8 November 2022

Pip & Pop brings a fantasy wonderland to Kew Gardens

Tanya Schultz (Pip & Pop) tells us all about her food-utopia inspired exhibition.

By Lydia Shellien-Walker

A close up of the Pip and Pop exhibition

Tanya Schultz, a.k.a Pip & Pop, brings a vibrant food utopia to Kew — open for you to explore until 5 March 2023 — at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

I met the artist to find out what this colourful fantasia is all about, and how she worked with Kew scientists and volunteers to bring it to life. 

Hello Tanya! What are you up to here at Kew Gardens? 

Hi, I’m Tanya Schultz, I’m an artist from Perth, Australia and I work under the name Pip & Pop.  

Along with my team, I created this exhibition When Flowers Dream in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, the world’s first public gallery dedicated to classic and contemporary botanical art, at Kew Gardens. 

The artist Tanya Schultz creating her installation
Tanya Schultz, Jeff Eden ⓒ RBG Kew
When Flowers Dream by Pip & Pop, Jeff Eden © RBG Kew

I don’t think Kew has ever seen an exhibition like this! Can you tell us what it’s all about? 

I’m fascinated by fictional geographies and paradise mythologies, places where we can escape our earthly realities. 

I’m particularly interested in food utopias, mythical lands of plenty where you can have everything you desire.  

Some of my favourite fairy tales and folklore include Pays de Cockaigne, Luilekkerland and Schlaraffenland. In these places, the streets are paved with pastries, houses are built from cakes, mountains are made of pudding and cheese rains from the sky. 

That’s fascinating! Can you tell us a bit more about this idea of ‘food utopias’? 

Throughout history, tales of food utopias became popular in times of food deprivation, especially during medieval times.  

People created stories, songs and maps of these places to escape reality and imagine a better future, where there would be abundant food.  

At other times these lands of plenty were seen not as escapist fantasies, but rather cautionary tales of gluttony. 

There are also so many fascinating folktales throughout history that feature fruits and seeds, like peaches that provide immortality or plums that lead to a hidden world. 

Vibrant kaleidoscope-looking image

Start your day with a visit to the gallery

Our Galleries have now moved to winter hours, so please check opening times before you visit.

And When Flowers Dream was inspired by Kew Science? 

Yes, in my research period I worked with Kew scientists to identify species that are considered future foods — wild crops or under-utilised food species. As climate change impacts our environment, these plants may hold the key to food scarcity issues in the future.

I sourced some of the actual fruits and seeds from various gardens around Australia and created moulds of them. I then cast them in different materials like sugar, resin, silicone and plaster, in colours that gave them the appearance of being really sweet and edible. Some of the fruits I cast included the baobab, pandanus, sausage tree, natal plum, kie apple, and wild yam. 

Find out more about Kew science 

What would you like visitors to take away from the exhibition? 

I hope this exhibition helps to highlight some of the food plants that Kew scientists have identified as future foods. 

Globally we are currently dependent on a tiny fraction of plant species for food production, yet there are thousands more edible plants that we could be utilising  — plants that could help combat the impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity. 

Although the artwork is responding to some issues around global food security, my intention is for the exhibition to elicit a sense of optimism. It is a fantastical landscape full of future foods, both real and imagined.  

It’s joyfully excessive, and I hope it allows visitors to imagine a better world. 

Hear more from Tanya in Episode 2 of our new podcast Unearthed: Journeys into the future of food.

Vibrant structure that looks like candy

When Flowers Dream

Explore a vibrant food utopia by Pip & Pop - at Kew Gardens until 5 March 2023.

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