This is an interview with Ines-Hermione Mulford who last summer won the first Making A Mark Award for Botanical Art at Plantae 2022 - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists (see Plantae 2022 - and a new Award and The Making A Mark Award for Botanical Art)
Part of the award is an interview as a blog post about her artwork. Next week Plantae 2023 opens at the Mall Galleries in London and I'll be on the lookout for the next winner!
The interview with Ines-Hermione covers:
I determined that the criteria for the award is that the winner needed to be somebody who fulfilled one or more of the following
I knew I'd picked somebody with an unusual perspective on how to represent plants - which is why she won the award. What I didn't appreciate at the time was quite how unusual that perspective is!
Last time I saw the painting below it was hanging on the wall in Plantae 2022 in the Mall Galleries. In the Autumn of 2023 it's going to form part of a Bryophyte and Lichen Trail in the Dundee Botanic Garden!
About the artist: Ines-Hermione Mulford
âTell me about yourself. How did you get into art and why are you an artist?
âI have always been creative, something nurtured by my granny with many summer holidays painting flowers in her garden in Devon from a young age, but I was also very interested in science.
When I discovered the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, I think I must have been about 9, It felt like a lightbulb moment. I wanted to be him! I wanted to paint in a way that mimicked reality, I wanted to design, engineer, study science. But growing up it became obvious that past 16 this wasnât really an option. Choosing my A-levels, and on from that university, meant I had to choose either the arts or the sciences. Something that didnât make sense to me, and to be very honest, I still donât get it, in fact I vehemently oppose strict boundaries of learning and wish we were far more interdisciplinary.
Ultimately, I chose art as it was what excited me the most and is largely due to my secondary school art teacher who was an absolute hero. Unsurprisingly I found my practice routed again, and again, in the sciences and I think my career has been very linear, albeit unconventional, since.
At Art school, Edinburgh College of Art, I found my love of classical realism, and chose the anatomy elective which was linked with the medical school there and through that found a love of medicine, that led me to surgical and medical art which is a huge part of my practice now.
I started shadowing surgeons in 2015 where I felt an affinity with their desire, and need, for highly skilled, craft-based work. I am still doing this work today, and actually went back to university to do a Masters in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh to ensure that my research was ethical, something that was invaluable as I have just completed a residency with the Surgeonâs Hall Museum in Edinburgh, producing paintings on the human relationship between surgeon, robot and patient in robotic surgery.
Social Anthropology has been instrumental to developing my career as an artist as both are a looking at and a living with the world around us. They are explorations of the lived experience and the expression of humanity, the natural world and life as we know it. They are both disciplines where subjectivity and personal experience are celebrated.
A lot of my practice as an artist is project based, which feeds that desire in me to learn, and Iâm currently working on two projects, one with Breast Cancer Now, a charity based in London where I am exploring the organisation as a holistic support system; the other is with the University College Dublin teaching hospital Mater Mericordial, visualising their pioneering research in digital biopsies of cancer diagnosis. But it was the robotic surgery which led my personal practice back to the wonderful world of flora.
Seeing the human body through the eyes/lens of the da vinci robot, on a macro level, made me completely rethink how I situate myself in the world. The almost abstract landscape, this alien world that was so foreign and yet part of us, was bizarre yet stunning. I began to notice similarities texture and, after further research, function, to the mosses and lichens that have fascinated me all my life.
For me it has felt very linear, figurative art and realism drove me to study anatomy, which developed my understanding of the human body, leading me to surgery and medicine, the human body, our flesh, functions etc. which led me onto the natural world, its fascinating structures, functions, beauty and our undeniable dependence on it. My practice is interdisciplinary as I feel that art has the ability to be boundary-less, and is all the more successful for it.
About drawing and painting plants
How has your experience in drawing and painting people helped you in drawing and painting plants?
Ooft difficult question! I learnt a lot through painting and drawing people, the skill-based side, so the honed skills of observation and retention, while my background in anatomy helped me to really understand what I was looking at, and not just make things up!
In an âartierâ sense I suppose, I see drawing as an encounter with something. I actually ended up writing my dissertation for my masters on how drawing in the field aids social research.
Drawing is a form of active looking that, each line leads you to see, it is the product of an encounter, while also being an encounter itself. You are in conversation with what is being observed. Whether that is a literal conversation with an individual, or metaphorical!
It is the combination of learning about the anatomy of something, in this instance taking time to really research the structure of the mosses, and then also be led by what you are actually seeing; that engagement is so important and the process of drawing itself.
What do you find appealing about drawing plants generally?
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