Hello to you all! I hope 2016 has been good to you thus far. Sending out a bulletin to let you know what's coming up in the next few months & tell of some activities from earlier this year. As 2015 closed I'd set up such a packed program for the first quarter of 2016 that it was May before I had time to stop and exhale. Although I started a Newsletter in February with info re workshops & Exhibitions in Sydney & Ballarat I simply ran out of time to finish and send that out for which I do apologise. Have never failed to share news ahead of events before.
You may like to read this in your browser ... on a smart phone try the horizontal mode for better viewing.
1. Upcoming events are (usually) added to the Website. WORKSHOPS are being offered in various locations. Read the Website for more information orExpress your interest here!
3. I've added loads of images to this Newsletter which means you can skip the text altogether. Pics always tell a story.
4. Visit Instagram or the Homage to the Seed Facebook page for regular activity updates. IG is a daily update!
5. Don't forget: UNSUBSCRIBE button at the bottom of this e-news bulletin.
Best wishes to all,
THIS WEEK IN BRISBANE: Atasda Qld Artist talk.
ATASDA Qld, or the Australian Textile & Surface Design Association of Qld, have invited me to do this talk in early August ahead of a Full-day Workshop I'm offering through them Saturday, August 27th in Brisbane.
When: Thursday 4th August 2016
Venue: Qld Spinners' Fibre House, 12 Payne St, Auchenflower QLD 4066
Time: 6:30PM for 7PM start
Fee: $20 includes light refreshment NB: CLICK ON IMAGE TO GO TO BOOKING PAGE.
Note from ATASDA: "This will be an interactive session, so you are welcome to bring your journal or sketch pad & Artline pens ready to immerse yourself in a short guided activity highlighting Sophie's rich experience of artistic practice in scientific realms whilst hearing all about the inspiration gathered throughout the fascinating 7 year Homage to the Seed Project."
Also from ATASDA: SATURDAY AUGUST 27 BRISBANE WORKSHOP: A one-day 'Seeds through an Artist's Lens' workshop is being hosted by Atasda Qld this coming August with something of a Textile and Surface design focus:
"We are extremely pleased to announce the next Atasda Qld workshop will be with a Brisbane based Visual Artist, Sophie Munns.
“SEEDS THROUGH AN ARTIST’S LENS... with a textile focus”
This workshop offers you a lively introduction into the fascinating world of seeds… always a wonderful source of inspiration for creatives. Seeds are often hidden from us & their value underrated but we will take a closer look & pay homage to the multiple ways they are important in our lives… including in the textile and fibre realm.
3 DAY WORKSHOP AT TIMELESS TEXTILES
Newcastle, August 20, 21, 22
EAST NEWCASTLE is home to Timeless Textiles, centre of fibre and textile art based in the beautiful Hunter region of NSW, Australia - showcasing Fibre Art, through exhibitions, workshops and a gallery shop. Located in Hunter St close to harbour & coast. Catch the train from Sydney or a plane from wherever... this is such a lovely location for a getaway.
In fact I couldn't resist using photos from the Newcastle Ocean Baths in this flyer given my Art Practice whilst living in Newcastle (2000 - 2008) was inspired by wandering the oceanshore, gazing at the Pacific, & particularly swimming underwater in Ocean pools, filling my studio with watercolours & paintings translating musings on the movement of light through water. However ... it's actually the place where the Seed focus began but that's another story.
This 2006 painting above titled 'Floating' shows an abstracted seedpod form, based loosely on a black been pod, which had curiously turned up in my artwork & paintings around 2004, then focused on Water & Fluidity, both a metaphorical & visual exploration. It wasn't until I moved to Brisbane in 2008 that the Seedpod motif took on a whole other significance for my Art Practice... and the Homage to the Seed Project came about.
Over recent years of my Seed Project interest in natural fibres, textiles, patterning & surface design has deepened as I sought a way to reflect the world of seeds ... looking back over rich heritages to the Bio-Cultural diversity around the planet, appreciating the way in which myriad ethnic diversity is celebrated & expressed through languages, cultivation of certain seeds & plants, cuisines & cultural artefacts
For this reason I'm particularly delighted to make new connections in the textiles realm. In the NEWCASTLE Workshop we'll be exploring a fascinating diversity of Seed material from local & various other habitats through drawing and mixed media, including cloth and stitching as the workshop proceeds. I hope to have a guest speaker join us at the workshop to talk about Seeds in the local area.
