Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on Sunoj D’s residence at the Natural History Museum in London and his response to the museum’s India Collection
London: Two works by Sunoj D are currently being exhibited in the ‘Images of Nature’ gallery at the Natural History Museum, London, following his three month residency at the institution. The works will remain on display until the 28 February, 2014.
During his residency, Sunoj explored the scientific, commercial and political stories behind the remarkable India Collection at the museum, adding his own perspectives to it.
Sunoj created two works inspired by the Hortus Malabaricus (The Garden of Malabar), a book compiled between 1678 and 1703 that records 742 medicinal plants which existed in Malabar, Kerala, the artist’s homeland. One of the aspects of the book that captured Sunoj’s attention was the fact that it was written by several people from different social ranks. Such intra-caste collaboration had never been seen before, and it was quite a peculiarity at the time.
‘Somewhere Between Living and Dying’ is the first work he created during the residency. This graphite scroll decomposes and contrasts the order in which the plants are documented in the book and the rest of the India collection. In fact, Sunoj arranges the plants on the paper in a very chaotic and wild manner.
‘The Remains of the Soil from the Land Where the Sun Never Sets’, the artist’s second work, contains a double allegory. Firstly, the piece refers both to the British Empire and its wide reach, which allowed some part of the Empire to always be experiencing daylight. Secondly, the work also symbolizes our relationship with the soil in an urban context. This is expressed through the use of plant pots, some of which were donated to the project by the public, symbolic of urban objects that link humans with nature and soil. Sunoj also creates a parallel between the objects in the museum, which are inanimate and frozen, and these pots, which once contained soil and life but now are empty.
Nature and the changing environment are very dear themes to the artist. In fact, Sunnoj grew up among farmland, and his most recent works discuss his personal experience of moving from the countryside to a city or ‘urban jungle’, and related issues such as the relationship between man and nature.
Through his work, Sunoj documents our evolving relationship with nature, and reminds us of what we built on and of what we are forgetting.
More information on this project can be found here.