Sunday, 27 March 2011

Forgotten Dreams - a digression

Went to see the Cave of Forgotten Dreams last night....the Herzog documentary about the cave paintings in the Chauvet cave in France. The film provides the viewer with an opportunity to see extraordinary images of benign looking horses, woolly rhinos, mammoths, cave lions, bison and more, looking so fresh and lively - painted using the contours of the cave walls to create their own 3D effect. The only way to see these is through the means of just such a digital 3D film; the cave is shut to the public to preserve them.  As such they are ephemeral, yet have lasted 32,000 years.
 A link to images...

During my adventures in lithography I drew a horse on the lithographic stone. It remained for less than a day as I discovered it failed to print, and all that is left is a digitised image ....
Ephemeral and a different horse...nervy and thoroughbred, startled and surprised, no sleepy eyes or mouth at rest, no punk style mane or forlock, and can be deleted at the touch of a button. Just one of millions of images of horses in the world, and as such all I can do is wonder at the power and uniqueness of the horses and animals in the cave and try to imagine the forgotten dreams of the artists who painted them.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

One take

 In the greenhouse presented with so much greenery this was a 'one take' drawing done by not taking the pen off the paper. I might use this, as parts of it cropped could be the beginning of some sketchbook etchings. Later added colour changes perception but suddenly it looks too much and takes away from the quality of line.

And...talking about colour...
Researching the history of botanic artists I found out that Franz and Ferdinand Bauer, whose careers spanned the latter part of 18th and early19thC, had botanic colour sorted  out. They used a shade card that they took out with them, drew the plants but numbered the colours to match their shade card so they could reproduce them on return home from their travels. The shade card accompanied Thaddaus Haenke (1761-1816) on his world tour. He died in Peru but the shade card returned to Madrid, where it was donated to the Real Jardin Botanico; checked against Bauer work, it matches perfectly after 180 years.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Two tone thinking

Moving into colour is a great challenge...a gentle dip with these two sketchbook screen prints inspired by time spent in the greenhouses. Taking a stool meant I spent far longer in one place than previously, just attempting to look at some of the plants long enough to see them as individuals.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Wheat and more

I've been awarded a small sustainability grant for the project so I am beginning to think about looking at sustainability issues. Part of the Botanic Garden's displays includes useful plants - these are the crops that feed many of the world's population. I saw this scarecrow today protecting the seeds sown of wheat, oats, barley and flax. Someone had sacrificed their boots, trousers and sweat shirt. The wicker head is slightly disturbing.
I need to make the leap of imagination to weave these themes together into art work - as Darwin said of the evolution of flowering plants - an abominable mystery!
One of the ideas I hope to develop is that of an audio walk in the garden, this hopefully will be an ambitious project with multi-layered sound. As a sustainable art work it requires no materials and could be put onto the Botanic Garden website for everyone to share. I've started recording some sounds and still feeling my way with the technology. Not quite sure what it has to do with printmaking!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Survivor garb

In the greenhouses are the wonderful and inspiring orchids - some of the very earliest flowering plants and around when the dinosaurs were munching their way through the vegetation and each other. The garden is already working its magic on me so that I am learning amazing facts get in the way of art? Can facts be inspiration?

The orchids need a very artificial environment to survive while the cacti in the cool house with their spines and wax can survive the cold and heat but not wet. This one had black and white spines. Seeing a bench full of them while breathing in the scented air was magic.

I'm at the beginning of the residency - for me this involves being there. I am looking to produce a body of work, but, at the moment, just allowing things to swill around while working in the sketchbook and on sketchbook prints.
Although ... this took my fancy...Stoke House (now a college) - not far from the Botanic Garden was painted by Turner when he was 16 in 1791...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Each plant in its place

At the garden on Wednesday. I was looking again at the little banksia marginata that I sketched last time. Living at the margins its trunk has to be bandaged for the winter. Situated under a cedar tree that protects it from frost it has its own micro-climate. Yet the more I looked at the cedar the more I could make out the places where branches had been pruned to allow more light in. Bandaged and cut - both bush and tree are managed. The tree healed over its cuts. Other plants are wrapped in pyramids, covered in straw under a cloche, planted on the south facing slopes. 
Yet there are so many signs of the garden waking up. The pergola has been removed and the box plants replanted elsewhere. All change and process.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Thinking of the overview

Worked on these paper batik sketchbook images - does the removal of colour add or subtract? Or is it a matter of personal taste?

On research. I can't help, when starting a new project, but think about the overview. Researching the history of botanic gardens has revealed that their layouts sometimes incorporated astrological, cosmological and religious notions. The layout in astrologically resonant forms - circles, squares and triangles - was intended to channel the positive energy radiating from the planets and stars into objects on earth. An idea that lives on in the theory of bio-dynamic gardening (planting to coincide with certain phases of the moon). Magic perhaps and against all reason... 

This particular Botanic Garden has its own history as does the place. Further research will reveal more.