Please email of phone 0430 599 344 if you have questions about this or any of the workshops coming up.
NB: CLICK ON THIS IMAGE ABOVE to go to the TIMELESS TEXTILES website BOOKING page.
2 DAY WORKSHOP AT MAROOCHY BUSHLAND BOTANIC GARDENS,
Sunshine Coast, September 24, 25.
Click on image above to read about the Garden at Sunshine Council Website
Click on image above to read about the Friends of Maroochy Bushland Botanic Garden
Click on image above to for INFO & BOOKING PAGE at my Online Store.
READ MORE HERE & BOOKfor the 2 day workshop ...
dont forget you can ask questions by dropping me a quick note.
ALSO AT MAROOCHY BUSHLAND BOTANIC GARDEN:
CHILDREN'S SEED ART CLASS
ON FRIDAY, SEPT 23 at 10 am - 12.30 pm I'm conducting a SEED ART workshop for kids aged 7 to 12.
If interested you can email about making a booking for a child to attend by contacting:
NB: All bookings FOR KIDS CLASSES are organised by Sue Aspland & staff at the ARTS & ECOLOGY CENTRE ... this workshop is on the SUNSHINE COAST COUNCIL HOLIDAY PROGRAM so it is a necessity to arrange this with the centre staff.
Currently I am looking at a Workshop in Canberra with the National Seedbank onsite at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. October was discussed but with so much happening lately I've yet to confirm when that will happen. I'm VERY keen to follow up with another wonderful PLANTBANK workshop in Sydney after requests keep coming, could be January if that suits Plantbank staff, and, with the success of the workshop at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria on the Anzac Weekend in April (at Domain House, right near the Melbourne War Memorial) I certainly hope to return there next year as well. Perth & Albany in WA are also being discussed... but more on those possible workshops in due course.
PLEASE NOTE: I do offer workshops at SEED.ART.LAB on request, my home studio on Brisbane's northside by arrangement.
There are also other Brisbane venues in discussion as well... and some keen out-of-towners who may host a workshop in the region where they live. Being away January through May this year, I arrived home needing some down time + spent weeks in July knocked sideways with a winter lurgy so there's more plans cooking than have yet been confirmed.
EMAIL if you have questions or wish to be on a list to be notified when a workshop comes up.
In my studio painting is currently underway for a showing of my work at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Masachusetts in late September. I first sent paintings to be exhibited with this Gallery in late 2014 & have enjoyed a very positive outcome with requests for further artworks. Most gratifying has been their interest in the work of the Homage to the Seed Project, enabling the public viewing my work to be well informed about the residencies, the Science and Conservation stories & other layers to the project.
Since May I've been working on Concertina Books to develop some new ideas to include when exhibiting.
Having worked on Journals, Concertina books, artists books & small works on paper on and off for decades it was time to revisit some of the material, partly I had decided to include some Consertina books in the showing of my work in the U.S. but its also the fact I am using this format in my workshops to engage people in a way to document & develop thematic work around seeds or some other interest they might wish to explore.
There's an intimacy in small works that holds appeal, concertinas are clever in the way they close tight, take up little space yet can be unfolded to make a much larger work with strong visual impact. When an Art framer friend of mine in Brisbane bought one of my Concertina books he framed it in a fabulous long, narrow picture frame with a recess that allowed the work to be viewed in a really eye catching way. The impact of this was enough to get me thinking more about how I might present these for exhibition. The fact one can bring a 3D element into play is fun, for the painter in me there are endless ideas to try & experiment with .... collage, cutouts, layering, printing, drawing & painting.
PLEASE NOTE: My ONLINE STORE is yet to be updated to include LIMITED EDITION PRINTS produced for the PLANTBANK EXHIBITION in March. I hope to manage that very soon once deadlines for several important work tasks are achieved. 2016 has been a busy year to say the least. Of course you may contact me if you have any questions about Artwork or Prints.
NEWS FROM EARLY 2016 :
Over January I spent 4 weeks at Plantbank on Residency. On previous residencies here I'd set up a work station in the Open Desk area amidst staff coming & going between their various activities, suitable for the range of tasks I was focused at the time... documenting Seed material, staff projects & understanding the workings of Plantbank through dialogue and observation.
This time however, preparing for an Exhibition of artworks required considerable solo-time in the Photographic Studio.
