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INTRODUCTION: Sarah Davidson

Hello! This is Sarah Davidson, the Gathered Gallery’s first artist-in-residence. I wanted this first post to serve as an introduction to some of my recent work. The image above is from a show I did last year with two other artists, in a greenhouse, which relates closely to what I’m currently working on (stay posted!).

A little bit about my work: I work between drawing and painting to create compositions which comprise shadowy, biomorphic figures and delicate fragments of recognizable imagery. I primarily work on paper, and use ink, goache, pencil crayon and watercolour—media that mirror those used by early botanical illustrators. My compositions are drawn from a combination of visual references related to the (so-called) 'natural world' and to the history of painting.

The work is very detailed in person, and functions on more than one scale: from a distance the compositions are made up of shapes which are reminiscent of bodies or critters, and as you get up close other details are revealed.

The greenhouse show was an opportunity to reflect on how humans interact with plants, which was something interesting to all of us as artists (the other artists were Daniel Griffin Hunt, who was making animatronic melons, and Emily Moriary, who was interested in talking about care in relation to both plants and people). This was at the University of Guelph, where I’m currently pursuing an MFA. The university is mostly known for the agricultural research that takes place there, and we wanted to engage with that in some way. This particular greenhouse doesn’t really exist for any research purpose, it’s for spectacle, and houses an eclectic selection of interesting plants. The exhibition we put together was called ‘Going on without us’, which is taken from a very funny Lorna Crozier poem about plants having a secret life and doing all sorts of sordid things by night under the soil. It was a playful way to reflect the fact that we were all reading and talking a lot about research around plant cognition (if anyone has read the Hidden Life of Trees, or Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire), and philosophy about not so human-centred ways to look at the natural world.

The references to plants and animals in my work are very specific, but I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s what I was doing just before the sort of work we showed in the greenhouse, which is, I was making detailed drawings, cutting them up, and then putting together collections of scraps, the way you’d display butterflies or some other type of specimen:

Here are two last shots of the light changing throughout the day in the greenhouse, which was very much a part of the experience of being in the space. I'll leave you with that for now! More on painting, drawing, and the so-called 'natural world' next week.

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