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Art + Design Store – Friday Feature – Croton

June 3, 2011

Here’s the second instalment in the new Art + Design Store – Friday Feature column on my blog where I look more closely at one of the artworks in my Art + Design Store

Last week we looked at Erythroxylon Coca, today it’s the limited edition letterpress print Croton, which featured in my recent solo exhibition: Collected Patterns: The botany of Walter Hill. Part of a series of six letterpress prints, printed on Magnani Incisioni 100% Cotton Rag Paper using rubber-based inks, this black on white work was inspired by the dedicated research of Walter Hill, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens’ first and most significant curator (1855-1881).

The Croton shrub or tree is part of an extensive genus native to south-east Asia. Whilst considered a highly decorative plant due to the multicoloured markings and patterns on its leaves, it has had a number or medicinal uses throughout history, including the use of Croton oil as a violent purgative. It is no longer used this way as it is considered unsafe, however, apparently the bark of some species is used to flavour the liquors, Campari and Vermouth!

Walter Hill loved decorative plants and in his Annual Report of 1879 he notes, “The conservatory has been finished and filled with Crotons, Dracaenas, Dieffenbachias, Anthuriums, Begonias, Marantas, Aralias, Palms, Ferns etc…” The conservatory was a great love of Hill’s and he constantly experimented with tropical and rare plants and seedlings there.

I particularly enjoyed working up this design and feel the composition has a certain tribal feel, which was unintentional. Of course, all the works in the exhibition were black and white and I feel it might be time soon to start experimenting with the Croton in colour, where it will undoubtedly show off its full array of colours, like a male peacock prancing before his female conquest!

Hope you enjoy the work, it’s facts and history as much as I did researching and making it. The prints are part of an edition of 10 and there are still some available in the Store.

Want more Queensland history, keep following on Fridays for the next artwork featured in the Art + Design Store!

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