EN TIBI: Here for you a Smiling Garden of Everlasting Flowers
Rome Botanical Gardens
The title of this show refers to the En Tibi herbarium, an early book of plant specimens compiled by an unknown Italian botanist, which was inscribed with the Latin: En tibi perpetuis ridentem floribus hortums (Here for you a smiling garden of everlasting flowers). The paintings are inspired by herbaria from the Natural History Museum collection in Florence (specifically a section that belonged to the famous botanist Odoardo Beccari) and La Sapienza in Rome, among other archives, as well as historic engravings and maps. The exhibition considers both the care given to plants by botanists but also the complicated repercussions of botanical history: by removing plants from their original contexts, where they had obtained a natural balance with other plants, animals and insects over hundreds of thousands of years and dropping them into totally new situations, there were unexpected consequences. Some plants fit in well to their new environment, some need highly artificial environments to survive, and some take over and threaten the stability of their new contexts.
(Click on images below to see larger versions)
EN TIBI: Here for you a smiling garden of everlasting flowers
Works by Marcia Teusink
Botanical Garden of Rome
April 20 - May 14, 2023
The works that Marcia Teusink created expressly for this exhibition are a love song for botanical gardens and a meditation on the mobility of plants on the planet. Transported by people, by currents and by birds, plants and seeds have always followed the routes of winds and commerce. The pace of these movements has grown exponentially since explorers, with the support of the colonial powers, began to 'discover' new species, to transplant them to Europe uprooting them from every corner of the planet. The first Italian botanical gardens were cultivations of medicinal plants, collections of plants useful for medicine and agriculture, but also manifestations of the power of the institutions that planted them and their patrons. For this reason, botanical gardens soon began to assume an encyclopaedic role, becoming archives of known plants. Botanists cataloged them in elaborate herbariums in which the dried and flattened plants were arranged with the aid of bands and pins, and then accompanied by labels. The title of this exhibition refers precisely to an exceptional anonymous sixteenth-century herbarium now kept in Leiden bearing the poetic inscription: En tibi perpetuis ridentem floribus hortum (Here is a smiling garden of eternal flowers for you).
In this exhibition the paintings are inspired by the herbariums created by the famous botanist Odoardo Beccari (1843-1920), preserved in the museum of natural sciences in Florence and at La Sapienza University of Rome, and by maps and ancient engravings. Marcia Teusink's work explores and celebrates the meticulous attention paid by botanists to plants, the care with which they arranged them by providing them with information on their origin, characteristics and possessed qualities, without neglecting the complex repercussions of botanical history: the transfer of plants in Europe from every part of the planet it was a source of wonder and scientific advances, but also part of a wider phenomenon of colonial exploitation of lands and peoples who had lived for centuries in harmony with the plants 'discovered' by Western botanists. The naming, filing, and ordering of plants in herbaria and botanical gardens is in fact one way that colonial empires exercised their control over nature and the planet at large. By removing them from their original context, they have altered balances that have matured over the centuries, sometimes creating the conditions for unexpected, sometimes profitable, sometimes destructive consequences.
Marcia Teusink is herself the result of a 'transplant': she was born in the USA, she lives in London and often visits Italy. Her paintings, drawings, videos and installations explore environmental themes, from disasters to regeneration and the constant renewal of life. Marcia frequently exhibits her work in Europe and the USA.
Lecturer in Art History
Courtauld Institute of Art