Once again my work takes its cue from scientific illustration, in particular the world of the microscopic. Airborne, 2011, is based on images of pollen grains. Seemingly infinite in their variety, each flowering plant requiring pollination by a specific grain, they were first observed and illustrated with the aid of a microscope in the 1600’s by botanists such as Nehemiah Grew. Ferdinand Bauer’s more recent watercolours painted in the mid 1800’s are, like Grew’s images, still recognisable as the same material portrayed with the use of today’s electron microscope.
In Airborne the cavity formed by plaster casting of a solid form acknowledges transience and loss, impermanence. Every living flowering plant has had a different pollen grain and the study of extinct flora includes the study of fossilised pollen grains, paleopalynology. With this in mind I set about making a visual representation of a minute fraction of the invisible material surrounding us: the world in which we are embedded.
Apart from pollen grains, the other microscopic material represented in this exhibition is the parasite. Again, of startling variety, and offcourse not always microscopic, parasites, both plant and animal, according to ABC Radio National’s Natasha Mitchell of All in the Mind constitute half of life on earth. We need some parasites, although not all, and probably not those that manipulate the behaviour of their hosts by co-opting their brains.
The Earthly garden series with its combination of ceramic and watercolour on paper again relies on the transformation of scientific illustration. Echoing the phenomenon of collecting, naming, describing, ordering and classifying, ultimately an impossible task when one takes into account the predominance of microscopic life around us and the extinction of many life-forms,the works take the form of poetic distillations.
Angela Valamanesh, April 2012