An intriguing new solo exhibition entitled ‘The Seed That Stops The Heart’ by Glasgow-based visual artist Louise Spokes is currently being showcased in the Saldanha Gallery, Artlink Fort Dunree.
Admission is FREE daily from 10:30am-4:30pm – up until 2nd October 2022.
The new solo exhibition by Louise – a former Director & Chairperson of the 126 Artist-Run Gallery in Galway – explores the themes of ‘deadly poisonous plants’ and their associations with folklore and historical stories of ‘love and betrayal’ from ancient Rome to the modern day.
Louise, born in London, is a former student of Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana whose parents are both from Donegal. She previously worked in Malta and has extensively showcased in group exhibitions throughout Ireland, drew inspiration for her latest series of drawings on glass and paper having had a desire to bring nature ‘indoors’ during lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I produced many exhibitions of other people’s work during my time on the Board at 126 Artist-Run Gallery, but this is my first ‘solo exhibition’ – and it’s a bit new to me or somewhat strange being on the other side of the experience!” she said.
Louise explains: “‘The Seed That Stops The Heart’ is inspired by poisonous plants, their effects, and the folklore, tales and notorious historical events associated with them.
“My title refers to the literal danger of poisonous plants such as the common Foxglove, whose seeds can be fatal when eaten. It also hints at the seed of doubt, jealousy, anger etc. that might inspire someone to poison a victim.
“Indeed, the first large drawing I completed for this series was a big pastel drawing of Foxgloves. Around a year ago, we were coming out of lockdown(s) and settling into relatively everyday life again. I think I just wanted to bring nature into my apartment!”
“Visitors to my solo exhibition can therefore expect to see all new drawings – erased, partially completed, re-drawn, and layered on top of each other. Delicate botanical illustrations hang beside images of blisters, burns and other ailments. Just as many of the featured plants can be both life-saving and deadly, there are a lot of contrasts in the show too – light and dark, large and small-scale, beautiful and grotesque.”
Louise says there are also so many interesting stories – both past and present – related to poisonous plants, which are full of intrigue, love and betrayal, and the pursuit of power.
“Legend goes that Catherine DeMedici murdered Jeanne d’Albret with a gift of perfumed gloves laced with poison, and Locusta of Gaul (the ‘poisoner of Rome’) is considered to be the first recorded serial killer – notoriously taking down many royal court members in the 1st Century Roman Empire.
“Poisonous plants are also ‘cropping up’ in the news recently – for example with Donald Trump alarmingly appearing to endorse Oleandrin in 2021, a toxic substance extracted from the Oleander plant, as a possible treatment for Covid!
“Giant Hogweed has also been in the news in recent years too. It’s pretty common in Glasgow and brushing up against it can cause third-degree burns and lifelong sunlight sensitivity!”
For Louise ‘home is certainly where the heart is’ and she is both excited and proud to be showcasing her first solo exhibition and new artwork at Dunree.
“I always get back every summer, Christmas, and as often as possible. Last summer, I was able to work from home in Ireland. I would finish work, then head out and meet friends and go for a swim in the sea. After all those months cooped up in my apartment in Glasgow, it felt so liberating. It feels fitting that I would have my first solo show at home. Inishowen is stunning and a great source of inspiration for art and artists. Fort Dunree, where the exhibition is being held is spectacular too!”
Artlink Project Co-ordinator Martha McCulloch added: “Artlink is thrilled to be staging Louise’s first solo exhibition. We’re committed to nurturing and promoting our homegrown talent and Louise has a long association with Artlink. In fact she was instrumental in establishing the fruitful link we have with 126 Gallery in Galway. The work in the exhibition is entirely new. It consists of a series of exquisite drawings on glass and paper, exploring the contrast of the beautiful but toxic!”