Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar

According to Bourriaud (2002:44) “Relational art is not the revival of any movement, not is it the comeback of any style.It arises from an observation of the present and from a line of thinking about the fate of artistic activity. Its basic claim – the sphere of human relations as artwork venue – has no prior example in art history, even if it appears after the fact, as the obvious backdrop of all aesthetic praxis, and as a modernist theme to cap all modernist themes…The space where the works are displayed is altogether the space of interaction, the space of openness that ushers in all dialogue…”

With this in mind, I had planned my own little piece of relational art, in the form of a novelty “pop-up” cocktail bar (Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar) which would facilitate audience engagement by inviting them to sample some of the materials which had been used to create the artworks, e.g. foodstuffs and beverages made from bramble, nettle, dandelion etc. Tasting, and hence smelling the food, would give them a multi-sensory experience, an experience  which is being increasingly exploited by artists and galleries throughout the world. One example of this is Jennifer Chung’s Popsy Room in Hong Kong (see the link below)


I had created a sign in a typically 1950s style, as this fitted in with the era of the exotic plant collector Alexander Cross living in the grounds, and was an era I had already referenced in my installation ‘The Exotic Seed Company’.



IMG_7793A variety of wines made from plants used to make the art were available to taste

I had ordered Nettle, Rosehip and Brambles wines, and also purchased Dandelion, Nettle and Nettle and Bramble teas for those not wishing to consume alcohol.



Making tea!

The ‘bar’ opened at 12 noon on Friday 14th November. A steady trickle of guests came into the foyer and lingered around the artwork, taking time to look at all of the pieces. Some came over to the bar, and were offered drinks, which led to discussions about the artwork. Others seemed a bit more shy, in which case I approached them and offered them a drink. It was definitely a great way to break the ice, and also to talk about art and plants, and make a few new acquaintances.

‘Invasion of the Body Scratchers’ fanzines were given out to the viewers, as a souvenir of the exhibition. These also acted as a promotional tool as they had details of my blog and Facebook page on them.






The verbal feedback for my work was very positive, and I think they enjoyed the experience of tasting the plants too. I made apple and bramble crumble (using brambles from the same plant which I had picked the thorns) and this went down very well indeed.

crumble Apple and Bramble crumbles

Written feedback was also encouraged via a comments box, and I was pleased to see that it was all very positive, with some suggestions of other venues where I might exhibit in future, and email addresses left to contact those who wanted information of my future exhibitions.

The experience of creating work, putting together an exhibition and  engaging with the audience was challenging, exciting and informative.The site-responsive element enriched my work, giving it deeper meaning and purpose when it was placed within the location. It is definitely a consideration I will make  when I create work in future.

I feel that I have gained confidence to approach similar environmental organisations with a view to exhibiting or collaborating, and has given me a fresh portfolio of work which I can use as self promotion.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


  • 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


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


  • A sign for Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar


  • A fanzine called Invasion of the Body Scratchers


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.


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


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.