The evergreen Yew with its dark green, needle-like leaves and red berries are toxic to humans and as a result they were identified as the trees of death but were also seen as a symbol of the transcendence of death due to their longevity. The project team were particularly interested in the Yew tree because of the fact that such a highly toxic tree also contained key medicinal components in the fight against various forms of cancer. Compounds found in the bark are nowadays manufactured chemically in the development of the Taxol drug.
To follow find images taken by Clodagh Dooley with the Scanning Electron Microscope.
The final artwork is a hand etched representation of one of the wonderful images created by Dooley on a sheet of fluorescent yellow perspex. See SEM image below.
The artwork itself is to be found attached to the gates of the railings, which surround the triangular section of the physic garden. The artist chose the gate as the site to install the work because for her it symbolised the entrance and exit point along the boundary of the garden. This reflected her ongoing interest in engaging with notions of the skin as an in-between space between the inside and outside of the body, where skin pores play a vital role in excreting waste products and protecting against bacteria and pathogens. This is followed through in her interest in the breathing pores, the soma on the bark of the Yew tree, images of which were hand etched and drilled into a section of yellow perspex. To follow are a selection of SEM images of these soma.
Also included in the artwork are sections of medical tubing filled with yellow paint, which trace through the drilled breathing holes and intertwine around each other. This is not unlike how the Yew tree’s trunk avoids succumbing to disease and splitting under the weight of advanced growth by growing upwards and twisting it’s root structure in and around itself for support.
Finally see below image of installed artwork.