I have been exploring the positive and negative of growth and the tension caused by the grey area between. In our society the word growth is often considered positive before negative. The notion of growth is viewed as a symbol of life. This tension is apparent when we think about the fact that a beauty spot or birthmark is technically a form of benign tumour (nevus) and a beautiful foetus can be a parasite to the body. My mother died of a form of growth 2 years ago; a rare bone cancer started in her ankle and migrated around her body.

After my natural reaction of anger I felt that I had to understand her cancer better. I tried to put myself in the position of the cancer. This created an internal conflict for me about ideas of growth and the positive and negative ideas that surround it. I realised that often growth is neither, strictly positive or negative but some where in between. For instance, it is necessary for the giant fig tree to grow on another tree, but when this tree becomes completely engulfed, it begins to rot away within the centre of the giant fig and dies. Another example of this grey area is the irony of the belief that if 2 people kiss under an abnormal growth caused by a disease (mistletoe), their love will flourish and grow.

To work through my conflict I have research into many forms of growth to communicate this grey area tension. These include; strangling and symbiotic vines and other plants of this nature, abnormal growth on plants, fungus, warts, foetal rejection, teratomas – abnormal growth of teeth and hair in different parts of the body, moles and birthmarks and the difference between cancer and tumours.
I physically studied organs, which I dissected, sketched and photographed. I found many similarities between the physical nature of the body and the physical nature of plants. The overlap between the different forms of growth became very important in my work for discussing the tension created by context of growth.

My work began with ideas of creating 3D organs, so I experimented with many techniques for creating this effect. Annette Messager and Lyn Carter were great inspirations in terms of soft sculpture and organs. However, after much research and experimentation in many areas I have arrived at 3 pieces/series surrounding this concept. These include a series of drawings, a large installation piece and a small 3D series.

My drawing series convey the overlap of growth type and context by creating new organs and new plants, which as a result become dysfunctional, just as a tumour causes an organ to become dysfunctional. This work has also become a healing process for me; I am essentially recreating my mother’s dysfunctional organs and removing them from her body. H.R Giger’s work was often in the back of my mind while working on these, reflecting his overlap of organ, machine and plant. Also Guther Von Hagen’s macabre plasticised and sliced bodies.

The large installation vein-vine also conveys this overlap as it flourishes with life and beauty but at the same time appears deadly and larger than life, as cancer feels. I found Kate Campbell Popes methods of binding and weaving inspiring for this work. She has also woven beautiful organs from grasses, which for me conveys this overlap of plant and organ.

The series of neutral growths on trays automatically become negative in this context. The unconscious human reaction is to feel that even if an organ is neutral, if it is visible it can only mean death or illness. The tentacles are indicative of this ability for growth to cause harm just by simply being a growth. Alice lang’s soft sculpture organs, created from wet look vinyl, have been very interesting for fuelling my exploration of fabric textures for organs.
At the end of my work I have just as much inner conflict about the tension surrounding the negative and positive of growth as I did in the beginning. However, It is not my intention to separate growth into categories because I am aware that all growth is either or both negative and positive depending on the context. I have merely used my work to highlight the tension surrounding growth and to question societies unconscious view of growth as a symbol of life.