Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Artist in Residence 2012

Botanical Songforms

Phillippa Carnemolla, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s Artist in Residence, blends harmonies of art, mathematics and nature

Phillippa Carnemolla, the 2012 Artist in Residence for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, has embarked upon a journey exploring geometry and patterns in plants, and the interdependence of flora and fauna within the beautiful grounds.

The centrepiece of Phillippa’s residency is the Breathing Conifer. Based on the geometry of cycads and conifers, this large hanging kinetic sculpture has been conceived and developed as a community arts project. Phillippa felt strongly that she wanted to share her residency experience with a group of young people who would not typically have an opportunity to creatively contribute to a large public sculpture. The Breathing Conifer incorporates the creative efforts of children from the Eastern Respite and Recreation Centre and young adults from the Come in Youth Centre.

Recently, a creative art workshop was hosted by Phillippa in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. Young participants from the Come in Youth Centre and the Eastern Respite and Recreation Centre worked with Phillippa to colour individual panels for the Breathing Conifer. They also had the opportunity to talk with Phillippa about the creative artistic process and sculpture techniques. Community Education staff then lead participants on sensory walks through the Fernery and Palm Grove, focusing on patterns and textures in nature.

The Breathing Conifer is a hanging copper sculpture that pulses with a gentle heart beat. Reminiscent of plant, seed, insect and heart, this sculpture comments on the universality of life, the interdependence of plant and animal and the beauty in natural rhythm.

Overall size: 800 mm x 1100 mm
Material: Etched, oxidised copper leaves coloured using prismacolour pencil waxes. Colouring completed by young participants from the Come in Youth Centre and Eastern Respite and Recreation Centre.

The birds and bees

Inspired by the passion of some of the volunteers and staff who teach garden visitors about plants and animals, Phillippa has also found herself particularly enchanted by the range of native insects and birds. She has investigated the interaction between birds, bees and pollination, and some of her pieces examine the geometry of pollens and bees. Phillippa uses the latest 3D modelling technology to create the pieces digitally, then prints in wax and casts in precious metals.

For her final residency exhibition, Phillippa is continuing to develop a collection of fine jewellery and ceramics. She is also working with local wood turner, Graham Tilley to create six unique timber and ceramic vessels made from a plane tree felled on the site of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney earlier this year.

Phillippa Carnemolla

Phillippa Carnemolla is an industrial designer based in Sydney. She continues to exhibit her sculpture and jewellery which has been driven by a great respect for the mathematical laws of the universe. In recent creations her inspiration has focused on the geometry of flora and fauna. Her jewellery involves layering formal geometric forms with organic etchings of plants and bees. These designs have also been translated into large merino felt pieces for wall and floor.

Phillippa is also passionate about how better design can improve our quality of life. She has recently been awarded an APA scholarship to begin her PhD which investigates how the redesign of homes enables us to stay in our homes and live richer, longer lives - regardless of our age or ability. Through this artist in residence program, Phillippa is very excited to be given to opportunity to create an outdoor sculptural installation inspired by the research and reflection of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney's wonderful collections.

For more examples of Phillippa's work go to

Phillippa and Lucy working on the Breathing Conifer.


Artist impression of Breathing Conifer sculpture

Artist's impression of the Breathing Conifer sculpture.

Workshop participants in the Fernery
Workshop participants visit the Fernery, where the Breathing Conifer sculpture will be installed.

Bee drop earring
Close view of a Triple Bee Drop earring.