I work from or within the environment,using wildflowers and weeds flowers to examine a variety of ideas. Plants looked at but not seen, forgotten in the backdrops of the every day, inhabiting places that are usually neglected or unexplored.
Each work is about a specific site; I begin by researching and walking an area to collect information, very much like a classical botanist, but in a deliberately unstructured way. I return to these areas to collect plants for drawing, flower pressing and seed collecting
During a survey of an area, I record a variety of information that is stored on a database, that also contains drawings made on location in a digital format.
The database is used as a reference tool to support all areas of my practice. It contains up to 120 plants and over twenty categories, (from a basic description, to their magical properties, social history, edibility, symbolic associations etc).
In the studio and on site I make drawings, using H pencils that create very fine and barely visible lines. I paint on plastic surfaces, both transparent and laminated using acrylic paint and pressed plants that are permanently laminated into the paintings.
Each work combines representations of plants drawn or painted from direct observation and representations of flora, taken from a variety of sources ranging from art history to gardening illustrations, Plant guides, How to draw plant manuals and decorative designs
Large scale drawings and paintings are both dense in imagery. The fine lines and intricate mark making of the drawings contrast strongly with the brightly coloured and layering process of repeated laminations in the paintings. Although works in their own right, these works contribute to the development and design of works in other mediums.
These have included the installation of large scale meadows in a church, industrial buildings and shops, Individual wall drawings, Digital vectored designs, Vinyl installations, Signage, Cut paper collages Metal and paper sculptures, and a variety of wildflower concoctions including, wildflower wines, teas, pickles, ice- creams and beauty products
Other aspects of my work have included propagating weeds from seed, installing weedy meadows inside buildings, using artificial lighting with Hydroponic systems, making weed tea, weedy wine, cooking with weeds a making weed beauty products.
All my works are florilegium
A Florilegium of weeds is more than a record of plants in a given area; they are an artificial construct of ‘the scene unseen’
Creating objects of beauty that that are desirable and exclusive from a subject matter considered inferior and uninteresting
The original Florilegium (literally ‘flower book) is a category of books from the seventeenth century, where images were more significant than text. Many of the books contained a variety of styles by one artist, from the naturalistic and pictorial to the abstract and diagrammatic.
At this time flowers were increasingly grown purely for their decorative qualities, their colours and form, and not as previously for their practical use in medicine and cooking. The kitchen garden, the herb garden and the physic garden were joined by the flower garden – ‘the garden of earthly delights’, the metaphorical recreation of Eden.
It was a time when new species were appearing in Europe as a consequence of travel, trade and colonisation and when horticulture saw the development of new varieties and hybrids. It became fashionable to cultivate and collect flowering plants. Plants and gardens became status symbols indicative of wealth and of intellectual engagement.
Florilegiums were the records of individual plants in particular gardens; these catalogues preserved a record of what would otherwise pass away. Thus the florilegium stands in for the thing itself, becoming a permanent portable substitute for the impermanent and fixed, a garden and its plants.
The picturing of plants in the form of a florilegium, has no scientific purpose, no intent to analyse, classify or otherwise explore its subject, no text, and no argument, it was primarily a statement of possession, of ownership.
The collection of plants, as indeed other categories of exotica, was contingent upon wealth and leisure, and was motivated by curiosity, novelty, exoticism and rarity. Those who established notable gardens were royalty and aristocracy, merchants, bishops, people with independent incomes.
By the 18th century ‘curiosity’ and collecting were suspect activities, and collections predicated on beauty or curiosity value alone were seen as indulgent and corrupt, the age of science was upon us and botanical drawings superseded the florilegium.
Weeds are usually described as a plant in the wrong place, the unwelcome visitors in man made environments. Weeds are the underclass, the immigrants and vagrants of the plant world. Yet, they are often described in terms (Wild, uncontrollable, tough etc), which connect them to a nature more natural than the nature that excludes them.
Weeds (Dandelions, Nettles; Bind weed, Knotgrass and the rest) are determined to stay or return at the first opportunity, they take full advantage of our activities in the garden quickly spreading over bare ground when the soil is cultivated.
Many of these plants survive in the toughest of conditions, trodden upon, ignored and fed chemicals, yet they have become extremely hardy and are almost impossible to eradicate. Not protected by any laws, they find their own ways of surviving. They can regenerate themselves from tiny pieces of roots or stem, others can produce thousands of seeds that can germinate grow and set seed again in a few weeks
They also have many beneficial proprieties. Some improve the soil. Some attract wildlife and predators; many can be eaten, made into beverages and were used in the past for their herbal, medicinal, magical and cosmetic purpose.
Weeds are deeply connected to the very fabric of societies, their names having strong connections to history and folklore.