Grottos are defined as cave-like formations that are places of peace and contemplation, offering a refuge from the harsh realities of life. In antiquity, they were thought to be inhabited by the divine and were often associated with religious sites. Although they exist naturally, man made grottos became a popular feature of cultivated gardens in the 18th century. The ability to create a space as beautiful as that created by nature, represented to the Enlightenment the triumph of mankind over the untamed landscape.
Today, forty percent of the world’s plants are at risk of extinction, an event that is being driven by climate change and habitat loss. The urgency of climate change and species extinction is ever present and in our need to create a refuge from this harsh reality, we are driven us to fill our interior spaces and gardens with plants. Many of the plants we collect and nurture exist only as cultivars in nurseries, their counterpart in the wild having long vanished. In our need to cultivate, organize and arrange our natural surroundings into a sort of contemporary version of an 18th century grotto, do we demonstrate any true understanding of wild, uncultivated spaces or are we are as shortsighted as our ancestors?
In the imaginary grotto in these paintings, plants and man-made structures co-exist. Plants seem to be hybridizing from scraps of man-made material and ephemera. They develop extreme ways of making roots and leaves. Buildings are stacked around them in a precarious fashion, offering ledges and shelves for plants to shelter and grow around. A sort of symbiotic and cooperative relationship emerges, blurring the distinction between what is natural and what is artificial. It offers a alternative reality for the future, one that could be seen as hopeful as well as indicative of the resilience of the natural world in its ability to adapt to rapid changes in its environment.
The paintings are created using acrylic paint, hand-painted collage paper, scans of vintage maps, vintage flash cards and graphite.