Art and science meet in new Eden exhibition

A major new exhibition of plant pictures that blurs the boundaries between art and science is due to open at the Eden Project on May 1.

The work takes the form of more than 100 photograms (images made by placing an object directly on to photographic paper and exposing it to light) that explore the phenomenon of how plants adapt to their environment.

It is a culmination of five years study of the plants of Eden and the Seychelles by artist Angela Easterling and Eden plant scientist Alistair Griffiths.

The exhibition will appeal to the art lover, the botanist and the scientist. For the botanist and scientist there is plenty of information about the plants. For the art lover there are vibrant images, with colours created by the leaves when they were exposed to the sun’s rays.

Angela, Alistair and Eden Art Director Sue Hill have chosen pictures to illustrate a wide variety of leaves. There are more than 100 images in the exhibition, including photograms of the tiny Venus fly trap, the vast Coco de mer, a critically endangered Seychelles palm and the common rhubarb.

Angela took her inspiration from nineteenth century botanist and photographer Anna Atkins who used a similar process to create prints of plant life.

Angela’s work takes place entirely in the field – from plant collection to the finished photogram. She creates her pictures without a camera and exposes them in the sun. Each image is unique as there are no negatives.

Some of these images will also be available to purchase as posters from the Eden shop.

Angela said: “In theory the natural photogram is the simplest form of photography. I place the subject matter on photographic paper and leave it in the sun. The resulting print is then processed, washed and dried.

“In practice, the technique is more complex and demanding, and I can never be quite sure of my results. I juggle with too many variables; the chemistry of the leaf while it slowly degrades, the changing humidity and the solar ultra violet content.

“When I work with huge specimens such as banana or Coco de mer leaves my physical strength is called upon, manipulating gigantic plants and carrying huge sheets of wet paper. I am always excited when revealing a new print and plant scientists are often surprised by the unexpected colours the leaves have generated in the finished pictures.

“There are even more unexpected results when working in the tropics where plant specimens, the sun’s spectrum, the humidity and heat, plus even more demanding working conditions contribute to the artistic gamble.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with scientists at Eden and was delighted when two of the images were acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and included in their exhibition Seeing Things.”

The exhibition will be situated on the mezzanine floor of the Core, where it will run until September 4. Entry is included in the standard Eden admission price. Visitors can buy Angela’s works of art that are on show in Jo’s Cafe in the Core.