Within the vast collections of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a trove of dried specimens that once were juicy seeds and fruits primed for reproduction. Now gnarled, fractured, and blanketed in tiny, dehydrated bristles, the individual pods have been preserved as part of the carpological archive at the Scottish institution, a resource photographer Levon Biss (previously) spent hours sifting through in preparation for a stunning new series of macro images.
Spanning from the rampant clusters of the Ko Phuang to endangered rarities like the Coco de Mer, the photographs reveal the inner details otherwise enclosed within the specimens’ shells. Texture and subtle color differences are the basis for most of the shots, which frame a cracked or sliced pod in a manner that centers on their unique components.
The botanic garden’s collection is global in scope and boasts about 100 individual pieces per species, meaning Biss sorted through hundreds of thousands to choose the final 117 that have culminated in his new book The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits. Initially culled based on aesthetics, the resulting selection encompasses all processes of seed dispersal, along with information about morphology, location, and history. “I tried to make sure all methods were included in the overall edit so that the work becomes an educational tool, not just pretty pictures,” Biss tells Colossal, further explaining the research process:
Each specimen is contained within a small box, and sometimes, you would find a handwritten note on a scrap of paper where the botanist provided a visual description of the surroundings where the specimen was found. Some of these specimens are over 100 years old, and reading these very personal notes made me wonder what the botanist had to go through to find that specimen. What were their traveling conditions like? What did they have to endure to bring the specimen back to Edinburgh? Reading these notes gave me a connection with the botanist and was certainly one of my personal highlights of the project.
On view in the same space as the original specimens, Biss’s photos are up at the Royal Botanic Gardens through October 31. The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits, which is published by Abrams, is available now on Bookshop, and you can find prints from the series on the photographer’s site. Keep up with his biological snapshots, which include a striking collection of iridescent beetles, on Instagram.
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Whether standing a few inches tall or reaching more than a foot, the metallic vessels that Sally Blake weaves are all inspired by a single, skeletonized seedpod the Canberra-based artist found herself in possession of. “It was given to me by someone who understood my grief after my mother died, and it represented much of what I was feeling and experiencing,” she says. “It was vulnerable and yet resilient, and gently held its seed—the source of potential new life and inspiration.”
That original pod has since spurred dozens of baskets in varying sizes that Blake molds from lengths of copper wire. She manipulates the pliable material with tight coils and twists that rely on pattern and sinuous lines, creating organic forms evocative of seeds, sea creatures, lungs, and other natural shapes. The metal’s durability juxtaposes with the ephemeral, delicate subject matter, a contrast the artist draws as a way to speak to life’s cycles.
Blake’s works are on view through September 11 at Craft ACT in Canberra for her solo show titled Place Markers. Find baskets, pen-and-ink vessel drawings, and printed cards in her shop, and keep up with her multi-media practice on Instagram.
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Melbourne-based artist Sally Kent visualizes the fleeting processes found in nature in her fragile porcelain pods. Cross-cut to reveal an inner seed, flower, or other fruitful organisms, the ceramic works compare the inner life-producing forms that are teeming with color and texture with their stark, smooth shells.
Each piece, which ranges from just a few inches to about a foot, is composed of individual patterns, whether through minuscule orbs or with thin strips of ceramic hung from the outer edges. This use of repetition is a form of embodiment, Kent says, because it evokes the cycles that produce and sustain all life, no matter the species or age. “Each pod begins with an egg form—an archetypal symbol of the cycle of life, death, and renewal, but it also acts as a shell to delineate and protect, albeit fragile, the seen (physical body) and the unseen (the spiritual and emotional world),” she shares.
If you’re in Sydney, you can see Kent’s Protection series, which includes human hands and busts embellished with mythological details, during the first weekend of August at House of Chu. Until then, dive into her process and see more of her hand-built works on Instagram.
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Merging traditional craft techniques and the natural world’s abundant materials, Hillary Waters Fayle (previously) meticulously stitches brightly hued florals into found camellia leaves and other foliage. From simple lines and ribbing to fully rendered botanics, the thread-based embellishments interrupt the fragile matter. The resulting sculptures evidence nature’s durability while juxtaposing the organic material with the fabricated additions.
In the interview below, Waters Fayle describes how she gathers leaves and seed pods from areas around her home in Richmond, Virginia, and notes that her practice is rooted in sustainability. By using materials that are already available, like thread from her grandmother, the artist strives for zero-waste in her practice. Overall, her intention is to “bind nature and human touch,” magnifying how the two interact.
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Colored Micrographs Magnify Pollen Seeds, Plant Cells, and Leaf Structures in Photographs by Rob Kesseler
Using scanning electron microscopy and a mix of microscopic, scientific, digital, and manual processes, artist Rob Kesseler develops colored micrographs of the intricate patterns within pollen and seed grains, plant cells, and leaf structures. The highly magnified photographs feature specifics of cellular composition that are undetectable without magnification.
Kesseler tells Colossal that as a child, his father gifted him a microscope, marking a pivotal moment in his creative career. “What the microscope gave me was an unprecedented view of nature, a second vision,” he writes, “and awareness that there existed another world of forms, colours and patterns beyond what I could normally see.” The artist says his use of color is inspired by the time he spends researching and observing, and that just like nature, he employs it to attract attention.
Kesseler calls the intersection between art and science “a process and a product, a morphogenetic synthesis of two expansive cultures and a way of examining the world through a series of filters.” And he has hope for the relationship between the two disciplines, saying, “I like to think we are entering a new age where after a century of separation, artists and scientists are again working together, sharing ideas that reflect our age.”
Currently the chair of Arts, Design and Science at Central Saint Martins, Kesseler also is a fellow of the Linnean Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Microscopical Society. His most recent work includes a project with journalist Mathew Tucker of the BBC and a collaboration with Dr. Louise Hughes at Oxford Instruments. Both deal with the impacts of climate change on the plant world.
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Blowing the white fluffy seeds off a dandelion is a universal childhood experience. Who hasn’t delighted in watching a gentle breeze carry the bristles off into the distance. But for this Tokyo-based artist who goes by the name (euglena), the fluff serves a different, artistic purpose. She harvests them to create impossibly delicate sculptures that beg to be observed up close. Just don’t sneeze.
(euglena) uses dandelion seeds to create abstract shapes and forms that somehow manage to balance and maintain their figure. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the artist’s work in photographs because the element of air and movement is so important in the work.
In the video below, you can see the sculpture sway back and forth: a reaction to the movement and breathing of visitors observing her work.
Most recently, (euglena)’s work was on display at the 2019 Japan Media Arts Festival (through June 16, 2019) where she won Best New Artist. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with her work. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
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