ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
PASTINACA SATIVA (PARSNIP) BY HANNAH ROBINSON2002 Christine Borland (1965 − )
This series of etchings stems from a nine-month fellowship that Christine Borland undertook at the University of Glasgow's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit between 1998-99. Her research led her to a pocket book copy of the early, influential Herbal written by Leonard Fuchs, De Historia Stirpium [The History of Plants], published in 1542. The fly leaf had been annotated in the 1550s by the Reverend Mark Jameson, a student who was then serving as Rector's Deputy (at that time the University was closely connected to the adjacent Cathedral). Jameson's notes contained an idea for a new, specialised University Physic Garden, and included among his list of plants were a number of species believed to induce premature contractions in pregnant women. Surrounded by a scientific and academic community, Borland expanded on her findings through paper works, sculpture and installation.
In this portfolio of etchings, The History of Plants According to Women, Children and Students (2002), Borland visualises Jameson's list on the basis of woodcut illustrations from Fuchs' History of Plants. However, Borland's alternative history focuses on the unnamed figures behind the historical documents. She summons up the tradition of employing woman and children to hand-colour plates for books, and redresses the fact that, unlike the artist or engraver, these craftspeople were not credited. Whereas Fuchs mentions the artist and engravers of his illustrations in the introduction to his History of Plants, the titles of Borland's etchings only credit the colourist - from a group of women attending a public drawing class at the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh; no other hand in the drawings' manufacture is identified.
The etchings are printed on identically sized paper, which is yellowed, evoking aged pages from a sheaf of archaic illustrations. The plants are uprooted, floating in the middle of the paper; they are lightly coloured and tonally similar, but the untutored techniques vary gently from one print to another. Black Spleenwort was traditionally used to treat sickness of the spleen - a custom derived from the spleen-shaped pattern on the back of the leaves, and Anna Ferguson has paid particular attention to the shadows on the underside of the fronds. So too Stephanie Byron picks out the different shades on either side of the poisonous Birthwort's heart-shaped leaves. Michelle Daniels has caught the delicacy of Savory's lilac flowers, in contrast to the heavier colouring of the hairy root below. Denise The accentuates the sinister root of the highly poisonous Forking Larkspur: it is long and dwindling in form, but darkening in colour beneath pretty blue-hooded flowers. Hogs Fennel is a rare plant in Britain, growing in East Kent and North Essex, and is characterised by the strong sulphurous smell of its root - hinted at by Rebecca Conway's all-over cloudy palette. Christine Borland has herself coloured the etching of Juniper, its tuft of roots left pale and wispy beneath a tangle of round leaves where darker dabs indicate shadows.
This set of etchings complements a public sculpture commission made to commemorate the University of Glasgow's 550th anniversary. To be Set and Sown in the Garden (2002) was installed in a green space overlooked by the Hunterian Art Gallery: a series of benches with white ceramic headrests were arranged in reference to the beds used for dissection in mediaeval times. Each headrest was engraved with an illustration of a plant from the garden. Also directly related to Borland's connection with Glasgow University is her piece, Ecbolic Garden, Winter, first installed in her solo show at the Lisson Gallery in Spring 2001. Here she foregrounded the plants on Jameson's list that were, at the time, considered ecbolic (able to induce an abortion). These plants were found to be part of a 16th century garden close to the original university in Glasgow, and Borland questions its connection with the medical school. Fifty glass vessels, with shapes suggestive of wombs, were suspended from the ceiling, from variable heights, each containing a leaf that has been bleached and preserved in alcohol. Only a trace of the leaves remained visible. Among these pants were wild parsnip, tongue savory, forking larkspur, juniper, calendula and penny royal - all of which feature inThe History of Plants, According to Women, Children & Students.
Christine Borland: Preserves, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh 2006
Christine Borland: Progressive Disorder, (exh cat) Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee and Book Works, London 2001
Christine Borland, York University Art Gallery, Toronto 2001
- Accession Number P8000
- Dimensions 61 X 47 CM
- Media HAND-COLOURED ETCHING
Existing or coming into being at the same period; of today or of the present. The term that designates art being made today.
The depiction of shapes and forms on a flat surface chiefly by means of lines although colour and shading may also be included. Materials most commonly used are pencil, ink, crayon, charcoal, chalk and pastel, although other materials, including paint, can be used in combination.
An intaglio process whereby a metal plate (normally copper, zinc or steel) is covered with an acid-resistant layer of rosin mixed with wax. With a sharp point, the artist draws through this ground to reveal the plate beneath. The plate is then placed in an acid bath (a water and acid solution) and the acid bites into the metal plate where the drawn lines have exposed it. The waxy ground is cleaned off and the plate is covered in ink and then wiped clean, so that ink is retained only in the etched lines. The plate can then be printed through an etching press. The strength of the etched lines depends on the length of time the plate is left in the acid bath.
An artwork comprised of many and various elements of miscellaneous materials (see mixed media), light and sound, which is conceived for and occupies an entire space, gallery or site. The viewer can often enter or walk around the installation. Installations may only exist as long as they are installed, but can be re-created in different sites. Installation art emerged in the 1960s out of Environmental Art (works of art which are three-dimensional environments), but it was not until the 1970s that the term came into common use and not until the late 1980s that artists started to specialise in this kind of work, creating a genre of ‘Installation Art’. The term can also be applied to the arrangement of selected art works in an exhibition.
A set of pictures (as drawings, photographs or prints) either bound in book form or loose in a folder. These can be by the same artist or individual works by a selection of artists. The term also refers to the folder which holds the set.
A three-dimensional work of art. Such works may be carved, modelled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, relief, and made in a huge variety of media. Contemporary practice also includes live elements, as in Gilbert & George 'Living Sculpture' as well as broadcast work, radio or sound sculpture.
A relief print made by printing from the top surface of a plank of wood into which a design has been cut with gouges or knives. The cuts (which show up white in the print) are usually quite bold because of the texture and grain of the plank, whether hard or soft wood. This term is broadly used to cover any print from a wooden block.
- UK, Enniskillen, Cooper Wilkinson Gallery
- Wales, Carmarthen, Oriel Myrddin Gallery
- Scotland, Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Gardens