Exhibition and Research Proposal

For my final MA project, I want to research ways of revealing the numinous and sublime aspects within the landscape of Birnam Wood, a location which is featured in the Shakespearian tragedy Macbeth. I plan to do this by undertaking a site-related investigation of the species which are found there and then using them as a basis from which to make my work. Exploring the obvious features of this landscape has led to a consideration of the more obscure and invisible aspects, unnoticed by the naked eye.  I aim to draw the viewer’s attention to these overlooked phenomena, unlocking and exposing the middle ground between the known and the unknown, the seen and the unseen.

For the exhibition I plan to make work from natural materials and processes, some of which will be presented as scientific samples, using bacterial growths and specimens in glass domes, bottles or plates.  Using the lens and viewing nature through glass has become a common factor in my process, and I would like to bring the experience of the sublime aspects of wood to the viewer by featuring a projected video installation (which incorporates sound) within a darkened space. My intention is to make work which will unsettle or even astonish the audience through the uses of natural phenomena to stimulate their questioning of fantasy or reality. In this sense, I consider myself as artist, alchemist and storyteller within the landscape and gallery.

Summary of contextual research (250 words)

Romanticism (around 1800 – 1850) was born out of a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and the overly rational thinking of the Age of Enlightenment (Van Prooyen, 2004:1).  Awareness of the Sublime enabled the Romantics to discover “…an areligious numinism, awe and sense of mystery and the unknowable in our connection to the natural world ” (Language, Landscape and the Sublime, 2016). Despite the notions of Romanticism falling out of fashion over the decades, I want to investigate how their view of nature and the landscape can be explored in a contemporary context by looking at the micro rather than the macro.

The mythology of Shakespeare’s Macbeth has led to my exploration of what I consider to be the unsettling or uncanny “sublime” elements of Birnam Wood. Having a practice which focuses on landscape and the use of natural materials, combined with an interest in folklore and mythology makes this line of enquiry a natural progression of research into all of these elements.  An extensive field study involving the documentation and collection of specimens from the wood will form a large part of my research. Laboratory experiments will form the next phase of the research, and required knowledge will be gleaned from forums which I have joined online and advice from scientists at the local university.

Key texts I am reading include literature on Romantic and Neo-Romantic art, the Romantic Sublime and landscape, Goethe, Art and Science, cabinets of curiousity, fungi and plants. Artists which are relevant to my study include Caspar David Friedrich, Ernst Haeckel,  and Paul Nash, especially for his photographs which were exhibited in the Dark Monarch Exhibition at Tate St. Ives, 2009.Also relevant to my research are artists who practice microbiology such as Simon Park, Anna Dumitriou, Craig Ward, and Liz Douglas (who uses microscopy as a reference for her paintings).

Reading List

(To be added to during the unit)

Bell, J. (2013) Contemporary Art and the Sublime’, in Llewellyn, N. and Riding C.(eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/julian-bell-contemporary-art-and-the-sublime-r1108499

Bracewell, Michael. “Lost Hikers. On Magic And Modernism: Pursuing The Neo-Romantic Sensibility In British Art”. The Dark Monarch. Magic And Modernity In British Art. Michael Bracewell, Martin Clark and Alun Rowlands. 1st ed. London: Tate, 2009. Print.

Brook, Isis. “Goethean Science As A Way To Read Landscape”. Landscape Research 23.1 (2016): n. pag. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.


Colquhoun, Margaret, and Axel Ewald. New Eyes For Plants. Lansdown, United Kingdom: Hawthorne House, 1996. Print.

Davenne, Christine, and Christine Fleurent. Cabinets Of Wonder. Print.

Breidbach, O., Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. and Hartmann, R. (1998) Art Forms In Nature. The Prints of Ernst Haeckel. Munich: Prestel

Grice, Gordon. Cabinet Of Curiosities. Print.

Mauriès, Patrick. Cabinets Of Curiosities. London: Thames & Hudson, 2011. Print.

Miller, Seth T. The Art Of Nature: Alchemy, Goethe, And A New Aesthetic Consciousness. 1st ed. California Institute of Integral Studies. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.


Milliken, W.Bridgewater, S. (2004). Flora Celtica. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

Van Prooyen, Kristina. The Realm Of The Spirit: Caspar David Friedrich’s Artwork In The Context Of Romantic Theology, With Special Reference To Friedrich Schleiermacher. 1st ed. 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.


Terpak, F (2001) Devices of wonder. Los Angeles : Getty Research Institute.

Woodcock, Peter. This Enchanted Isle. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications, 2000. Print.

Yorke, Malcolm. The Spirit Of Place. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Print.


Period from 1st March to Exhibition opening


  • • Ongoing studio/lab work and research
  • • Begin writing contextual essay/ dissertation

March 7th

  • • Submission of final exhibition proposal
  • • Collate and photograph material for exhibition catalogue

March 14th

  • • Deadline for catalogue material

March 21st

  • • Contextual study peer review

April 4th

  • • PPP statement tutorials
  • • Visiting lecturer tutorials
  • • Prepare for crit next week
  • • Revisit PPP

April 11th

  • • Peer assessment / recorded crit

April 25th

  • • Catalogue print deadline
  • • Statement peer review

May 16th

  • • Deadline for contextual study and PPP

May 23rd

  • • Exhibition meeting with Caroline Wright

June 8th

  • • Pick up hire vehicle

June 9th

  • • Pack exhibition and drive down to Barnesley

June 10th

  • • Check out and tend to exhibits

June 11th and 12th

  • • Installation of exhibition

June 15th

  • • Private view

The following section to be completed as far as possible. Revisions will be necessary throughout the unit.

Practical and technical requirements and resources

  • • Ideally a darkened annex room in the gallery which would allow me to give the maximum sight and sound “experience “ to the audience
  • • If annex/small room is not available I will require a space within the main gallery where I can dim the lightening to allow for a projection, and also a device which I can play sound through headphones which could be concealed within a plinth.
  • • Projectors x4
  • • Electrical sockets
  • • Laptop
  • • Projection screen
  • • Speakers
  • • Plinths