description:participatory painting project
locations:Peel Street, and other locations in and around Adelaide
event:Format Collective's Visual Art Program, Adelaide Fringe 2010
Weeds of the City
This project extends my work Weeds of the Wasteplaces as shown at artroom5 in May 2009.
It involves collecting weeds in the city and painting precise but free images of them on paper and papering the walls of an empty shop in Hindley Street with them so that it looks like a wallpapered house but one that reflects secret and disregarded parts of its surroundings. (Or/and pasting them up on a wall in the city thus decorating an outdoor space with part of its own environment that is often barely visible, humble and seen as an unwanted invader.)
The weeds are both fragile and tenacious, beautiful and scrubby. Many of them have pedigrees as traditional healers. Herbalist and homeopath Dorothy Hall in her many books on herbs describes the wild plants, the weeds, many of which are herbs, as survivors.
At artroom5 I showed Weeds of the Wasteplaces a new body of work of delicate paintings on paper of weeds that I collected from nature strips, remnant bushland, and the edges of ovals and playing fields near where I live. This inventory of what grows on the borders of organised suburbia explores the fragility and tenacity of what can survive on the edge of mainstream society.
This study of what grows wild and disregarded by the side of the road includes important herbs and edible plants. The paintings are on large sheets of paper and imitate wallpaper or designs for wall paintings. White art in Australia began as science, images of coastlines and natural history illustrations of plants and animals. My work draws on that sense of discovery to find metaphors for cultural memories and desires.
For artroom5 I first thought of making a site specific work for the hall, wallpapers of local plants to decorate the architecture. But as each morning I collected weeds on my walk with the dog, brought them back to the studio to sit in containers of water and then selected them one by one and painted their portraits I became more interested in them as individuals than as types.
Among them are some of the seven sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons, wattle seedlings, ferns and mistletoe, grain plants, poisonous plants, edible plants. Is it possible that one day the knowledge of what grows disregarded around us may be the difference between life and death? This post-apocalyptic thought is hidden somewhere in the work. Even as the edges of our streets are poisoned so that weeds will not suggest a lack of control so rare plants are found on the verges of roads, escapees from homogeneity.
Stephanie Radok (late 2009)
A new thought is to have say 300 (?) of them on the walls at Peel St and ask/offer people to take/buy them for a nominal sum and release them? Or get two, keep one, release one - like seeds?
i attach two pics taken with our ailing digital camera
email correspondence (20 January 2010)