Ginkgo biloba seeds from mother trees in Hiroshima, gifted to the Lord Provost in 2015, as part of the Mayors for Peace Project, have been nurtured by gardeners in the David Welch Winter Gardens within the Duthie Park in Aberdeen.
An opportunity arose in late 2019 for me as an ethnobotanical artist to create an artistic response in 2020 to these Ginkgo biloba plants through an artist residency and school and family art workshops in collaboration with the Park Rangers at the Duthie Park, culminating in an exhibition of the achieved artworks of both participants and artist in the foyer of the winter gardens.
The Gray's Masters Show 2019 is now in place and ready for visitors and will be open until 31st August. where you will find a varied selection of work by 19 MA students. My work is situated in the corridor leading to the main exhibition space, and in the central area where most of the artists are placed. Visual research on sphagnum moss and a selection of the paintings made in response are on display. We all look forward to meeting you at the opening event or during the following week.
The external examiner will be visiting the art school on the day of the private viewing, so it is unlikely that we will know our results at the opening event. The dates of which and the public show days will follow shortly.
The show took six weeks to plan from start to finish with help from collections assistant George Cheyne, a seasoned expert in the set up of the Concourse Gallery events, although, in reality, the show was a year in the making prior to that.
The exhibition depicts an overview of my visual research in Sphagnum moss including; the wet and dry Sphagnum moss macro photographs shot with a digital camera in the photographic studio at Gray's School of Art, with assistance from Technician Services Officer (TSO), Fergus Connor. A selection of the microscopic images showing the intricate structures and patterns within Sphagnum moss was photographed using the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences laboratory microscopes with assistance from TSO, Emily Hunter.
As mentioned in earlier posts within this blog (1) (2) (3) (4) (5), I have been investigating the Sphagnum moss gathered and processed in the North East of Scotland during the era of the First World War, which is depicted by an infographic map that shows some of the moss locations, the towns and the communities involved in this vital activity.
In more recent years up to 2019, looking at what is happening now with regards to Sphagnum moss in the North East of Scotland, there is conservation underway to reclaim many of the drained or depleted Sphagnum moss bogs or peat bogs. One I recently visited is the Red Moss of Netherley, Stonehaven, where evidence is seen of barriers installed approximately a decade ago in order to rewet the bog. The surrounding area now has lush green pools filled with recovered Sphagnum.
Following, what felt like, an age.
I am delighted to announce I have gained a Post Graduate Diploma (PGDip) with Merit in Fine Art. Which allows me to proceed to the Masters.
Feeling a touch nervous, and excited, the Grays School of Art Masters Show 2019 is not far away. Require some focus to write and complete some painting tasks. See you at the show in August!
Through my investigation into Sphagnum moss, I walked local mosses capturing photographic images, and focussed in on the tiniest of details through macro and microscopic photography. This research has revealed a network of spaces forming patterns within the moss. Here is a sample for a future linoprint. This has been created using Adobe Photoshop to work out colour.
As this multifaceted artwork progresses most of the panels will be painted and printed.
Many of the Sphagnum moss areas, identified from the past, have been drained on the whole to build new housing estates, used for farmland or to establish commercial forests.
Located west of Peterhead, I visited Rora moss a largely forested wood with pine trees and a small area of birch holding pillows of the elusive Sphagnum moss. The land was quite sodden, but not enough to deter me. There appeared to be four types of sphagnum in the area, but on closer inspection only two types in different stages of growth.
It will be cleaned, sorted and made into medical dressings and bandages, and would then be bundled up and sent on to the battlefields where it was to be used to stem the flow of blood on the injured or to the war hospitals here in Britain to help the recovery of the returning wounded soldiers. The moss can soak up to 20 times its weight in liquid and is antiseptic, making it ideal for use in a medical dressing.
Very pleased with the progress so far.
The next step is to print with oil paint onto the canvas before adding to stretchers.
Fiona Swapp lives and works in Aberdeen. She has over 30 years experience as a graphic designer and botanical artist.
Fiona has recently graduated with a Master of Arts (MA) Fine Art. some of the progress can be seen in this blog along with regular updates on her practice.
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