Chris Marshall : Madonna Lily

Installation at the Chelsea Physic Garden, London.

This installation has been produced as a response to a poem and site specific aspects of the Chelsea Physic Garden. The installation consists of numerous scientific clear glass tubes 8mm x 1500mm placed vertically to form a continuous sheet. The tubes are filled with solidified coconut oil (white), and sealed.

The dimensions of the work have been adjusted according to the location allocated ( 1500mm x 1500mm ).

A poem accompanied the work, printed on the glass surface. The poem with the title 'How Lilies Came White', by Robert Herrick, is about transformation and change. It is erotic, earthy and spiritual. It is full of light, metaphysical transformations, and organic qualities. The work made for the Chelsea Physic Garden replicates this by using natural materials and processes. Coconut oil is used to suggest breast milk, “the creame of light” and the whiteness of the lily. This is constantly changing in terms of opacity, depending on air temperature. The hints of yellow and green of the Madonna Lily are suggested by using lemon peel and chives.

The glass tubes that provide the structure for the work, relating to the scientific aspects of the garden, which for me is about nature and the amalgamation of botany and science. It has a history of discovery, exploration and experimentation, is intimate and exotic and brings together the human and the botanical. The work alludes to all of this.

This installation is about fusing the physical with the metaphysical; the scientific with the natural; human biology and botany. The catalyst for the work is a poem by Robert Herrick from the book Flora Poetica by Sarah Maguire, past poet in residence at the Chelsea Physic Garden.


'How Lillies Came White' by Robert Herrick

White though ye be; yet, Lillies, know,
From the first ye were not so:
  But I'le tell ye
  What befell ye;
Cupid and his Mother lay
In a Cloud; while both did play,
He with his pretty fingers prest
The rubie niplet of her breast;
Out of which, the creame of light,
  Like to a Dew,
  Fell downe on you
  And made ye white


Detail right :