Laura Patterson’s current practice reflects on the Victorian-era European fern craze known as pteridomania, which saw ferns collected and exported around the world, coveted in private and public collections.
In the 1820s, English explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham held the title of King’s Botanist to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, under which he collected plant specimens from Australia and New Zealand. Laura’s paintings feature the Slender Tree Fern (Cyathea Cunninghamii), which Cunningham collected during trips from Brisbane to nearby rainforests including the area now known as Lamington National Park.
Laura’s paintings examine the role Queensland’s old growth rainforests have involuntarily played within the broader context of the worldwide plant trade. The frames echo Victorian glasshouse and Wardian case designs, in which the ferns were transported and cultivated. The decorative frames reference the practice of collecting as a way of imposing order and control over native plants, while elevating their exoticism to a cult-like status.
City in the Sun artwork credits
Family Portrait 2021
The Audience 2021
Gully Sentinels 2021
From the series Slender Gully Fern (Cyathea Cunninghammi) before Kew
Oil on board framed in timber, cement, plaster and paper pulp
Museum of Brisbane Collection