Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol CymruNational Botanic Garden of WalesNational Botanic Garden of Wales

Julie Ann Sheridan – Symbiosis: Lichens, small but critical

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Julie Ann Sheridan, a painter from Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, stages a solo exhibition of site-specific work about lichens

Graduating from Bradford College of Art in 1992 and taking up practice as an abstract painter, she spent time in the USA, India and London where, as part of a four-year residency at The Tricycle in N.W. London, she began to focus on the ‘minute and the massive’. One exhibition used microscopic forms of dust from the rooms in the building, another used vast satellite images of the world. “I wanted to make those things difficult to see visible.”

In 2005 she moved her studio to Carmarthenshire and opened The Last Gallery in Llangadog where she settled into painting and curating shows. Her work has continued to focus on the minute and the massive, drawing on both the geological features around her and the minute forms of moss, fungi and lichen.

Forming contacts with the National Botanic Garden and their resident lichenologists she began to develop the work in the current exhibition. The programme of lichen transplantation and protection of critically endangered lichen at the garden inspired these large acrylic abstracts.

“I wanted to raise the profile of these small but critical organisms, put them on canvas to highlighttheir environmental importance as well as their beauty”.

Lichen are not plants, they are composite organisms that are algae or cynobacteria living symbiotically with fungi. By cohabiting with the fungus, the algae can live in many different environments and extend its range significantly. They are essential carbon dioxide converters and pollutant absorbers, they provide food and habitat for a multitude of creaturesand have important medical usages. They are also an important indicator of clean air and biodiversity. The climate in West Wales supports one of the most diverse communities of lichen including many rare species, making this an ideal location in which to study and paint these overlooked forms.

“Another focus in these paintings is to use the colour, shape and form of the lichen and link them to ideas from a variety of Japanese artistic philosophies that crop up regularly in my work”

‘Ma’ in Japanese means gap, pause or space between two parts. The negative  or empty spaces around objects are given equal importance to the forms themselves. In these paintings the void between the Lichen give a sense of movement and energy within the composition providing the lichen with space to flourish. The use of black and gold in the paintings is particularly related to this concept.

Simple and elegant, the images are entangled with questions about our delicate, symbiotic world.