Scratching the Surface – Exhibition up!

On Monday I installed the Scratching The Surface Exhibition at Scottish Natural Heritage Battleby, Redgorton. The exhibition was put together as an assignment for my MA in Fine Art course. The brief – to put together an exhibition in a public place. The deadline – 5 weeks, which isn’t a great deal of time when you’re working and have family commitments!

Given the nature of my work, I decided to contact Scottish Natural Heritage, as this is an organisation that I would like to develop links with, either as part of collaborative research/art projects, or perhaps one day as an artist in residence.

My main interest at the moment is invasive and injurious plants, and after a few ideas, I decided that Scratching the Surface would be a suitable title. Through a bit of research,  I also found out that the site was used as a “hospital” for soldiers to convalesce after the First World War. Given that the plants which I was planning to use for the exhibition had either injurious or healing properties, I felt that this gave my work a site-specific connection, which I aimed to portray within some of my pieces.

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The poster which I designed to advertise the event, using a detail of the painting ‘Hostile Invasion’

The work I produced over the 5 weeks was:

  • Masking the Pain : a mask made from nettles, Ivy and other plants

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  • PRICK : A word made from thorns on canvas, sprayed with white acrylic

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  • Forbidden Fruit : A 3D piece mounted onto canvas, made with polyustyrene, papier mache nails and elastoplast

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  • Hostile Invasion : A painting of a hostile, overgrown landscape

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  • The Exotic Seed Company : An Installation of fictitious seed packets

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  • No way out : Wire and thorns coming out a of canvas
  • Off side : A painting of a Butterbur Leaf, in the style of stained glass
  • From Scratch : A stylized painting of a bramble stalk

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  • Sleeping with the enemy : A bed made from Giant Hogweed, Butterbur, Nettles and Thorns

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  • A sign for Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar

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  • A fanzine called Invasion of the Body Scratchers

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I also made a few more pieces which I did not exhibit, as it was felt that they weren’t strong enough, or devalued other pieces .

I spent all day Monday installing the exhibition, and had a few challenges along the way…covering the picture hanging system to give the exhibtion a more contemporary feel was probably the biggest, so I decided to use canvases to hang over the rods, onto which I then fixed my work.

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A contrast with lighting gives the exhibition a more dramatic feel (below) but I found it difficult to photograph my work under these conditions

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I have to say that I’m quite pleased with the result of my work, and its great to see it all up together as an exhibition. On Friday, between 12 noon and 1pm I am hosting a tasting session to sample some of the materials I used to create the artwork, e.g.. Nettle, bramble and rose hip wines, bramble crumble etc. and dandelion and nettle teas. I will be serving the wines as spritzers from Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar, and will set up my sign advertising this.

If anyone wants to visit, this exhibition will be on until 2pm Friday, when the 3D works will have to be dismantled due to other events taking place, but the 2d works should be up for possibly another week.

Invasion of the Body Scratchers Fanzine

This is a fanzine I have made to distribute at my exhibition “Scratching the Surface” at Scottish Natural Heritage Headquarters, Battleby, Redgorton.

Print out each of the 4 PDF files below by clicking on the BLUE names, then follow the instructions on how to put it together, folding each page in half then half again.

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Finally, all you need to do, is staple it together, and voila…you have yourself a copy of Invasion of the Body Scratchers !   If you are still struggling to get it, here is the order of the pages…

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The Exotic Seed Company

As part of my upcoming exhibition at Scottish Natural Heritage, BattIeby, I had the idea of creating “fake”seed packets of highly invasive and prohibited plants, which was based on the fact that in the past these seeds and plants were distributed in the US and Europe, long before it was realised what a devastating effect these aliens could have on our environment.  Also, in connection with the site of the exhibition, the grounds are listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, because of the fact that they have a very important exotic plant collection and arboretum, which were planted by and cared for by a team of 10 gardeners when Battleby House was owned by Sir Alexander Cross, between 1947 and 1963. 

I had a look at some vintage seed packets online and found a variety of beauties…

$_35These are from the 1950s….very colourful and well illustrated

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Love this anthropomorphism (above), but not really a route I want to go down                      for this piece

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8f0c48555a1954973bcecae688a6c01cKeep coming back to the two above…I think it’s the limited colour palette which I find appealing.

The Exotic Seed Company is a fictitious company which sells these seeds, and advertises them in a lighthearted and positive way, promoting these rogues as hardy, exotic plants which will last forever, with no mention of any regrets you may have later. The typeface is reminiscent of the 1950s, and the adverts typical of this era when political correctness was non-existant, and companies put a positive and most often sexist slant on marketing their products with no evidence to back up any of their claims, in an era when consumerism was on the up and society was ignorant of the detrimental effects these products could have to our health.

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 How ridiculous are these strap lines, yet consumers of the 50s would                   have no idea!

I designed three packets, illustrating the 3 current most invasive and threatening plants to our environment in the UK- Giant Hogweed, Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed. At my tutorial, I was a bit concerned that I may not have enough 2-dimensional work to show, so Caroline suggested that perhaps the seed packets could cover one of the walls, like a sort of installation. I toyed with the idea of this, and also felt that it was important to make the packets by hand, although I know that I could have made much more convincing packets with the aid of the computer, and made them much faster too. Having a love of printmaking, I decided that linoprinting would be a feasible option, so I set about drawing out my designs before getting stuck into the carving.

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Because the packets were relatively small, I soon realised that the lettering would not be easy, and although I managed to carve the plant variety, I felt that the Exotic Seeds lettering at the bottom of the packets did not work…in fact I hated it!

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Luckily, I have a box of alphabet stampers, so instead I opted to stamp Exotic Seeds onto the packets using these – with a much more pleasing result.

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I stuck to the green palette which I have been using throughout the work created for this exhibition, but used a different shade of green for each variety.

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Once I had created the seed packets, I decided that I would prefer to see them hanging up on hooks, just as they would be sold in a garden centre. I managed to source a suitable board and some metal hooks, and I painted a sign for the Exotic Seed Company using a 50s style font.

This was them fixed onto the board above the hooks, and the seed were hung up to finish off the piece. I didn’t put any seeds into the packets, although I did think it might make the audience curious, but was concerned that it might be detrimental to the packets, which were made from handmade Lokti paper.

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Finally, I made a two page ad for the Fanzine I am creating, in the optimistic spirit of 50s advertising…

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ZINE8 I feel that the end result is quite satisfactory, and hope that it raises questions/debates and provokes curiousity amongst the audience.