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Behind the Secret Structures at Wakehurst

It’s the last few weeks of the impressive Secret Structures exhibit at Wakehurst. Artist Perdita Sinclair talks about her inspiration behind the beautiful light structure.
25 September 2018
Blog team: 
Meryl Westlake

Unveiling the hidden world

All my work is inspired by nature.

The science of the environment and the natural world has always fascinated me.

I’m intrigued by all that is ‘hidden’, what you can’t see but we know is there, either through scientific knowledge or the natural process of the world. Things like cells or microplastics. These are subjects that we might be told about but we don’t always get to see up close.

Seeds- the inspiration for my Secret Structures piece- are a natural metaphor for hidden life.

I wanted to show the journey of two slipper orchid seeds. As the smallest seed in the world, that’s a process that someone wouldn’t normally see. It’s a tiny event that leads to a plant germinating. I wanted to make that tiny event something large and visible, monumental- a big reveal.

Working with light and seeds

On embarking on the project I immediately knew that I wanted to work with light.

I could imagine an orchid in a dark forest, shedding its seeds and I wanted to literally shine a light on it. I also wanted to combine this natural event with an urban, industrial look to represent humans encroaching on nature and appropriating it into the developed world.

I dropped real seeds through the air and sketched out how they fell as well as filming their movement.

In real life, these seed traveled about 12cm. My sculptures are about 4m each in length.

In order to create the movement of the seed dispersal I used LEDs and metal structures.

I programmed the five different colours of the slipper orchid into the LED structures, so that the light can show the potential of what the seed might become.

A natural inspiration

Science and art go hand-in-hand.

From Leonardo Da Vinci’s time, there often was no dividing line between the two disciplines. Art and science can greatly inspire each other. 

As an artist, I don’t have the same restraints that a scientist might have.

I don’t have to prove a fact, I am free to follow my instincts and explore different elements. However, scientific processes of setting perimeters and achieving the most truthful result have many things in common with the creative process and this is another reason why I think that sci-art collaborations can work so well.

I have been so inspired by working with Kew scientists and the staff at Wakehurst. It is such important work that is done in the MSB and I hope in some small way that my work has shone two long squiggly lights on it.

You can see this amazing scultpure now in the Millennium Seed Bank - quick, before it goes.


Photos courtesy of Phil Adams