Seeing Ghosts

I was delighted to win a bursary this summer to create a new work of art inspired by research taking place at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath. The resulting painting features in the Visions of Science exhibition at The Edge gallery this month. 

 Seeing Ghosts, 2018

Seeing Ghosts, 2018

During my visit to the Milner Centre, I had the opportunity to meet a variety of scientists exploring fascinating questions about animal and plant evolution. One conversation with Dr Nick Longrich, a scientist focusing on the mass-extinction of dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period, particularly struck me because it introduced the concept of ghosts of megaflora. This wonderful phrase describes the phenomenon of ancient gigantic plants which, having co-evolved with megafauna such as dinosaurs, still remain curiously unchanged despite the fact that they have lost their pollination partners to extinction. Instead, modern-day human cultivation rather than animal seed dispersal holds these 'ghosts' from the brink of extinction. 

The introduction of this phrase sparked a whole new way of looking for me and Seeing Ghosts is my first tentative step into a world where familiar plants found throughout forests (and supermarkets) today are revealed to be anachronisms. Telltale signs such as huge fleshy fruits with seeds too large to be swallowed or over-designed fierce thorns protecting plants from predators long gone, are glimpsed throughout the painting. The whole creative process for me was about refocusing my eyes to identify these hidden ghosts, reimagining past treks through thick jungles and searching for clues amongst an overwhelming abundance of shapes and forms.

You can see this first painting in The Edge exhibition 'Visions of Science' from 15th September - 13th October 2018.