The first two weeks working in a Journal allowed me to capture preoccupying concepts for the direction of this show.
During this residency there was a chance to reflect on what Seeds 'through an Artist's lens' is al about. Workshops certainly bring home how differently we see from each other. Scanning online media ... seeing the myriad art responses to the plant world & seeds is staggering ... and humbling. Such a rich outpouring inspired by the natural world, by plant and seed diversity.
Over the years of the project I've been fascinated by different aspects of botany, plant science, all the extraordinary methods used to build up knowledge, the collections, herbaria, books, papers, journals, the trials, the failed experiments, the patience required, the direction of particular research projects is mind-blowing. Sometimes when one is surrounded by so much information, so much that is fascinating, one needs to stop thinking and allow another part of oneself to respond.
A common practice in Contemporary Art Exhibitions is to take one idea, one motif or theme and work that exhaustively, sometimes with little variation between works. The results can be anything from powerfully & astonishingly engaging to at times feeling like something is missing.
Its safer than working with many ideas and approaches for the reason it generally looks so integrated. Try as I might that is not my way. The notion of many ways of Seeing... the idea of there being many lenses through which to see is what resonates most in my working process. Exhibiting then becomes something of a revelation as one sees ones own work in a new way, and discovers what others notice, what they do and don't respond to... how they see the works and talk about them.
Inspiration alone at the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan & Plantbank is seemingly endless... 54 hectares of wandering outdoors, indoors Seed material from past & present + conversations about the past, present & future. Seven years soaking up unique experiences while immersed in thinking about seeds can sometimes be too much. One stops seeing or forgets what was of key interest. New material keeps coming in throughout the day. Only the smart phone keeps up with the gathering of new data. And if one doesn't take notes... it's a bother later.
Interestingly after arriving home in May and collapsing into my studio the only thing I wanted to work on were artist books, concertina books and paper. Just playing with colour and composition on & off over the month between other tasks allowed my brain to slowly adjust and somehow begin to order the colossal fresh input from intense & constant experiences whilst away.
In January when writer/educator Simran Sethi contacted me re the possibility of writing an article on my project emails went to & fro between the US & the Plantbank darkroom... good timing for this exchange as it got me thinking about key influences & back stories to the project.
An artist often works in the dark so to speak... intuiting a direction to pursue, never quite sure of the validity or potency of the ideas, or how they will be received. Setting out to champion Seed Diversity not as a practitioner of Botanical Illustration ... or as an Academic Researcher affiliated with a University was in some ways quite a bold move. Simran's take on the project was immensely useful to muse on... I've quoted her in this flyer below.
By May Simran Sethi's article about my project was published in Guernica Magazine in the US. Simran, flat out conducting intensive book tours for her new publication, had fallen ill during the final edit stage so we both knew to expect the errors & misinterpreted facts we did in fact later find. Where I was uneasy, & shy, about such things family and friends thought it was such an interesting angle to have been discussed and were positive & appreciative.
I'm deeply grateful to Simran whose interview process allowed for an honest exchange, reminding me vividly of the project's purpose... the effort to interpret material from science and conservation, gleaned on Residencies in particular, through ongoing research & wide-ranging conversations, to reach a non-science audience ordinarily not interested in this work. I felt it was increasingly important for all community members to be, at least, introduced to the world of seeds, conservation, seed banks... and the critical importance of Plants in our everyday life. Time and again we have to be reminded of quite simple and obvious things.
At Soil Level : Simran Sethi interviews Sophie Munns May 2, 2016. The visual artist on working with seeds and seeing the world anew.
The January Plantbank workshop:
The 3 day workshop was attended by a wonderfully diverse group of people. Copious photos were taken, conversations had... productivity & enthusiasm ran high. On the Monday, as we kept working we were delighted to be joined for a 90 min Talk + Q & A by Seedbank Curator Graeme Errington, an opportunity adding considerably to the experience for this group of being onsite at a leading Seed research and Conservation facility. They'd had time to wander around the facility and outside spaces & gardens reading the brilliantly designed displays and communications ... but this unique opportunity to talk with a staff member so immersed in the various aspects of Seed collection and conservation was relished by each person... and capped off the 3 days of visual exploration and discussion we'd enjoyed so much.
I've included these Twitter posts featuring the workshop to give a little perspective on the experience.
