Sue Knight's continued exploring of an ephemeral 'museum of nature' was begun in 1997. In "Pressing Matters" at West Space the artist began to press organic leaf matter into ovoid and elliptical paper epidermae.

"Take a Leaf" expands the ideas and materiality of this work considerably. Linseed oil and pigment are again exploited to create images of foliage which hover between alchemical shrouds, fossil memories and painterly Rorschach blots.

The leaves of the Dahlia Imperialis, Gingko, Fig, Hibiscus and Rhododendron make up the artist's arboreal lexicon. A gamut of marks dissolve and bleed the leaf form as much as they sometimes describe its veinous tracery. The bleeds may be accidental incorporations; or, undertaken as a more formal process in the manner of Japanese bamboo or chrysanthemum painting, where the mark, or dissolve becomes a deliberate stylistic. Here- blurred natural forms are set adjacent to fine leaf skeletons- as if nature has been 'blood let' 'scarified' and sometimes putrified upon the paper.

The artist relishes a play of accident and deliberation with all the attendant frustrations of the printing process. This play is a site of gentle tension in the work and might even become a metaphor for a collapse between scientific and personal botanical documents. A memory of painting as science and science as painting.

The massing of leaves into stylised groupings sometimes effects an art-deco resonance or even speaks of an old-fashioned Ruskinian mandate, which required architectural and decorative form to look closely at nature's own organic architecture.

The installation quietly shifts away from a mere focus on nature's cellular inventiveness and decorative reverie. The serial reading of many of these pieces introduces a spatial tension to the work and elicits a play with depth, transparency, solidity and optical effects. The classical stylisation of the leaves is rebutted in the amorphous galaxy of small pieces which addresses the intersection of two walls. The artist invites us to select a leaf - but also to consider the ways in which painting and printing when applied to an organic template, might healthily confuse our ideas about nature and artifice.

 

Amanda Johnson

1998