second nature

Second Nature is a group of woodblock prints that explores various aspects of nature in the tropics of Southeast Asia: the intense humid sunlight; monsoon and rainfall; the effect of light and shade on the colour green; the unceasing growth of plants; and the spectacular fertility of the land. I looked at the plants around me that grew in my garden, in forests and private plots, in bonsai, in and around ponds and pools, growing out of cracks in the buildings, and in huge, extravagant forms in botanical gardens in Kandy and Singapore.

Most of the prints here are in green—a colour that surrounds us in damp moist climates such as Thailand. Here, there are shades and velvety textures of green in vegetation, subtle variations of green in young and older plants, in full sunlight, in dappled forest light and on dark forest floors. The green becomes more luxuriant and intense as the rainfall increases, sometimes luminous and shining during the summer monsoon or in evening half-light.

Mysterious and magical, the fern is a flowerless plant that spreads the spore from under its fronds in soft movements of air. There are wonderful organic shapes in the uncoiling shoots of ferns and bracken or the leaves of giant ferns arcing out like the tendrils of sea creatures.

The Rain series follows the stages of the rainy season in Thailand. Short showers interspersed with hot sunlight that encourage rapid plant growth; storms that suddenly lower the light and temperature and drive cool gusts of wind; and ensuing floods that fill the paddy fields and raise the water level in the rivers and klongs.

The prints for the Scholar’s Garden group have a feeling of seclusion and calm that a scholar might appreciate. The plants in these prints were all growing in an elegant walled garden in Bangkok that belonged to a Thai politician and intellectual. The ponds, fountains, bonsai, sculptures and lotuses provide focuses in a city for quiet intimacy with nature. I use black Chinese ink in these prints for the dark shapes and lines.

garden moss