Christal had filmed at Plantbank for her work so it was great that she returned for the workshop with time to explore and get to know more of what happens here.
Jill, above, who lives near the Stirling Ranges & Albany in Western Australia, has worked with seeds in her Art Practice so she was keen to make the treck east for this workshop. Participants also travelled from Canberra and regions near and far, all around Metropolitan Sydney which made for lively conversation and cross-pollination.
Tweeting = promo & useful archive of activity during busy times
FEBRUARY: The Residency over at the end of January I drove back to Brisbane for a huge February spent painting for the March exhibition at Plantbank, conducting a number of workshops in Brisbane & planning for events during my time away in March in Sydney and April in Victoria.
I must mention the fabulous 3 Day collaborative workshop I ran on the last weekend of February withWendy Bailye at THE FELT STUDIO in the SAMFORD VALLEY.Photos were post on the Instagram gallery & at myFacebook Pagefromthis exciting weekend. For 2 days we explored seeds visually & on the third day most participants applied their seed ideas to a Felt work... & a couple worked on developing seed-themed artist books. I was thrilled to get a chance to make my own work in felt. I can highly recommend Wendy's workshop program for the Studio facilities & location, fabulous tutoring & visual inspiration + the homemade cakes & lunches each day! She also teaches around Australia & OS ... Finland, Scotland last year & the US next year.
Felted work above by Wendy (nb: featuring seed pods) created a few years ago.
Images from SeedArtLab February Workshops: Work by a Soil Scientist friend Corinne Unger who was keen to do the workshop for a completely different experience from her working life.A native species, a Kangaroo Grass sample became the focus for some of her wonderfully bold work.
Mornings on ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS are spent experimenting with many varied drawing and mark-making processes, focused on seeds for inspiration. During the afternoon painting is carried out on long paper panels that can become Concertina Books or be simply displayed as a work on paper.
The SmartPhone becomes a means for participants to record and observe up close a great variety of seed forms, becoming a documentation tool and an archive so further work can be done at home from stored images.
If you click on this image below you will go to my Instagram Gallery: #sophiemunns where you can see my work... paintings, concertina books and digital art. In the last 12 months I've been doing a segment in the workshop to explain some of the key ways I use the smart phone to enhance my working processes when drawing and painting Seeds.
MARCH PLANTBANK : EXHIBITION + ARTIST TALK + WORKSHOP
+ NATIONAL SEED FORUM
SEEDARTLAB : SEEDS THROUGH AN ARTIST'S LENS opened March 9 & ran through to the close of the Easter Weekend. This was the first exhibition held at PLantBank which opened late 2013, won numerous Architecture Awards in 2014 and is now on the radar for tourists and visitors to the ABGMA. The 3 day National Seed Forum, organised by the Australian Seedbank Partnership, hosted by PlantBank, was held on the following week, the Exhibition coinciding with this event bringing Seed scientists together from around Australia & overseas, as well as others involved in Seed-related fields.
Sharing a tweet from the Australian Seed Partnership at the Forum.
It was an opportunity to present work carried out on all three Plantbank residencies since 2014 with pieces taken from or inspired by earlier residencies included was well. Large paintings, drawings, smaller paintings, journals & Limited Edition Prints of original artwork and photographs made up the show.
The gallery wall for my Limited Edition Prints were the glass lab walls
featuring text and images communicating the function of each space.
The Seed-collectors Map of NSW June, 2015 I spent a day in the Border Ranges National Park with Plantbank staff Graeme Errington & Richard Johnston on their Seed-collecting trip in Far Northern NSW, part of their work for the Rainforest Seed Project which Ive been following given my interest in Rainforest species. I saw this map Graeme had been using to highlight paths taken over years of Seed-Collecting travels. With his permission I had it professionally scanned & printed archivally for my PlantBank Exhibition, with notes about its significance for viewers to read. Its an excellent visual representation of a very particular relationship to land. I did several paintings titled Seed Collectors notations... and this is another form of documentation, of keeping track literally and metaphorically, of moving through the landscape on a mission of a very special kind. In one glance one is reminded of the density of experience and search for knowledge held within.
