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Colours of Country

Emma Lupin knows tropical plants. Having studied plantsmanship in Scotland, she came to the NT 13 years ago and fell in love with our unique flora and surrounds.

In her latest exhibition, the well-known environmental educator takes us into that liminal space between art and science, documenting her journey of connection with Top End landscapes on paper.

Lupin says she’s been experimenting with natural inks and dyes for years, but while studying a visual arts unit on printing, she had a dream that sparked a whole new creative process.

“The dream was actually about being printed into the bed. I usually sleep in a house full of louvres, or outside, so you’ve got all those elements of nature, particularly the dawn chorus, coming into that state between waking and sleeping.”

She began playing with everything from printing full bodies, to experimenting with natural dyes on leaves, fruit peel and other plant parts – the relationship between these skin prints merging the lines between our species, and others.

“The inks are from NT plants, as my speciality is tropical plants and particularly plants that are useful to people, or that humans have a special connection with, strengthening their relationship with the natural world.”

For Lupin the foraging and connecting through print is part of the art itself, and, often by happy accident, something beautiful is formed, then changed again, never permanent.

“I’ve been trying to document the different plant dyes, how they change over time. Some of them do stay quite well, they’re called archival inks, and some fade out.I really love the concept that many change over time, particularly in our climate.”

Some of the pieces in the exhibition have been kept in Lupin’s louvred house throughout the cycles of the Top End seasons, with the work of insects and the elements making their mark.

“In the art world we can be quite obsessed with archiving work, as if it’s something that should stay the same forever, where nothing in the natural world does that, not us, every year we change and fade, and so do artworks.

“I think there’s great beauty in that.”

Colours of Country

Thumbnail & header: Emma Lupin, 'Colours of country fern springs' (detail), natural ink on paper, 297 x 420mm

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