The Impossible Garden

As an outcome of a Leverhulme residency at the Bristol Eye Hospital and BVI (Bristol Vision Institute), University of Bristol, the artist Luke Jerram has created The Impossible Garden. The exhibition is a set of twelve experimental sculptural artworks, inspired by optical phenomena he explored as part of his residency.

The unique idea of The Impossible Garden came about after Luke applied for the residency together with Cathy Williams, a member of BVI and a Consultant in Paediatric Ophthalmology at Bristol Eye Hospital. As part of the residency, Luke worked with BVI researchers, Bristol Eye Hospital, Botanic Garden and spent time with visually-impaired children to increase his knowledge of visual perception.

Cathy hopes this exhibition will encourage greater public understanding about the many processes involved in “seeing”, because families tell her that lack of understanding is often a barrier to getting support for children with many kinds of visual impairment.

Luke said “As someone who is colour-blind, I’m fascinated by the processes of visual perception. Over the years, many of my artworks have explored the processes and limitations of vision and how the mind interprets the things we’re looking at.”


The Impossible Garden will be presented at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden until November 2018. There is a charge for adults to enter the gardens but children go free.

With many of the exhibits it’s what’s happening in the space around each object, that interests me, as well as the journey of information between the object and mind of the viewer. As an artist I’m keen to explore the edges of perception and to communicate and share my findings with the public” said Luke.

How to Get there.

Here are directions and a map.
There is an entrance fee for adults to enter the gardens, but children and all under 18yrs go free. Also free to university students and staff.

Downloadable PDF brochure

Here is a downloadable Impossible Garden A5 brochure for the exhibition. These are also available for free at the entrance to the exhibition.

Posters highlighting some of the research done by BVI can be found here BVI research posters (PDF, 2,734kB)


The function and value

  • This is an opportunity for the artist to test out a series of experimental sculptural and optical principles. The Mother and Child sculpture has already led to a larger more ambitious artwork, the Han River Pavilion.
  • Hospital patients, university staff and students are invited to come and visit the gardens with their families. Depending on whether they are a child, adult, student or trained scientist, each will enjoy discovering and contemplating the exhibits in different ways.
  • We hope the exhibition will promote the BVI and the incredible research it carries out.
  • The garden can be used to teach psychology students and to practically test out and measure illusory phenomena. The public will be free for students to visit and can contribute to research through the study of the illusions and public interaction.

Here are some examples of Luke’s other artworks that explore perception and utilise unusual visual effects.

With support from:
University of Bristol –  Arts strategy funding and Bristol Vision Institute.
Bristol Botanical Gardens.
Bristol Eye Hospital.
Enchroma – for their glasses on display.

With Thanks to:
Bristol Eye Hospital – Cathy Williams
Bristol Vision Institute, University of Bristol – Bridget Everett, David Bull, Sarah Rogers, Innes Cuthill, Iain Gilchrist.
University of Bristol Botanic Garden – Nick Wray, Andy and Froggy
Mark Harris – Technician
Vicki Leach – CAD