From the first days spent at Mt Coot-tha in the Seeds for life Lab based at Brisbane Botanic Gardens in 2009 (first volunteering. then in 2010 on Residency) to the January 2016 residency at Plantbank the interaction has been extremely dense & wide-ranging, a continuous learning experience researching & documenting Seed diversity, with a constancy of dialogue with staff working onsite at the time. The curiosity ignited in those first months in a Seed Lab over 7 years before, gradually gaining substance during the year of the Mt Cootha Residency, deepening with the KEW Millennium Seedbank Residency in the UK late 2011, broadened by a stint at the Institute for molecular Bioscience at UK the following year, contrasted with a month-long residency + Exhibition at the Cairns Botanic Gardens in later 2012 it was useful to slow down during 2013 to consolidate before picking up again with Plantbank Residencies in 2014, 2015 and Jan 2016.
My Journal from the 3 week KEW Millennium Seedbank Residency above is typical of the stimulus overload that occurs when on residency. 100's or 1000's of photos are taken, drawings quickly done, notes taken, yet its taken me a long time to pick up this journal & do further work with some of the threads that were of considerable interest,
Its been a revelation how much the visual exploration of seeds & subsequent learning of their varied habitats, characteristics & influences, wherever possible to do so, feed the questions & arouse further desire for learning. For about 4 years I managed to keep a blog for this project but once Twitter, a Facebook Page & later Instagram became more vital means of online interaction I realised I was missing the role blogging had played as a platform for documentation & for tracking research material on seeds, Biodiversity, threats to species and so on.
Over 7 years many aspects of my work and project have changed. The world has changed, marketplaces have changed, Social media has altered, one has to be seriously adept to keep up. Some artists are not so affected by the changes. Many are. I have been.
ABOVE: A large work in the exhibition based on an Australian Rainforest Species . The motif of this Seed-capsule's cross-section was a device developed on my first Seedbank residency at Mt Coot-tha as a way to represent the biodiversity of rainforest species so they can be scientifically identified yet also reference an age-old human desire for pattern-making and symbolic referencing of things from the natural world. This motif was adapted from the Ternstroemia cherryi or Cherry beech from Northern Queensland Rainforests. Using Lino I cut a series of Seed capsule motifs which I continue to use in artwork referring to Rainforest species.
Bringing together Workshop Program'Seeds through An Artist's Lens' was initially in part a way of adjusting to changes in the Art market with Artists & Galleries experiencing a slowing of sales. Online Stores, offering Limited Edition Prints, running workshops... these activities are increasingly common. Despite the fact organising & filling workshops is complicated & time consuming the positives are in the way it focuses one's mind on both aesthetic and conceptual aspects of the project.
It's become something of a fluid community... connections made between participants in real time may carry over to the online community. Understanding of what the project is about, an artist's philosophy and visual language is increased, and when a workshop is held at a venue like a Botanic Garden, with staff onsite sharing knowledge, or at SeedArtLab where seed collections & artwork is in abundance... there's room for considerably more layered learning.
Ways of seeing, ways of creating that aid the interpreting of seed material, the various lenses we can look through ... these are the questions central in my workshops and to my Artwork... highlighting diversity as a significant aspect of nature and an important element in the creative process is a starting point. Seed diversity seen across the ages in cultural expressions is also a reminder to participants there's so much more learning to do as we adjust our focus and make the links.
In exhibiting work at Plantbank its the same kind of contemplation of ways of seeing, consideration of the many ways one can represent, express, interpret and discuss seeds ... in paying homage to the Seed, to seeds plural... its a big thing to wrap one's mind around. In a sense I'm suggesting we contemplate seeds, past, present and future, because its important to do so. I hope my art and my workshops allow people to find a way to think about this for themselves quite simply. Long after they may have engaged with this work.
3 large works on linen at my studio in February... painted for the PlantBank exhibition
Below: a section of a 2 metre long work based on Persoonia pauciflora, a highly endangered species being intensively researched at PlantBank.
At the Plantbank Exhibition a NEW series of LIMITED EDITION PRINTS highlighted aspects of the residencies, including photographs, Digital Artworks and Reproductions of selected artworks. Soon to be available through the ONLINE STORE.
