Painting with Plants and Porcelain, How the Exhibition will Evolve through September and October
Autumn brings rapid change to plant life; some plants coming into their ‘best’ with late flowering blooms, others dying back to nourish the earth for future generations or drying out to form seeds for next years’ plants. The display in the gallery reflects this process of change and variety in the surrounding landscape of the here and now. Materials gathered from local gardens reflect the season, our environment, and celebrate the beauty and bounty of what surrounds us. Throughout the course of the exhibition, rather than refresh the whole display, Polly will intermittently replace only some stems, leaving others to die back or dry out.
The unstable nature of things can bring much joy – there is magic in the handmade. Rebecca’s pots bear traces of her manipulation of the material and refer to it in its soft state. Connections between people and materials across time and place are present in the objects, and the evolving nature of the flower displays in this exhibition reflects that. Perhaps the display will be become more dominated by dried or deteriorating flowers as time goes on, perhaps some areas will get fuller and others sparser, but this will depend on – and be influenced by – how the materials in the gallery and the gardens are behaving, much like the processes involved in gardening a garden or making a pot.
Rebecca’s pots invite the user to engage with the moment; the beauty of the objects are emphasised through their ability to reflect and absorb the changing atmosphere around them, porcelain enjoying a unique relationship with light especially. Their seemingly simple beauty can be brought to life through the introduction of plant material, however it is chosen or placed. An interaction is sparked between the two objects, facilitating the viewer to more easily observe and enjoy the simple beauty and subtle nuance in both.
The interaction that the pots invite through use is one of ease and joy. Collections of small vases enable single stems to be chosen, placed and valued in and of themselves, but with associations between each other enabled, as with planting in a garden. Vases with indentations invite a looseness to placing the stems, an invitation to enjoy the informality of letting it be where it falls, and form the presence of a continued line where the stem meets the rim. Where flowers rest on the of edges pf vessels, there is further opportunity to enjoy the interaction between the porcelain and plant material. This continues as the plant material deteriorates. In the case of the works with the porcelain trays, the falling petals, pollen or seed are captured and become part of the display. These behaviours of the plant are not only beautiful to watch but remind us of the interconnection between plant and the earth; one cannot be without the other.
Zen Buddhism encourages us to ‘see the flower in the earth and the earth in the flower’, as Virginia Woolf did in her revelation in the garden at Talland House, where she spent formative childhood summers in St Ives, and one of the gardens Polly tends. Another Buddhist saying: ‘no mud, no lotus’, describes the necessary inter-connectedness of earth and flower, reminding us of the role of imperfection and non judgement, things are as they are because of each other, although we may describe one thing as good and another bad.
“That is the whole… I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves: and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was part of the earth, that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth; part flower. “
Virginia Woolf, A Sketch of the Past, 1939
Polly Carter, 2019
Gallery installation images to follow