This workshop in collaboration with botanical scientist Colin French explored field- and studio-based drawing practices to enquire into plant morphology. The Isomorphology study provided the framework for the identification of a diverse range of plant specimens in the Loe Bar area (an internationally renowned botanical site).
In the morning, we combined the practices of observation, walking and drawing to discover the shared forms and symmetries of plant specimens at a macro-scale in the Loe Bar area. French used his botanical knowledge and recording database ‘ERICA’ to identify different plant species in situ and offer insight into their characteristics and behavior, while I corresponded the plant morphology with the forms and symmetries of Isomorphology. Participants then began their own independent search for specimens and started to draw in the field. The approaches of drawing, observation and walking allowed for intuition, imagination and improvisation while the scientific practice of identification (which names and quantifies) allowed for analysis.
In the afternoon, participants created thin sections from the plant specimens we collected in the morning, which were then observed and drawn at a micro-scale in the CMADC studio using microscopes. I then guided participants through the Goethe inspired drawing method while French spent time helping each participant to identify and interpret the specimen they had selected for drawing. We then related our observations from the field specimens to the mineral and zoological specimens at CMADC based on the forms and symmetries of Isomorphology.
During this workshop I displayed a series of related artworks, including original Isomorphology etchings a facsimile of Goethe’s drawings of plant morphology and my own Goethe inspired ‘urpflanze’ etching (see chapter five). The objects that were set up to support this workshop included ten zoological microscopes and a botanical slide collection .
After the workshop, I asked French to reflect on the impact of the workshop on his own work, he offered the following reflections:
"The terminology associated with plant taxonomy is horrendous, and very off-putting for students starting to learn plant identification. Anything that can be done to simplify this learning process must be a good thing, as it would demystify plant taxonomy, and would encourage more people to be involved."
French could see potential for incorporating the forms and symmetries of Isomorphology as a complementary ‘system’ for classifying flowers within the ERICA software and has since successfully incorporated Isomorphology as a functional component in his ERICA system. He described one advantage of this approach to be the liberation from the dependency on ‘correct’ identification of the flower parts, which is difficult for many plant families. He says, ‘deciding whether a flower has six fold symmetry is much simpler than determining whether it has 6 petals, or 3 petals and 3 sepals, or has 6 tepals, and as a result will enable the layman to more effectively use the software’ . More broadly, French’s promotion of symmetry as an identification and organising principle, supports the kind of classificatory pluralism Isomorphology has adopted from Dupre, as discussed in chapter four.
An important aim of the workshops is that they feed the creative practice of participants. I structured the feedback questions in a flexible format to ensure that participants would feel at ease explaining how the workshop practice developed their morphological insight. After the workshop, I received further feedback from a participant who contributed artworks to the ‘Cultshare’ exhibition (Cultshare, no date) in Penryn Arts Festival, which had been inspired by the Cornwall Morphology and Drawing Centre.