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a walking conversation (1992)

herman de vries visited the Royal Botanic Garden in May for the exhibition 'The Unpainted Landscape'. This was his first visit to Scotland, and his itinerary was to be guided by the locations of certain plant species which he would study and collect; thier familiarity bringing more than reassurance, to provide the basis for his continuing study of geographic variation in the physical and chemical properties of significant plants.

He returned in October 1989 during his exhibition 'flora', to make work for this exhibition, and to study plants in the herbarium, glasshouses, rock garden and arboretum. The following extract is taken from a conveisation made at that time during the collection of branches from 56 species of tree and shrub in the arboretum, a living outdoor 'tree museum'. As we walkeed, herman would notice certain species which were very familiar to him, being common in the hedgerows and forests around his home, and others which were completely new, brought from locations world-wide to trow together in an artificial but fascinating juxtaposition.

Specimens were collected, and carefully identified from their labels - with species name in latin (the international language of plant description), common name where it existed, the family which the plant belonged and its country of origin.

The following extract is taken from a recording made by Paul Nesbitt on 11 July 1992, in the oldest beech forest in Germany, (Kleinengelein, in the Steigerwald) for the Art & Science Conference 'Order, Chaos and Creativity', 29 & 30 August 1992. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Can you remember how long you have been interested in plants

ever since i was a little boy. when i was five years old i already knew the names of most common plants - except grasses, around our town near the dunes of north holland. my parents stimulated my interest very much, and later they bought me a picture book so that i could identify plants for myself. after i met suzanne and we went to holland together for the first time, we went to the dunes where i remembered beautiful valleys in which grew parnassia and wintergreen and creeping willow, but we v were prevented from going further by a fence, and when i looked over this fence there, in the valley of my youth, stood the first dutch atomic power station.

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Paul Nesbitt, 'a walking conversation', in herman de vries. documents of a stream. the real works 1970-1992 (Royal Botanic Garden : Edinburgh 1992) 4-7 (ill.).

Paul Nesbitt

Paul NesbittPaul Nesbitt is Director and Curator of Exhibitions at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.

1995: 'Nature in the Mirror of Culture. Botanic Gardens and their Role in Contemporary Art', in Vittorio Fagone (ed.), Art in Nature (Edizioni Mazzotta : Milan 1995) 53-58, 177-180.

1993: 'from white to perfect. herman de vries - the real works', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries : meine poesie ist die welt. aus der heimat von den pflanzen (Städtische Sammlungen : Schweinfurt/Städtische Galerie : Würzburg/galerie d+c, mueller-roth : stuttgart 1993) 27-32.

1992: 'a walking conversation', in herman de vries. documents of a stream. the real works 1970-1992 (Royal Botanic Garden : Edinburgh 1992) 4-7.

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