De | Code

Courtyard Gallery, National Botanic Garden of Wales, October 2011 – February 2012
De|Code was inspired by research at the National Botanic Garden of Wales to DNA barcode the native flowering plants of Wales. Each plant has been sequenced to generate a unique code made up of the bases A, G, C, and T – a visual motif which is repeated throughout the exhibition.
The work focuses on four scarce native species – spreading bellflower (Campanula patula), meadow thistle (Cirsium dissectum), whorled caraway (Carum verticillatum), and an endemic whitebeam (Sorbus leyana). All these plants feature in the Garden’s Rare Welsh Plants Project, which is working towards ensuring the long-term survival of some of the most threatened species in Wales.
My aim has been to create a very personal portrait of each plant through a series of relief prints, collages, and artist’s books, which abstract and reinterpret the shapes of flower parts, leaves, stems, twigs, and berries. The intention has been to find new and unusual ways of looking at these rare beauties.
This work has been produced against a complex backdrop. On one hand, the Garden and institutions around the world are identifying and thereby helping to preserve plant species through barcoding projects. On the other, thousands of flowering plants are becoming extinct every year due to the pressures of habitat loss and climate change. Many plants are becoming extinct before they have even been identified by scientists.
With the current loss of biodiversity, we are witnessing the biggest extinction event since dinosaurs vanished from the planet 65 million years ago. According to researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, of the approximately 400,000 flowering plant species found globally, one in five is under threat of extinction and many more are near threatened. In Britain, around 20% of the native flora is under threat.
More information about DNA barcoding at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.