A Language of Seeds by Léonie Hampton RAMM Museum UK
Commissioned to complement the touring exhibition Seedscapes: Future Proofing Nature, Léonie Hampton’s body of work engages directly with the ecological emergency through a series of photographs that celebrate her vegetable garden, her family and friends, and the seeds in the collections at RAMM, Exeter. The exhibition ran from 18 May to 5 September 2021.
A Language of Seeds is a series of photographs created between May and October 2020 celebrating the artist’s vegetable garden, family and friends while responding to RAMM’s botany collection.
Léonie’s lens captures both the beauty of the natural world while attending to the urgent climate crisis through the tender relationships she creates between human hand, body and mouth, and the food she grows. Children feature in these photographs: their presence reminding us that they are both witnessing and inheriting this man-made climate emergency.
Léonie visited RAMM’s varied botany collections in store where she was introduced to a range of specimens including those from local enthusiasts such as William D’Urban, RAMM’s first curator, and William Keble Martin, best known for his book The Concise British Flora in Colour. These extensive collections come from all over the world, arriving at the museum via travellers and botanic gardens such as Kew. Many of the pressed plants or ‘herbaria’ were chosen by the artist for display here because of their original medicinal properties. Displayed together, Hampton’s photographs and RAMM’s seeds provide a rich context to consider our place in this fragile world and our need to respect, nurture and tread lightly within it.
Léonie describes how she created the new work during 2020’s Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, saying:
‘Coming out into the garden every day, I find there’s always something new to discover: I am learning from plants. In previous work I have used the camera to navigate my anxiety about climate change and my children’s future but for this commission I have been facing my fear. I am responding instead to the tech-based, growth-obsessed society which I consider harmful. The conversation between RAMM’s seeds and what I am trying to do in my garden is my way of challenging the current system because I want humans to be part of the earth’s future. Seeds and plants have become my teachers during 2020: they cannot grow without us tending them, reminding me that gardening is reciprocity in action, a dynamic relationship that can be expanded universally and is central to our very existence.’
Installation Stills Ramm May 2021