Its been such an extraordinary experience to return to work at PlantBank on 4 different occasions. From the very first everyone I had to the privilege to work with was helpful & open. The atmosphere was highly conducive to discovering as much as possible, When busy staff offered valuable time the generosity of that always registered with me. I don't like to leave anyone out when so many have made my time there so wonderful a few special thankyous are necessary ... John Siemon, Director at ABGMA, thankyou for your constant gracious support of the work Ive been carrying out, Warm thanks to Brett Sumerell for opening this exhibition & Graeme Errington for adding your words to the occasion. And for generously sharing seed collection samples/info. Lotte von Richter, thankyou for great guidance & support each time I've been onsite. You're amazing! Veronica Viler & Amanda Rollason, I was delighted you were such wonderful participants in that first ever SeedArt Workshop, & always being helpful, cheering me on when weary on my stays. Rebecca Anderson... thanks also for joining that very first workshop & steering me through Promotions & such. Some I really got to know over 4 consecutive visits. Mary Bell... see you on IG... & thank you for talking art, education etc etc.
Senior Scientist Cath Offord I must thank in particular for many things... conceiving of the exhibition for a start, problem solving here & there (spectacularly well), offering extensive insight into so many facets of the developing programs of PlantBank, recent & back when it was still the NSW Seedbank. I think I've got a pretty dense and fascinating chapter to write up one day from our conversations. Grateful thanks!
And a special thank you goes to my neighbours during my stay at ABGMA. Kylee & Adam from Melaleuca House. Not only were they very supportive with catering for the March Exhibition Opening but looking out for me when ducking into the cafe for a hit of wake-me-up coffee after a late night working (there were lots of those... I know you noticed Peter), when under pressure with deadlines, ordering dinner to take to the studio or packing to leave. Kind, generous neighbours indeed. Thank you!
Early April available work from the PlantBank exhibition was packed with new work into my car ready to drive over a weekend to Ballarat, Victoria where the show was delivered to the THE LOST ONES Contemporary Art Gallery located in the heart of this beautiful old city.
'Seed Art Lab: Seeds Through an Artist's Lens' by Sophie Munns
The Lost Ones, 6th - 24th April 2016
TEXT by Tara Poole from the Gallery Website:
"A selection of works produced while working with and alongside the dedicated people who staff our world’s Seedbanks. Sophie Munns works closely with Seedbanks as an ‘Artist in Residence’. Her work has taken her from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha to the Kew Garden’s Millennium Seedbank Project in the UK to Plantbank at the Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan, NSW. Driven by a need to champion seed conservation in a rapidly changing world, Sophie has dedicated the past seven years to translating the complexity and importance of seeds for a contemporary audience.
During the exhibition The Lost Ones recorded a podcast; a panel discussion between Sophie Munns; Belinda Coates, Deputy Mayor Ballarat; Dan Frost fromSeeding Victoria and Matt Pywell, owner and operator ofBallarat Wild Plants.This panel was a wide ranging conversation about the work of Sophie and why she is inspired by the work of seed scientists, how climate change is altering the landscape of Ballarat and surrounds and the kinds of work that is being done locally to retain and research seeds and indigenous and endemic plants. You can listen to the podcast here."
For a week I became a local, enjoying the charming ambience of this city, & fine hospitality of my kind hosts Ash & Gae. Tara Poole, Gallery owner, had set up an excellent series of activities including two radio Interviews, a Saturday Workshop & the Pod Cast which was an excellent evening in good company.
Our workshop took place in the gallery which had a great atmosphere with loads of space for spreading out as participant Sheryl Cole is demonstrating here. Also easy to demonstrate techniques and ideas when you have a whole exhibition to refer to. The show was beautifully hung by Mairin Briody with support from Stephen Piggot.
On the Sunday I managed to catch up with Dan Frost who took me to the Seeding Victoria site at Creswick to look through their Seedbank with its very large stock of regional native species.
Originally the site had been a very grand & productive nursery over many decades, and being in the heart of the Gold Rush Region the stories were fascinating, although the impact on the environment and vast expanses of denuded forests had been far worse than I'd ever imagined. Sobering history actually. I was very grateful for the time Dan spared me to see the work being carried out here. Sadly he said the fight was on to keep the project moving ahead but he was impressed with the effort of the volunteer management board who were doing their utmost to preserve the project... clearly an important regional conservation effort.
Images from the afternoon at Seeding Victoria.
Monday April 11 I waved goodbye to Ballarat and drove the Western Hwy to Horsham passing the Grampions on route. For a Queenslander it was rather cold in Ballarat and only a bit warmer where I was heading. Clear blue skies & the beauty of the landscape so different to what I'm used to made it a pleasure to be travelling.
