Sophie’s Seeds – From Kew to Cairns

Seedpods referenced in Sophie’s work.

Sophie’s Seeds – From Kew to Cairns

Sandra Conte

editor@earth-emag.com

1 February 2014

Sophie Munns is enamoured by seeds. Her arts practice is a series of encounters in bio-cultural diversity that has taken her on a journey across countries to places like the Kew Gardens Millennium Seedbank in West Sussex and the Cairns Botanic Gardens in far north Queensland, Australia.

From taking up residencies in Universities and public garden studios to conducting workshops in schools and opening pop-up spaces, Sophie has made a record number of moves, 36 in fact. Irrespective of locale or country, the continuity in Sophie’s practice is the homage she pays to the humble seed. Sophie views all her activities as rich in opportunity for cross-pollination with individuals and ventures around seeds, plant science and community.

It all started in her childhood on the Clarence River where Sophie would collect black bean seed pods, a species valued by Indigenous cultures. From 2004 onwards these started to manifest in her paintings and by 2005 she was being drawn into the realm of climate change and food security, as explained by Sophie – “Large scale paradigm shifts were drawing my attention. A mysterious seedpod motif, seemingly unconnected to things that mattered, was oddly compelling but a mute symbol in paintings coming from my studio at that time.”

In 2007, when Sophie relocated from a coal city to the sunnier climes of the sub-tropics, she excitedly discovered that “pods fell from trees everywhere one walked and long-persistent questions graduated into the idea of an all-encompassing response exploring seeds”.

Living in her new city of Brisbane, Sophie attended volunteering sessions at the Seed Lab set up by the Millennium Seedbank Program at Brisbane Botanic Gardens. From this, she formulated a project ‘Homage to the Seed’ and was later selected for the 2010 Brisbane Botanic Gardens Artist-in-Residence Program. Sophie also explains how her “modest book published about the Mt Coot-tha residency” was sent to Kew’s Seed facility which resulted in an October, 2011 Residency there.

Sophie’s artwork ‘Counting the Inheritance’ was painted onsite at Kew, on linen from India, hand-stitched with linen thread measuring approximately one metre square. As an artwork it is, according to Sophie, “in the vein of cultural works like the tapa cloth”.

“This work refers to the work at the Millennium Seedbank where they have set targets to save 25 per cent of the world’s wild habitat species by 2025, hence counting the inheritance!”

The Kew residency led to another, this time, at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland in late 2011 and by May 2012 Sophie had produced the arresting DNA sequencing series, a black and white triptych.

A further residency resulted, this time in the far north of Australia, producing an exhibition entitled ‘Homage to the Seed in the Wet Tropics’ with designs inspired from the forest setting, resulting in Rainforest Patterning and a Rainforest Rhythm series.

Sophie recently launched her studio-based practice to encourage the public to visit on Thursdays; it is here that Sophie can also foster quiet contemplation on the ideas she has gathered in her residency research. Balancing painting with writing, journals, blogging and also connecting with community in online dialogue are processes valued by Sophie —

“My journals and representational drawings along with the abstract paintings, seem to offer a subtle access point for the enquiring minds not so keen on the sometimes tougher debates and agendas to be found on the web. It is, however, the ancient symbol-makers whose visual language of signs and symbols was imbued of intimacy with the plant world and nature who inspire me to act on a primary desire as an artist facing the future ... to join with others in the necessary work of re-enchanting our collective relationship with that which grows, sustains life and the very air we breathe... placing value on the perennial and how utterly interdependent all things are”.

www.about.me/sophie_munns

Sophie Munns, Rainforest Rhythms 1, acrylic and ink on linen 40 x 40cms. Abstracted blue pod forms based on black bean seed pod.

Sophie Munns, Rainforest Rhythms 1, acrylic and ink on linen
40 x 40cms. Abstracted blue pod forms based on black bean seed pod.

Sophie Munns, Rainforest Patterning, acrylic on linen, 80 x 80cms  “Each motif is the cross section of a rainforest fruit seed capsule” – Sophie Munns

Sophie Munns, Rainforest Patterning, acrylic on linen, 80 x 80cms
“Each motif is the cross section of a rainforest fruit seed capsule” – Sophie Munns

 

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