Why Dead Plants?
This work was done during a November 2014 artist residency at BigCI (otherwise known as Bilpin International Ground for Creative Initiatives). BigCI is located at the edge of the Wollemi National Park (part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in Australia). I was told that this part of the world has the largest variety of flora in the world after the Amazon Basin. I would walk for hours in the “bush” (Australian for forest) soaking in the natural beauty of the area, often stopping to sit on a rock to sketch or write something in my sketchbook. On one of these walks, some dead plants wedged between tall grass and shrubs caught my eye. They just lay there almost invisible amongst the amazing vegetation that grew all around them. Fascinated by their fragile unique beauty I took them back to the studio and started studying them through drawing.
After that day, every time I was outdoors I started noticing more and more of the dead plants. Their woody rhythmic shapes, the forms of their leaves, pods and branches all fascinated me. The very fact that I often trod on them as I navigated my way through the bush brought home the humility and fate of these amazing creations of nature.
Every walk ended with me bringing more of these plants back to the studio. I laid them out before me on the floor and the tables and suspended them in the air. I wanted to see them in their uniqueness –freeing the forms from the clutter of an abundant forest.
Cycles of Life
Working in this way I pondered the ultimate destiny of my dead plants- to be absorbed back into the earth from which they had grown. Yet in their ceasing to exist they would provide nourishment to the next generation of forest undergrowth and even the tall trees of the bush.
The nature of life is cyclical whether it is plants or humans. I thought of the floral veils that are used to decorate a bridal home in India. The fragrance and colour of the flowers are intrinsic to the bridal festivities. Yet on the day after the wedding when the bride leaves her parent’s home and goes to her husband’s house these flowers are already wilting. As the floral veil is taken down to be thrown away there is a melancholy associated with the act of saying adieu to a daughter or sister. But even in the midst of this sorrow one looks forward to happier events around the corner as she embarks upon a new life. Influenced by memories of floral veils, the work took on the form of a veil.
The Urban Veil
One of the dictionary definitions of a veil is “something that conceals, separates or screens”. A city dweller often views the natural world on a handphone, a computer or the television. Even when we get closer there is often a camera lens or a car window that separates us from nature. All these “screens” conceal from us our connection to the natural world. How often are we able to enter into natural surroundings and know ourselves again as a part of it?
To view the finished work click here
Nandita Mukand is a Singapore-based artist. Her work deals with the relationship with Nature and spirituality from within the contemporary urban context. She employs materiality to question the impact urban life has on our experience of time and the meaning we give to our own existence.