with green growth, to be shown on a plate or bowl. This style has been appropriated by a growing number of artists and gardeners in a new format of hanging gardens, where the roots are wrapped with string before being hung in the air. These suspended plants are unique microcosms of larger ecosystems, taking fragmented elements and uniting them into delicate living orbs.

These common plants such as ferns, moss and vines have been brought indoors to encourage a tactile and sensory experience which is normally taken for granted. Despite their mundane appearances, they are all components in a greater living framework which supports and drives the biosphere. The installation is connected through a central support system reminiscent of a tree’s structure. This main trunk branches out and supports all of the smaller kokedama balls, representing the reactionary efforts of people to reverse the growing problem of ecosystem fragmentation. These gardens require the careful observation and maintenance provided by the artist and the support apparatus, or they risk dying off one by one, like the green spaces of southwestern Ontario and beyond.

Paul Chartrand is an artist living and working in Dunnville, Ontario. He recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a BA major in Studio Art and a Geography minor. He consistently investigates the combination of natural and man-made aesthetics in his works, resulting in sculptural and representational hybrids. Social Practice and live plants are used as metaphors for a range of environmental and cultural issues; both are elements that Paul has been exploring since his final year at Guelph in 2013.