“These works remind us of why we can no longer take plant life for granted.”

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Through the works of nine artists, Modern Nature propels us through a truly diverse range of interaction with plant life. Curator Katharine Stout asks us to consider ‘the circumstances of their cultivation, their historical relevance, or, in some cases, their imagined lives.’ In this conversation, Angela Tye, founder of Graen, an online store and creative studio focused on horticulture, shares her appreciation for the timely exhibition. 

Words by Reeme Idris, photos by Andy Keate and Eva Herzog

Curator Katharine Stout counts her involvement with OrganicLea (a workers’ cooperative growing food in the outskirts of London) and bigger movements such as Extinction Rebellion as current examples of how we engage with and look after nature that, combined with reading Derek Jarman’s diaries – from which the exhibition takes its title – informed her personal influences, her ‘roots’ into it. ‘Rather than a romantic idea, a lot of the artists are commenting on those social, political aspects that shape how we interact with nature and how nature is used, exploited or determined,’ she explains.

Modern Nature presents the work of Alberto Baraya, Mark Dion, Simryn Gill, Derek Jarman, Hilma af Klint, Margaret Mee, Christine Ödlund, David Thorpe, Viktor Timofeev. 


Angela Tye is the London based founder of Graen, a studio and online store focused on the art and practice of growing plants, dedicated to connecting with nature through good design. We discuss what the exhibition means to her: 

How have you described Modern Nature to friends? What were you moved by?

Modern Nature explores plant life through artists’ drawings, diary entries and other mediums. It encourages us to look more closely at the context of their creation and to think about our own engagement and interdependence with plant life. 

I felt particularly connected to Christine Ödlund’s paintings using natural plant pigments she had grown and extracted herself, which prompted me to reflect on the need for self-sufficiency and think about the role of materials and their origins within an artist’s process of creating.

Is it important to extend our appreciation beyond aesthetic value?

Plant life and its documentation has such a rich history and we shouldn’t always take it at face value. Especially in today’s scroll society, it’s important to pause and be aware of what we’re consuming. Interdependence is a big theme throughout the exhibition and allowing ourselves to look more carefully helps to slow us down as well as gain more empathy for plant life.

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What led you to launch Graen? Can horticultural therapy enable positive change?

Graen was born out of my love for nature and a desire to celebrate all the artists, makers, writers and thinkers who have been inspired by its beauty. Nature and creativity is so intertwined, I wanted to show that nature can be viewed as art, and vice versa. I felt there was a platform missing that promoted good design specifically for horticulture. 

When you combine the values of good design with horticultural therapy there can be great physical health and mental wellbeing benefits. Engaging with nature teaches us to slow down in a world that is so fast paced, reminding us of values like patience and observation. Making connections to the natural world helps to balance our race for material things and allows us to connect with each other in a more harmonious way.

Who have you been inspired by recently?

Yellow Nose Studio (who are based in Berlin) have a really inspiring approach to their making. They explore the perfect balance between the organic and inorganic, the logical and emotional, hand craftsmanship and industrial design. I love the sculptural quality of their pieces and its versatility. 

We stock their tableware collection, which we use as a vessel for ikebana, but it also stands alone beautifully as a work of art in its own right. Creating a design with simplicity can be difficult to execute but they have such a genuine sensibility to reflecting the fragility and hardiness of nature. 

Modern Nature at Drawing Room is now concluded. An accompanying catalogue, edited by Kate Macfarlane and with an essay, Modern Nature, by curator Katharine Stout (Director, Focal Point Gallery and Associate Director, Drawing Room) is available here

You can connect with Angela Tye via her website and instagram. Her current exhibition ‘Seed to Study’ is on view at Botany until 01 September 2019.

Our thanks to Katharine Stout and the team at Drawing Room for their time. 
Drawing Room 1-27 Rodney Place, Elephant and Castle, London, SE17 1PP

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