The French word for ‘soil’ is terre, which also means planet earth.
Through my recent forays into horticulture and actual soil itself, I have developed an overwhelming awareness and understanding that ‘soil’ is not just a bit of mud that holds plants together, but that soil is key to everything. Not only does it contain water and nutrients for the plants, at best, it also harbours networks of fungi that symbiotically benefit them, not talking about the vast capacity that good soil has to absorb surplus water. In fact, if soil is allowed to be ‘mud’, through compaction and lack of careful cultivation, this is when problems arise. This phenomenon has been brought into sharp focus this very winter (winter 2015-16 being the wettest on record), where we have witnessed water gushing off from compacted fields and deforested hills, swelling streams and rivers and rushing down into the flood plains.
In my polytunnel studio, I have been experimenting with ‘soil sculptures’ – placing soil inherited from the Garden, on unwanted furniture kindly donated by members of the Garden community. I have been calling the resulting soil shapes ‘soil cakes’ but the gardeners working nearby were quick to bring me back down to earth by asking ‘if I was having fun making mud pies’. Soil cakes or mud pies? That’s what I want to know.
The photograph will give you a glimpse of my soil experiments. I have called this table display Plat de Résistance, which means ‘main course’ in French – literally, a dish that will allow you to resist being hungry till the next meal comes.
Till next time…
The artist in residence project is part of Flora, a pan Wales project featuring a touring exhibition, four new artist commissions, two artist residencies, an education programme and publication series in which the powerful effect flowers have in art is explored. Flora is an Oriel Davies touring project supported by Arts Council of Wales.