Work Case Studies Fugitive

Edinburgh Printmakers (EP) Featured Artist Space, Oct 2010

I began this work in 2009 after approaching staff at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) to find out if I could access the plant material that is removed from the Garden in the course of its everyday business. Over the course of a year I made regular trips to the plant waste holding ‘bays' at the back of the Tropical Palm House to intercept and photograph selected material before returning it on its journey to the enormous RBGE compost heaps.

From the resulting ‘visual library' of plant imagery I created two new print series using digital manipulation methods combined with the cyanotype printing process: The Bay Blueprints and Perennial. Perennial was exhibited in the featured artist space at Edinburgh Printmakers (EP) in 2010.


Spring Repeat, cyanotype, 2010

The prints in Perennial were partly inspired by a consideration of the botanical ‘repeat' in design. From Persian carpets to the clothes on our backs, plant motifs are extremely enduring in the patterns that surround us. I was also thinking about the repeating and connected cycles evident in a garden and ideas to do with growth and multiplication. I selected ‘parts' from the imagery of discarded plants that I had gathered during spring, summer autumn and winter at RBGE to make a ‘repeat' for each season.

It was thinking about the work involved in preserving the texts and plant specimens at the RBGE library that then prompted me to experiment with the notion of deliberately fugitive works. This work was developed to be exhibited alongside the prints. Pressed leaves, picked from my city allotment, were subjected to selective bleaching by sunlight as a way of creating text and images within their form.

Fugitive, chlorophyll print in leaf

These 'chlorophyll print' images are formed soley by the action of sun on a leaf. They do not involve the use of any light sensitive emulsions or inks and are unstable in sunlight and fugitive by nature. Their appearance altered significantly during the course of the brief EP show.

Exodus, detail, chlorophyll print in leaf

I also experimented with the anthotype process. To make an anthotype plant material is gathered and crushed in distilled water or alcohol to make a rudimentary light-sensitive emulsion. This is applied to paper and dried. The sensitized paper is then exposed to sunlight so that any areas not protected from the sun will bleach out.

Anthotype by Gerry Cambridge

Inspired by the surroundings of the RBGE library I became interested in creating a piece of work that incorporated text. During summer 2010 I collaborated with the Scottish poet Gerry Cambridge on a piece of work that used this anthotype method to print a poem. The poem, Anthotype, was inspired by Cambridge's consideration of this early photographic process. The text is fugitive and will fade over time, a process accelerated by exposure to sunlight.