Behind the artworks – pair of Plane trees

plane-trees-wide-view-lo-res

The pair of Plane trees, (Platanus orientalis) is situated opposite the Law Library in Trinity College Dublin.  See above image above.  

Platanus trees are tall, reaching 30–50 m (98–164 ft) in height and are native to the Northern Hemisphere. Plane trees shed their bark every two to three years getting rid of certain amounts of pollution with the old bark. It is for this reason that they are frequently planted in urban areas.

This pair of trees are genetically related. As a result of an infection during their infancy both trees have an unusual lumpy bark and thick trunks. The lumpy protrusions on the bark are called nodules and continue to grow and regularly fall off the infected lower trunk.

large-nodule-that-prof-taylor-will-investigate

These nodules were the starting point in the development of the plane tree artworks. Initially Hassett collected a large fallen nodule (see image above of the nodule used) and made a two-piece mould from it. Coloured wax was poured into the mould and expanding foam was added to the interior as a strengthener. Two replica wax works were then created.

Interest in microscopic imagery of the haphazard cell structures (see images above) from both infected barks led to the artist to include a representative pattern of cellular ‘holes’ in both wax works. She used imagery from the right tree in the artwork designed for the left and visa versa for the artwork installed in the right tree. In addition both wax pieces were deliberately installed opposite each other further heightening the connection and unique nature of these two trees.

Of note: the artist spent many hours researching and attempting in vain to develop a viable bioplastic recipe to use in the creation of these works. Wax was the material of choice in the end as it will be interesting to see how the sticky surface and structure of the wax pieces will morph and alter in response to its environs over the course of the exhibition.  

Images of the artworks in situ will be posted after the opening of the Exhibition on the 29th of September 2017.  

The art of botanical illustrations

During my background research for this project I came across a selection of lovely botanical illustrations of a selection of the trees species included in our project.  I have spread them throughout this piece of text outlining the background and recent renaissance of the art form.

Botanical illustration is the art of depicting the form, color, and details of plant species, frequently in watercolor paintings. They must be scientifically accurate but often also have an artistic component and may be printed with a botanical description in book, magazines, and other media or sold as a work of art. Often composed in consultation with a scientific author, their creation requires an understanding of plant morphology and access to specimens and references.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Early herbals and pharmacopoeia of many cultures have included the depiction of plants. This was intended to assist identification of a species, usually with some medicinal purpose. The earliest surviving illustrated botanical work is the Codex vindobonensis. It is a copy of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica, and was made in the year 512 for Juliana Anicia, daughter of the former Western Roman Emperor Olybrius. The problem of accurately describing plants between regions and languages, before the introduction of taxonomy, were potentially hazardous to medicinal preparations. The low quality of printing of early works sometimes presents difficulties in identifying the species depicted.

When systems of botanical nomenclature began to be published, the need for a drawing or painting became optional. However, it was at this time that the profession of botanical illustrator began to emerge. The eighteenth century saw many advances in the printing processes, and the illustrations became more accurate in colour and detail. The increasing interest of amateur botanists, gardeners, and natural historians provided a market for botanical publications; the illustrations increased the appeal and accessibility of these to the general reader. The field guides, Floras, catalogues and magazines produced since this time have continued to include illustrations. The development of photographic plates has not made illustration obsolete, despite the improvements in reproducing photographs in printed materials. A botanical illustrator is able to create a compromise of accuracy, an idealized image from several specimens, and the inclusion of the face and reverse of the features such as leaves. Additionally, details of sections can be given at a magnified scale and included around the margins around the image.

Botanical illustration is a feature of many notable books on plants, a list of these would include:

  • Vienna Dioscurides

  • Flora Graeca

  • The Banksias

  • Curtis’s Botanical Magazine

  • The Cactaceae

Recently a renaissance has been occurring in botanical art and illustration. Organisations devoted to furthering the art form are found in the US (American Society of Botanical Artists), UK (Society of Botanical Artists), Australia (Botanical Art Society of Australia), and South Africa (Botanical Artists Association of South Africa), among others. The reasons for this resurgence are many. In addition to the need for clear scientific illustration, botanical depictions continue to be one of the most popular forms of “wall art”. There is an increasing interest in the changes occurring in the natural world, and in the central role plants play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. A sense of urgency has developed in recording today’s changing plant life for future generations. Working in media long understood provides confidence in the long-term conservation of the drawings, paintings, and etchings. Many artists are drawn to more traditional figurative work, and find plant depiction a perfect fit. Working with scientists, conservationists, horticulturists, and galleries locally and around the world, today’s illustrators and artists are pushing the boundaries of what has traditionally been considered part of the genre.

Medicinal Garden – early artistic inspirations

 

clear spikes on blue fabric lo res

During recent musings on the hairy structure of the sage plant I was reminded of some early experiments I completed with transparent piped silicone.

oj & clear spiky blob on blue fabric lo res

This led me to doing another few spiky experiments (see images above).

I also decided to add some spiky silicone ‘hairs’ to an unrelated experimental piece that I have been working on.  (See the images below).

There were some interesting results from these tests so this is something that I will definitely look into further in the development of this piece.

The other thought that came to me while thinking of the work to be placed in or near the medicinal garden is that I would like to incorporate a more tactile element into this work. I hope that the piece itself or a sample of it will be accessible to the public to touch.

More artistic musing on the sage plant to follow.

New shrub….Andy Goldsworthy

Trinity College-new shrub planted - bright red branches.JPG

While I was walking through campus recently I was drawn to a newly planted shrub beside the College park. The branches were glowing a bright red against the dark brown soil – I had to take a photo. See image below.

When I returned to my studio when I was reviewing the images from the day I revisited this photo and realised that it reminded me of some of the pieces that I had seen by artist Andy Goldsworthy. So I dragged out my beautiful coffee table book of his entitled Wood. See below some of the images from the book.

Andy Goldsworthy-book-wood-natural materials-epephemeral art works

Andy Goldsworthy-book-wood-single maple leaf covered in bright poppy petals alongside green leaves copy

Roadside poppy petals held with water to horsechestnut leaf, late evening calm.

Andy Goldsworthy-book-wood-thin branch covered in red poppy petals-bright red and green-opposing colours

Poppy petal wrapped hazel branch held with water raining. Stonewood, Dumfriesshire, 1 September 1992.

Andy Goldsworthy-book-wood-red maple leaves stretched between two branches

Maple leaves pinned with thorns between two trunks of a tree. Plano, Illinois, 24 October 1992.