While tidying the garden, I am constantly pulling up unwanted seedlings either weeds or various self sown plants 'growing in the wrong place'. Having noticed their delicate root systems, I started to remove them more carefully. Close inspection reveals the beauty of their structures. Therefore rather than discard them, I decided to preserve them. I appreciate there is nothing new in this - plant collecting has a long well documented history. However, it set me wondering about how and why others had felt the compulsion to gather pressed flowers.
My own purpose for saving specimens was initiated by aesthetics and curiosity. When examined closely each plant becomes a 'miracle of nature'. I found a new respect for these 'everyday' plants in their ability to grow in the most barren places for example in the cracks between concrete paving slabs.
Approaching the experience of being in lockdown with a mindset of opportunity rather than restriction has sparked several ideas for new work. The first "Herbarium' brings together inspiration gained from a visit to The Old Operating Theatre, and Herb Garrett at St.Thomas Hospital, London earlier in the year.
Having learnt John Keats once worked at St Thomas Hospital, and was a qualified apothecary, I wanted to make a piece of work which celebrates the connection between nature and healing. Keats made a decision to give up surgical training to concentrate fully on writing and poetry. He turned away from what must have been a brutal profession in the early 1800's, to find solace, and meaning in the natural world. His poems explore themes of life, death and transience.
I feel this idea of looking for something more meaningful resonates with our currently situation - with national lockdowns and self isolation due to Covid -19. Being confined to our homes has provoked many to reflect on the benefits we gain from nature, and to question what is really important in our lives.
'Herbarium" pays homage to Keats. It consists of two unique books contained in a paper cover. The first book uses a Concertina structure. One side of the book depicts the outline of various shaped apothecary jars. Each of the eight bottles contain fragments from 'Ode to A Nightingale. While the reverse of the book is filled with with silhouettes of 'Love-in-a-Mist'.
The second book comprises 15 unbound pages. They are taken from a one hundred year old edition of Palgraves Golden Treasury. Pressed pants found in my garden during Lockdown have been placed alongside Keats poems. Attached using beeswax, this has the added bonus of making the paper translucent Text form the reverse page seeps through giving the impression of several voices on one page. It is akin to a process of becoming, or of uncertainty, echoing the sentiment that life is transient - sometimes we can only partially glimpse meaning.
This work is one of several responses to the visit by the group Bookscapes. Others members of Bookscapes work can be seen here.
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.