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Art + Design Store – Friday Feature – Coffea Arabica

July 22, 2011

Today in the Art + Design Store – Friday Feature column, where I look more closely at one of the artworks in my Art + Design Store, we take a little look at the limited edition giclée print Coffea Arabica, which featured in my recent solo exhibition: Collected Patterns: The botany of Walter Hill. Part of a series of six giclée prints, printed on 100% cotton rag Hahnemühle fine art paper using long-life pigment inks, this white on black work was inspired by the dedicated research of Walter Hill, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens’ first and most significant curator (1855-1881).

Coffea Arabica is a species of Coffea originally indigenous to the mountains of the Arabian Peninsula and also from the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia and southeastern Sudan. It is also known as the “coffee shrub of Arabia”, “mountain coffee” or “arabica coffee” and is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated in southwest Arabia for well over 1,000 years. It is said to produce better coffee than the other major commercially grown coffee species, and contains less caffeine than any other commercially cultivated species of coffee. Wild plants grow to between 9 and 12 metres tall, with white flowers. The fruit matures bright red to purple and typically contains two seeds, the coffee ‘bean’. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Walter Hill and other colonial botanists were given the responsibility of establishing crops of economic value in the colonies. In his 1871 Annual Report on the Botanic Garden, Hill wrote: “With respect to the valuable practical results that have followed the introduction of several of this order of commercial and food plants… It is to be hoped and trusted that other plants of commercial value and importance, such as coffee, tea, tobacco etc may claim the attention of the settler, as they are no less a source of profit, nor less easily cultivated, than the sugar and cotton plant.” Queensland never became known for its coffee production as a major export crop, but not because it wasn’t successfully cultivated here. I chose to work with this particular plant for this body of work, because of the lacy aesthetics of the leaves and their ‘simple complexity’ with their fine veins, and the fact that I never knew we had a stab at coffee plantations in this state!

Hope you enjoy the resulting artwork from this investigation, 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.

There are lots more facts and artwork details to come in this column, so keep following on Fridays for the next artwork featured in the Art + Design Store!

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