As the sun was beginning to cast long shadows on the wide, flat landscape I arrived at my destination... the Australian Grains Genebank on the edge of town for a meeting & fascinating tour with AGG Leader Sally Dillon Norton whom I'd met at the Plantbank conference in March.
Sally was a presenter at the National Seed Forum the previous month and we'd got talking about their Crop Wild Relatives project with the Australian Seedbank Partnership . Realising how close I'd be to Horsham when in Ballarat I'd made a plan with Sally to visit. Over two days I had a chance to take loads of photos & converse about their work before leaving to drive to Melbourne late Tuesday afternoon.
From the ASP website:
"Forty key species of crop wild relatives, thirty two of which are endemic to Australia, have been identified as being critical to increasing Australia's stocks of unique grain crops.
Through this project, we aim to collect and conserve the seeds of Australian crop wild species that are not yet adequately represented in ex situ collections. Seeds of crop wild relatives will be made available to plant breeders and researchers to develop the plant varieties of the future." Read morehere.
Ive been following a similar project being conducted at KEW Millennum Seedbank with the Global Crop Diversity Trust and was interested to gain an understanding of this Australian project. Sally has a great enthusiasm to have the AGG playing an educational role for children & all ages, those from across the region and beyond. An excellent facility to visit I was keen to examine & photograph samples of different grains which have been clearly identified according to whether they are Cultivars, Landraces or Wild species.
It was reading Gary Paul Nabham's 'Where our food comes from'in 2010 that I first read of wild species and landraces.... such foreign concepts to me at the time. Apart from greek friends who'd forage for wild greens to cook I'd never looked into wild species in detail nor even heard of landraces. About the Nabham book: 'The future of our food depends on tiny seeds in orchards and fields the world over. In 1943, one of the first to recognize this fact, the great botanist Nikolay Vavilov, lay dying of starvation in a Soviet prison. But in the years before Stalin jailed him as a scapegoat for the country’s famines, Vavilov had traveled over five continents, collecting hundreds of thousands of seeds in an effort to outline the ancient centers of agricultural diversity and guard against widespread hunger. Now, another remarkable scientist—and vivid storyteller—has retraced his footsteps.'
I was fascinated with agrobiodiversity in 2010 when at Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Cooth-tha... unable to fathom why edible species & crops weren't included in seed collections at the time. The split between agriculture and habitat species had seemed peculiar when concern over the growing level of species loss was only getting louder. Realising how many native edible species there were in my region alone & how neglected they'd been for the 200+ years since white settlement in Australia I was restless to hear more discussion around all this.
On residency at the Millennium Seedbank late 2011 I learned from staff there that increasingly they were connecting with & working with new countries supporting efforts to save fruits, vegetables, grains and so on. This seemed to signal a change of focus ... and when I saw the Crop Wild Relatives project start up at the MSB I naturally connected online. Kew has also been focusing on Coffee Research for some time... given its such a massively traded commodity ( 2nd after oil) & at risk from Climate Change it seems smart/crucial of be researching alternative species of coffee seeking a more resistant variety to deal with cultivation in this era of climate change.
Wild Peas from the AGG
Horsham to Melbourne took longer than expected driving at night & I was pleased to arrive at my artist friend Janita's in St Kilda by 10pm after all the driving.
I managed to fit in a trip down the Mornington Peninsular for 2 blissful nights at Blairgowrie, a village tucked away under the ti-trees. It was quiet & a great place to relax and get my thoughts around the weekend workshop.
Having lived in Melbourne for 12 years till 2000 I always have some catching up to do if possible, places to see, friends to visit.
Long-standing friend Megan Erm now works at the Victorian Herbarium part time so it was wonderful having her help the day I set up for the workshop. I was kindly leant these microscopes & she took time to check I knew how to use them.
The workshop was held on the Saturday and Sunday of the Anzac Weekend. Participants settled into this large empty space which we soon began filling with inky drawings left to dry & plant material, empty white walls displaying experiments as the day progressed.
We discovered that morning, apart from one person who'd seen the Workshop promo at the Gardens, everyone else had been connected through Instagram, someone travelling from Perth & another from New Zealand, using the time in Melbourne to do other things as well.
There was a great working atmosphere in this workshop. From the outset everyone was keen to get going, having brought extra things from home to use or share along with materials I provided. The afternoon was perfect timing for Neville to come to talk about his work with Seed Conservation and his years as a Botanist.
