FLORA - New work by Zoe Nash & Bev Goodwin

Posted by Erin O'Malley on

This joint exhibition promises to be a wonderful explosion of colour but also offers us insight into a world where not all is as it would appear to be. Beauty can hide dark truths.

Delightfully Pernicious

Zoe Nash brings us her colourful world of Delightfully Pernicious flowers. Her dotted backgrounds are overactive, alive, breathing, and against this beautifully organic activity, she plays with flat negative space. Beautiful flowers that entice us but pulsate off the canvas in warning. She explores the properties of 3 different floral varieties and looks at our somewhat problematic relationship with each. 

Read artist's statement in full below.

Pasifika Blooms Et Al

Bev Goodwin brings us a collection of imaginary blooms, inspired by Pacific colours and the natural flora abounding in the islands. She plays on our idealised vision of the Pacific.

Bev uses recycled wire and other materials in her work. She’s concerned with our rampant misuse of all things and continual throwaway culture. There’s an urgent need to treat our world with respect, love and care.

She’s also interested in the overlapping mix-up between the “real” and the artificial, where the boundaries are unclear and artificial intelligence is open to a very unintelligent and reckless human species.

Bev studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, majoring in painting. During her long career in the arts, she has worked in oils, acrylics, printing, weaving, fabrics, wood, plastics, recycled materials of all sorts, wearable arts and diverse types of wire.

She has won numerous awards and her work is in collections overseas and Aotearoa 

Exhibition Wed 5th June - Sat 22nd June
Opening Event Sat 8th June 3 - 5pm


Zoe Nash Artist statement: Flora – Delightfully Pernicious 

The works in this show focus on three main species of plant: the arum lily, the nasturtium, and the brugmansia. Each of these introduced, non-native to New Zealand plants could loosely fall into the category of ‘noxious’ (harmful, poisonous, or very unpleasant)1. Both arum lilies and nasturtiums are listed on the Department of Conservation’s website as weeds. They state that, “invasive weeds are destroying our native plant communities and transforming the natural landscapes that make New Zealand unique”2. All three plants have varying degrees of toxicity which, in some cases, can be fatal. 

These three flowering specimens, which I consider incredibly beautiful both in terms of colour and sculptural form, have provided me with much delight and joy over the decades. I remember them fondly from early childhood walks in Britain with my grandad and his dogs, and I’m still drawn to them now. Many’s the time that I’ve encouraged my long-suffering partner to clamber up or down slippery, steep hillsides, along the edges of precarious riverbanks, through fences and between barbed wires, in order to pick me a perfect example spotted in the distance. 

I love the strong, slightly magical shape of the angel’s trumpet (brugmansia) flower, similar to a witch’s hat or dancing figure. I adore the heady, intoxicating perfume, and the abundant blooms. I admire the simplicity and purity of the arum lily’s form and colour, and I find the flat, round leaves of the creeping nasturtium with its diminutive, winding stalks and beautifully bright flowers, incredibly attractive.

All of these plants have been grown in my own garden at one time or another, lovingly tended to, albeit it with an awareness and respect of their shared and somewhat problematic histories. There is something mildly thrilling and rebellious about the contradictory nature of each. To varying degrees there is an inherent danger. Admirers are encouraged to look but not to touch, and increasingly discouraged to plant and to nurture.

The stunningly simple arum lily has historically had multiple opposing meanings. It has often been used in Christian religion as a symbol of purity, rebirth and resurrection, yet is simultaneously thought to be bad luck as it is often seen at funerals. It is commonly considered a bad omen to bring lilies into the house. However, my own mother carried a bouquet of arum lilies on her wedding day. Their single yellow spadix wrapped within the large, white petal (spathe) also represents fertility.

The arum lily (also known as the death lily) “originates from South Africa. [It was] introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental garden plant and thought to have naturalised by 1870. All parts of the plant [are] poisonous and it is one of the National Poison Centre’s top ten poisonous plants; being consistently involved in unintentional or childhood poisonings.”3

The nasturtium is considered to be an edible and also medicinal plant (I’ve added it to many salads, enjoying its somewhat peppery taste), yet it can also be toxic in large amounts. It has some components that can affect the digestive tract and kidneys, and the seeds contain trierucine that specifically affects the heart4. Although nasturtium is not a legally declared pest plant, it may still be invasive in some situations5. It smothers low-growing habitats and prevents the establishment of native plant seedlings6. Useful, visually attractive but… increasingly undesirable in New Zealand.

