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San Mei Gallery

Matthew Beach: Propagations

Matthew Beach: Propagations

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These handmade chine-collé cyanotypes by artist and researcher Matthew Beach were made using tropical plants, which were included in his exhibition The Herbarium’s Shadow at San Mei Gallery in 2021.

Each cyanotype is unique with the leaves being slightly different in shape, size, and morphology due to the plant cutting they were created from. Please get in contact with us if there is a particular print you are interested in purchasing.

All of the prints are paired with the cutting they were created from. For the duration of the exhibition, if you collect your print at the gallery you will receive the paired rooted plant cutting taken from the Philodendron plants used to make each print!

Forming a part of Matthew Beach’s Propagation series, the cyanotypes depict his ongoing interest in domestic horticulture as it relates to wider debates and contentions about tropical and subtropical landscapes; histories of expedition, extraction, and empire; and the booming global houseplant economy. A particular species is depicted in the Propagation series: the Philodendron pedatum. Endemic to most of Northern Brazil and other areas of Central and South America, Philodendrons more widely have been popular houseplants for decades, many of which were brought back to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Austria as part of expeditions the 19th century. Contemporary dissemination of these plants is largely a result of large-scale growing operations in Southeast Asia. The plants, reproduced through propagation and tissue culture, find their way into homes all over the globe.

The project questions how these companions might be taken for granted, and how our relationship to them can be complicated through processes of domestic propagation and printmaking. The works depict single leaves of a Philodendron pedatum plant, which grows as one continuous vine. Each leaf is produced by a node, and when cut, holds the potential to form new roots and new growth; thereby vining anew. Often this original leaf dies back as the plant consumes energy. Each print presents this singular leaf reproduced at a true-to-life scale using the cyanotype process, complicated by the act of exposing onto conservation paper, followed by the process of chine-collé in order to attach the cyanotype object onto a support paper.

This process mirrors the same practice of conservationists working with botanical ‘specimens’, whereby often conservation paper is soaked in gelatine coupled with backing paper in order to form a support, fixing the plant matter into place. The act of considering matter and materiality through conservation practice is a way to think critically about the way botanical collections and herbariums are formed and employed, as well as brings what is often hidden out of view in institutions into the public sphere.


Product Information

Matthew Beach, 2021
cyanotype on conservation paper with chine-collé (framed), Philodendron plant cutting
21 x 30cm
Edition of 30


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