To Eden and Beyond John Dyer & David Ashe travel to Costa Rica to study banana farming

Published on 09/25/2003

A Talk by John Dyer and David Ashe Thursday 25th September 2003 at The Eden Project, Cornwall SOLD OUT

"Last January, many eden Friends had the opportunity of hearing about our Resident Artist John Dyer's latest paintings. A special evening, hosted by Alan Titchmarsh was both entertaining and informative. Since then John has been involved in some fascinating work, and has agreed to return to Eden to share his new experiences.

'I was asked to paint bananas, and thought it would be great to see them in their natural habitat; before long I found myself in the jungle surrounded by bugs'
John Dyer.

John flew to Costa Rica with film maker, photographer and presenter David Ashe of iCapture Productions. David will be joining John on stage to talk about their amazing trip, giving us a unique insight into John's life and paintings. The stories of their experience not only bring out the artistic side of the expedition, but also help us to understand the difficulties and some of the humour that a trip like this often brings.

The talk will contain excerpts from the film of the trip, images of the paintings, and a chance to ask John and David questions."

Text originally published in Eden Friends Magazine Summer 2003.

"We asked John Dyer to paint bananas because they are a smallholder crop - grown in people's back gardens and farms along with lots of other fruits and vegetables. John's pictures are all about diversity and bringing out what might pass unseen. In this case, it seems to have been scorpions!" 

Charlotte Lusty, International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain. http://bananas.bioversityinternational.org/

"When he first heard of the Eden Project, Cornish Artist John Dyer wanted to capture the excitement and vibrancy of the Biomes, and their contents, on canvas.

John was born and grew up in North Cornwall and despite moving away for 5 years during his late teens/early twenties his love of Cornwall and his desire to paint brought him home.

John has become well known for his bright and colourful paintings, many of which depict the Cornish landscape. His work with Eden started even before construction was completed. Whilst tending and nurturing new plants at Watering Lane, the Green Team would often come across John with his canvases and paints capturing the beginnings of Eden. And now, four years later, the many visitors to Eden have enjoyed John’s vibrant images; they can be seen around the site, and in the shop.

I first met John Dyer six years ago, and was immediately drawn to his happy and cheerful outlook on life. He has a wonderful ability to see the good in things, including people; he assumes people will be friendly unless proved otherwise. 

On one of my many visits to Cornwall, John started to tell me about this fantastical project called Eden. His enthusiasm, not just about the project but also about ecology and conservation, made me take notice of what was going on, and soon I too was looking forward to seeing his next ‘Eden Painting’. It came as no surprise to me that, at his first Eden Exhibition, John Dyer – now Painter in Residence at Eden sold every painting on the opening night.

Having seen John working at Eden and felt, in some small way, part of the creative process, I looked forward to hearing about what John’s next project might be. In early 2002 John told me that he wanted to paint some of the crops he had seen at Eden in their natural habitat. I started suggesting both ‘crops and places’ and also ways that I too could be there to see him at work. Grapes were top of my list, and we ended up spending an idyllic week in the Italian Tuscan/Umbrian countryside. Our wives, also both artists, came with us. The three of them spent the days being creative whilst I enjoyed again feeling a small part of the artistic process.

In January of this year, I received an email from John telling me that he had been asked to paint another Eden crop, this time bananas. INIBAP (International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain) had asked John if they could use some of his work to illustrate their report and John decided it would be good to create a new set of work on bananas painted in their natural environment.  It soon became clear that the best place to get a real feel of bananas grown in an Eden like place would be southern Costa Rica, down on the Panama boarder. Without thinking I offered to help carry his bags and before I knew it he had agreed, I was off to the jungle. This was an opportunity not to be missed, so I decided to take along as much video and audio equipment as I could. I intended to record the experience and to capture John at work.

It didn’t take long for John to organise where we were to be going, I booked the flights, and on 1st April we set off on an adventure.

Although by now I had got to know John fairly well and his generally friendly disposition bode well for us getting on, I was slightly apprehensive. We would be spending the next 10 days together in what could be difficult circumstances. This might be a true test of our friendship.

It took two days for us to fly to Costa Rica, travel across and down the country in ferocious rainstorms and finally arrive at our ‘Jungle House’; our home for the next 6 days. Although we both knew that we were to be stranded in the rain forest, I don’t think either of us were prepared for the reality of the heat, mosquitoes huge beetles, spiders and the enormous variety of other crawling, flying, jumping and slithering fauna that was there waiting to great us.

Despite the difficult conditions, John and I experienced some of the most amazing sights; the beautiful rain forest with it’s canopy high overhead, bananas and cocoa growing around us, humming birds during the day and fireflies at night.

We started each day at 5:30 am, as dawn broke, and the night sounds of the forest quietened down. John would paint from 7:00 in the morning to about 5:00 with a break for lunch and a rest during the hottest part of the day. While he painted I watched, intrigued by how he would stand in front of a blank canvas and appear to perform a mystical dance waving a dry paintbrush around, as he began to ‘see’ what the painting might become. I was fascinated to watch the colour appear and the literally brilliant images emerge.

While John painted, I made a video of him working, describing his techniques and feelings about his art and surroundings. By the end of the six days, John had a set of inspirational paintings, and I had some great video footage of the artist at work.

Now back at home, and thousands of miles away from our ‘jungle house’, I look back on our days in the forest with much happiness. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. Having spent this time with John, I hope that some of his brightness and happiness, which we all see in his paintings, has rubbed off on me.

I now eagerly check my email, waiting for the next outrageous idea from John wondering where in the world he’ll want to go next, and whether I’ll be lucky enough to be there with him." 
David Ashe