Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Conifer with a heartbeat celebrates life’s diversity

Botanical Songforms, opening March 2013, is designed to draw attention to celebrating diversity in all forms - the profound conceptualisation of artist Phillippa Carnemolla, the 2012 Artist-in-Residence at the Royal Botanic Garden.

Groups of children living with a disability have used their creative skills to contribute to Botanical Songforms. Recently, children who attend Eastern Respite & Recreation and the Come in Youth Resource Centre programs, applied colour to copper leaves that will morph to become the centrepiece of the exhibition, a conifer with a heartbeat - the ‘Breathing Conifer’. The ‘Breathing Conifer', a large hanging kinetic sculpture, will have a robotic actuator inside that quietly expands and contracts the seed-pod, giving it the effect of a gently pulsating heart.

Ms Carnemolla cleverly used the metaphor of a seed pod that also has a heart interconnecting different parts of humans/animals to different parts of plants. She wanted to explore commonalities between plant and animal worlds and comment on the universality of the energy of life that binds us all. Her goal is to celebrate diversity in all aspects in an overarching way by being inclusive and sharing the opportunity as artist-in-residence with local young people.

Phillippa is also continuing to develop a collection of fine jewellery and ceramics for the Botanical Songforms exhibition, and is working with master wood turner, Graham Tilly, to create six unique timber and ceramic vessels made from a London plane tree Platanus x hispanica ‘Acerifolia’, felled on the site of the Royal Botanic Garden this year.

Ms Carnemolla said she’s been working on blends of flora and fauna, investigating the most basic geometries of life through the examination of plants, bees, pollen and birds that includes smaller scale examination of plants and fauna.

The exhibition will include a full range of jewellery created with flora and fauna as the artist’s  inspiration. In some cases she replaced leaves with feathers and ferns with wings.

For the exhibition, Phillippa has merged skills developed in two disciplines - one as an artist who designs sculpture and specialist jewellery pieces based on the geometry of nature - and the other from her industrial design career in which she specialises in researching and designing environments for people with varying degrees of disabilities, allowing them more freedom and independence.

Phillippa is currently working on a PhD on ‘enabling environments’, aimed at helping the older people and those living with a disability feel less isolated. 

The $20,000 Botanical Songforms exhibition has been generously supported by the artist, Philippa Carnemolla, Freehills Foundation and the City of Sydney. It is hoped that a further $5,000 will be raised through increased public awareness of this important community art project.



Trust Artist-in-Residence Phillippa Carnemolla ran two workshops for special needs and disadvantaged youth on 5 October as part of her residency. The participants walked through the Garden to look at cycads, palms & ferns, and then spent time with Phillippa working on copper panels that will be incorporated into her final work - a large hanging sculpture to be located in the Fernery.