West Dean College celebrated the first glimpse of spring with a talk by Edward James' former Head Gardener, Ivan Hicks. The event attracted artists, scholars of Surrealism, and gardeners alike, as Ivan recounted his experience of working with James and the friendship that ensued. Ivan shared images from his personal archive of correspondence that was exchanged over a period of ten years - the manifestation of two creative minds with a shared passion for horticulture, music, and wildlife.

Ivan's presentation was accompanied by an exhibition of complementary correspondence held by The Edward James Archive. Together, the talk and exhibition provided a comprehensive account of the richly decorated correspondence that can be considered as an fascinating example of Mail Art. The correspondence reveals a more private, intimate side of James and offers a glimpse at the formative years of Hicks, now one the UK's leading garden designers and landscape artists.

The following day, Ivan and his partner and collaborator Rachel, gave another presentation about their various creative projects, before then visiting the full-time Visual Arts Studios and conducting one-to-one tutorials with Graduate and Postgraduate students. Many thanks to them both for a productive and inspiring day.

Ivan Hicks was Head Gardener at West Dean College and Monkton House between 1973 and 1984. His friendship with Edward James saw them travel together to Ireland, Italy and Mexico developing various projects. Ivan has worked on a number of major projects across the UK and combines the influence of Surrealism with expert knowledge.

The evening talk was one of a series of talks by artists, curators, writers, and academics organised by the School of Arts at West Dean College.

The Cultural Papers which form part of The Edward James Archive are currently being cataloguing. You can read more about this project here.