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About the Art: Edward Chell

This work is very like taxonomies, the grids of butterflies, beetles and shells; it’s like a museum in itself”

Two of Edward's pressed specimen pieces 

What inspired you to create these pieces? 

I have always been interested in habitats, there’s always something going on in the vegetative world; I started by looking at your herb and functional gardens and documenting the specimens.

All the plants on white backgrounds are living specimens I found, while all the  ones on the dark are pressed specimens, but all come from the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

The striking blue and white display

How did you decide on this style and colour scheme?

I was inspired by the 18th century decorative arts, playing with psyche and style and there was a strong appeal of the aesthetic silhouette.

Seeing the four volumes of Anna Atkins' work that you have in the library made me land on the blue and white theme. She was a collector of specimens as well, specimens that have now become artefacts. Her volumes are an obsessive work that is extremely exquisite and very beautiful.

Would you say this is one piece of many images or a series of images?

Well, I suppose both - together and apart - a set of grouped individual pieces, like  those collections of artefacts in a display cabinet reflecting a kind of  ‘cabinet of curiosity’. The cabinet of curiosity allows you to trace loose narratives with seemingly disconnected objects getting a new meaning, creating strange stories, like a box of delights.

A Horniman cabinet of curiosities

How do you feel these pieces look, displayed in our Natural History Gallery?

They reflect upon acquisitive culture, ‘stuff’ being given value when it is collected by museums. This museum and gallery contains a lot of ‘dead stuff’ but when collected they gain a slightly different value. Collecting in this manner is tantamount to a kind of ‘contemporary commodity fetishism’.