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Pteridomania - the Victorian obsession with collecting ferns.

The idea of moving into my new studio has been a source of excitement and frustration for me over the past few weeks. I bought pot upon pot of test paint and in the end settled on an icy blue called ‘Paris White.’ It was fine in small patches but was so startling in large quantities that I had to tint it. As I was moving my furniture and canvases in a wonderful and most anticipated package arrived - ‘The Story of Pteridomania, Fern Fever’ by Sarah Whittingham.

I am fascinated with the idea of obsessive Victorian collectors who took their particular fixations to a new level. My next exhibition will be based on;

  1. Pteridomania or the Victorian obsession with Fern collecting

  2. A La Ronde; the sixteen sided house built for two spinster cousins to house their collection of natural wonders after a European grand tour.

  3. The air of decay and decline at Calke Abbey, seat of the reclusive Harpur-Crewe family which houses one of the largest taxidermy collections in Britain.

  4. Martha Maxwell; Victorian female taxidermist.

  5. The idea of collecting in relation to preserving memory with reference to my own life.

Today I laid 26 canvases and frames out on my studio floor to visualize how the disparate aspects of these ideas will knit together to form a cohesive whole. I believe surrealism may be a positive way of expressing how collected items become a part of the collector, conveying their desire to possess or relive a moment in time. I will be playing with the idea of obsession and how memory, status and the inner self can be reflected through the private collection and display of objects. Finally how, in the absence of the collector these objects become a statement about the life lived and a symbolic portrait and tribute to that life.

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