Lindsay Sekulowicz is an artist and researcher currently undertaking a PhD at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. For Spring 22, we asked her to draw from specimens of the fragrance’s central notes, elderflower and gooseberry - for this, she visited Kew’s extensive Herbarium. The artworks she made there are filled with detail, true to life but with the distinctive, delicate style that makes Lindsay’s work so compelling.
This season, ledger members are able to order a print of Lindsay’s drawings - we will print this to order on artist-grade paper. Each costs £20 (including postage) and will be shipped from 16 May. To order a print please send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds from the prints will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. DEC brings together fifteen UK aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis.
How would you describe your work as an artist?
My work is informed by the natural world and historic archives. I work with many materials and as a writer too, stories and research are fundamental to my practice. I am currently completing a practice-based PhD on ethnobotanical artefacts of the Northwest Amazon, and this relationship between people with plants and objects really fascinates me.
What were your first thoughts when Ffern approached you about drawing elderflower and gooseberry?
Elderflower and gooseberry are such a beautiful combination - each evokes many memories, from picking gooseberries in my grandfather’s allotment as a child (small hands work quickly) to the hours I spend picking green elderberries every year in late spring to ferment. One year while I was in Italy the elderberries were so beautiful that I emptied most of my suitcase to carry them home instead.
How did you approach this project?
Exploring archives is often the most enjoyable part of my work, particularly the tangents and discoveries that occur on the way to finding what you set out to look for. I spent some days exploring and finding the specimens I wanted to draw from in the herbarium, and from there I began. I’ve used the same kind of Japanese paper for watercolours for years – it’s cooked with wood ash sized with clay so that it’s light but incredibly strong, and absorbs colour in an amazing way.
What are the challenges and rewards of working with botanical specimens?
Probably like so many painters I think that light is a huge challenge, and it ultimately becomes a material itself because it has such an impact on how you see. There’s something very different between drawing pressed and living plants too, but with the pressed specimen there is a connection to the people that have come before you – the ones that have collected, studied, and cared for the plants. It’s that history of expanding knowledge and exchange which I find so compelling.
You bring so much detail to your art - which media do you most like to use to achieve such fine work?
The detail really arises from that intensity of time spent looking or making. I think all the materials I work with have some quality that offer a different way of knowing. The way that clay can grow and holds stories, and the way that watercolour is built in layers like lacquerware until finally the leaves start to take form on the paper. It’s always the process which drive the work, and that amazing alchemy of pigment, clay, paper and the hand.
You have made many wonderful trips all over the world - what is it that keeps drawing you over the horizon?
I feel like I have always been between places. I’m sure it’s a feeling that is inherited. One place almost leads to the next, because there is such a global connection through studies like botany and especially among museum communities. But to draw on one place I would say that without time in Ethiopia I wouldn’t be doing the work with plants I do now. And one person who began it all is the curator of the Museo “La Specola” in Florence, who is a great friend now but who trusted me when I was just beginning my practice to join his team on an entomology field trip, and we ended up travelling many times together.
Can you describe your favourite scent?
It has to be rain. Either the incessant Scottish drizzle that smells like home, or the completely saturating damp smell of a tropical forest rain, or that divine heady smell of a storm breaking and hitting dusty pavements and hot dry earth.
Where else do you find your inspiration?
Visiting museums, looking at ceramics, digging around storerooms, digging in the earth too. The work of writers, makers, scientists, visionaries and explorers past and present.
What are you working on next?
I am very excitedly planning fieldwork to Brazil, after much delay and now accompanied by my toddler, Dorothy, who will be coming as a tiny research assistant!
What is the best advice you could pass on?
I had a wonderful teacher in art school who told me, when in doubt, get a piece of clay in your hand and ideas will emerge from there. Failing that, “sleep when the baby sleeps’.