The name nasturtium comes from the Latin Nasus Tortus meaning convulsed or twisted nose, referring to the spicy flavour of the plant. In the language of flowers, nasturtiums stand for patriotism. It is also known as the flower of heroes signifying conquest and victory in battle7. “Monet was reported to really like nasturtiums and planted them along the path in front of his house in Giverny.”7

However, vivacious and vibrant, the brugmansia is clearly the star of the show here. “Once included as a section of the genus Datura… brugmansia is now recognized as generically distinct and its own separate genus.”8 The datura, or devil’s trumpet/jimson weed grows up from the ground with flowers that bloom upwards towards the sky, whereas the similarly heavily fragrant brugmansia (angel’s trumpet) has large, strikingly dome-like, pendulous flowers that hang down from (the heavens) above. Both are members of the nightshade family Solanaceae. “All parts of angel’s trumpets are considered poisonous and contain the alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Ingestion of the plants can cause disturbing hallucinations, paralysis, tachycardia, and memory loss and can be fatal. Various species were used both ritualistically and as herbal medicine by indigenous peoples and their shamans, particularly in the northern Andes9. Once native to central and south America, all species of brugmansia are allegedly now extinct in the wild. 

In folklore both datura and brugmansia are reputed to have been a favoured murder weapon for assassins due to the fatal sleep caused by their consumption. It is said that if you slept under a brugmansia, you wouldn’t wake up – the angels having descended from heaven to collect you10. Tales such as this draw attention to long-held associations and chequered histories linking women with botany, especially if we consider connections to do with witchcraft and medicinal healing. 

It is these complex tensions and contradictions surrounding these particular plant specimens that I hope to reflect in my works. Against the accumulation of multi-layered biomorphic shapes, that buzz with effervescent colour, I juxtapose areas of seemingly flat, negative space. Dichotomies such as innocence, experience, less and more, then and now, can be illustrated in this way. 

I am fascinated by these three and many other “toxic” plant species and, while they can be challenging, I hope to document and honour them in way that is appealing and playful, while simultaneously acknowledging the potential seriousness of what they are.

 

Zoë has a Master of Fine Arts degree (Whitecliffe, 2002), a Bachelor of Arts degree (Auckland University, 1991) and adult teaching qualifications. In 2022, 2020 and 2012 Zoë was a Finalist in the Walker & Hall Waiheke Art Awards, receiving the Zinni Douglas Merit Award in 2012. In 2019 she was one of six selected artists to take part in the Trashed As artist residency programme at the Waitakere Transfer Station. Other finalist nominations include: Parkin Drawing Prize, Small Sculpture Prize Waiheke Community Art Gallery, Trust Waikato Contemporary Art Awards, and recipient of the Whitecliffe Post Grad Scholarship. Zoë currently lives in coastal west Auckland, creating from her garden studio, as well as being actively involved in arts education.

1. “What does noxious mean?” Dictionary definition from Oxford Languages c/- Google, accessed May 1, 2024.
2. Department of Conservation, accessed May 8, 2024 https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/weeds/
Weed list, accessed May 8, 2024 https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/
“Weedbusters is about the invasive plants which have a harmful impact on the wider natural environment, on our economy, and on human and animal health.” 
3. “Arum Lily” accessed May 3, 2024, Bay of Plenty Regional Council Toi Moana https://www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/pests/pest-plants/clump-forming/arum-lily/#:~:text=Originates%20from%20South%20Africa.,in%20unintentional%20or%20childhood%20poisonings.
4. “Nasturtium Toxicity” accessed April 25, 2024, https://www.botanical-online.com/en/medicinal-plants/capuchina-toxicity#google_vignette25/04/2024
5. Tiaki Tamaki Makaurau/ Conservation Auckland accessed May 7, 2024, https://www.tiakitamakimakaurau.nz/protect-and-restore-our-environment/pests-in-auckland/pest-search/tromaj/#:~:text=Although%20nasturtium%20is%20not%20a,garden%2C%20such%20as%20native%20plants.
6. Weedbusters: Nasturtium accessed May 7, 2024, https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/nasturtium/ 
7. Donna Marie, Gardens Eye View accessed May 6, 2024, https://gardenseyeview.com/2015/02/16/flower-tales-nasturtiums/
8. “Is Angel’s Trumpet the same as Datura?” Google search c/- North Caroline Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, accessed May 2, 2024, https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/brugmansia/#
9. Britannica: Angel’s Trumpet, Toxicity and Uses accessed May 8, 2024, https://www.britannica.com/plant/angels-trumpet
10. The Fabulous Folklore podcast: The Folklore of Nightshade, Foxgloves and Angel’s Trumpet, Icy Sedgwick, accessed via YouTube April 11, 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcqmVCfxUyU) 11/04/2024dom 

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