Monday, July 27, 2015




Singapore Botanic Gardens

10th July - 1st November 2015




Monstera deliciosa (Araceae) 1997
750 x 550 cm  1:1 life size
watercolour on paper

As part of the celebrations of Singapore’s Jubilee, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens recent award of World Heritage Site status, the Gardens are now presenting a fabulous exhibition of work with a tropical theme. If you are fortunate enough to be there, please do write a comment, as I would be so delighted to hear from you. The artists exhibiting in this truly international extravaganza are both new and established, and herald from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Thailand, The Philippines, USA, and the UK. My work on Monstera deliciosa, which was commissioned in 1997, is exhibited.


This early work was painted from a 1.5 metre high cutting taken from a plant heralding from the glass house plant collection at Dr Sherwood’s country home in Oxfordshire. As my studio was in town at that time, I drove to the Sherwood’s London home to collect the specimen. On arrival, the house keeper presented me with a huge box, which had been very carefully assembled by the head gardener at Hinton. It contained a substantial plant cutting of the Monstera, which included several leaves - one still furled, and also two attached live spathes containing both a fully developed and an undeveloped fruit. 

In my bid to keep the plant upright, I removed some of the packaging and managed to get it to sit nicely in the car, with the seat belt wrapped around its box. When driving along Baker Street, I stopped in a traffic jam and heard a tiny unrecognisable crackling sound and the dim echo of something landing on the car seat. I then saw in the mirror that the very ripe spathe had fallen, leaving the scaly fruit resplendent and without its protective hat.

This created something of a conundrum, as when back in the studio, and having fixed the specimen to a basic hydroponic system, I knew that I would need to wait for the second spathe to develop in order to create a unified composition in the artwork. So this is what I did. Working with the ripened fruit first, I then waited for the second spathe to mature. I painted it by natural north light, with a view to revealing not only the subtle but intense depth of colour of its component parts, but equally their textures - leathery but shiny leaves, a smooth opaque vellum-like spathe, and the scaly fruit. Its presence filled the studio and it produced alien sounding squeaky noises as the new leaf unfurled a little more each day, when the first light came.