As everyone continued to work quietly on personal seed projects he began by telling stories. The relaxed atmosphere meant the stories kept coming, people asked questions along the way and the picture he managed to give of his work clearly caught the imagination of everyone present.
The following morning we started the day by creating a simple artwork inspired in some way by something he had mentioned, a story told or idea that had come from hearing about this work. We then discussed this experience, people described their visual responses and I was struck by how much more dimensional their thinking was after his input in the workshop.
As the facilitator I spent two days busily providing materials, setting out tasks, suggesting approaches and shaping the flow of work activities for the group & individuals as needed. How interesting it was to have someone come share their lifetime's work in this relaxed way... the life of a working conservation botanist was very vivid heard in this ambience.
The passion comes through in the telling, the fascinations, certain strong memorable experiences, the Victorian fires, changing habitats, how one reads the land & sees the changes, why he was drawn to certain things. Its the kind of almost poetic talk you wish you had recorded. His work as "co-editor of the four volume Flora of Victoria" plus contributions to "the Flora of Australia."made him a unique contributor to our weekend exploring seeds together. And remind me why the Arts are good companions for science if we could only break out of the way the delivery is often set up.
Unfortunately Ive not been able to provide names of all workshop participants whose artwork Ive shared in this Newsletter. I've spent two days tracking back & cross-checking references as is. I'm out of the habit of documenting everything as I go due to having so many things going on here and there.... its does makes it hard to have accurate information to hand.
I'm so very grateful to all who've joined my workshops in the last years or so and to all who came to the Exhibitions or have been connecting online to see what's happening. All the driving would have been less fun with out my Instagram friends chatting to me on my road breaks. Nice to have companions on the road. I really do appreciate having such good people staying in touch and catching up here and there.
I've been very keen to get this Newsletter out in circulation as it contains promotion for events... one on Thursday this week, Workshops coming up etc. However ... its also an opportunity to thank people whom I met or spent time with during those remarkable months away... at Plantbank, during workshops and the exhibitions, travelling in Victoria, on the road, friends I stayed with, happy for a comfy bed, delicious shared meals & wonderful conversations.
I had to include these images from a last minute, extremely fun, Melbourne pop-up laneway event thingi we did on Anzac Day at friends Jen and Gary's place in East Brunswick. Perfect weather, a few hours in the afternoon, a quiet laneway, about 15 friends and neighbours of all ages, seeds, paper, ink and twigs, a spectacular seed-drawing event next to the outdoor Laneway Gallery set up a year ago by my friends for an artshow with a difference. (Gary's day job) And we even had a couple of cars that came along & forced us to get up and breathe in whilst they scraped by and we could get back to work. What we need more of in our communities I think... people coming together for fun and conversation, low key... a few drinks at the end, someone made cake and we all went home happy.
I must mention my visit to the National Seed Bank in Canberra located on the grounds of the Australian National Botanic Gardens on route home from Victoria. Tom North from the Seedbank took me through the facilities & as soon as I saw their database of seed images I was hooked. I'd have stopped for days then & there just to look at everything. October came up as a ideal time for a workshop which I was delighted with... but I must admit I've been so flat out with planning for so many things I've had to stop & prioritise even the time to plan in stages. IF you or friends around the Canberra region are interested in attending a workshop here in say October or January could you drop me a line as that will definitely aid the planning process for what will be an exciting workshop.
home again at SeedArtLab
Its hard now to remember a more exhausting road trip, battling to stay awake at times, stopping often to rest. I took backroads, stayed in Airbnbs, got lost, couldn't find the Airnbn's late at night (esp in villages with no town-lighting, tried to keep up with communications via email and attend to business on the road.
But I came back home a new person in so many ways. I'd been ready for those open roads & big skies, thinking time, and a sure sign of it being productive was when I got home .... I just wanted to paint, and paint, and paint.
If you have read to the end I congratulate you on your staying power. I loaded in tons of photos so that people who like scanning the pics could do so and get and idea of whats been happening without bothering with the words. I write from a need to remember where I've been as much as anything. and to process all the stimulus which I am inclined to soak up endlessly.... part of why one gets so tired. Old habit of many an artist... why the solo studio hours makes up for the other.
Thanks to you all,
my very best wishes,
ps Sincere apologies for editing mistakes. Two late nights means a lot of corrections... and I know there's plenty I missed. Hope you enjoyed the images!!