Gallery show is a call to action

A new exhibition at the National Botanic Garden of Wales focuses on a disappearing world. Corylus avellana_GS

But Emma Tuck’s work in her new gallery show ‘Sight Unseen’ concentrates not on some far-flung, tropical, species-rich hotspot nor the polar extremities.

Her attention is wholly on our own back yard. And her particular concern is trees. Trees are vital to us all: they harbour 90 per cent of all known species, they remove and store CO2 and they play a central role in most ecosystems. We rely on them for fuel, timber, food and medicines. And yet our trees are dying.

Emma says: “This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that the world’s forests are showing increasing signs of climate stress. Widespread tree deaths are predicted as a result of drought, heat waves, wildfires, storms and fatal attacks by pests and diseases. For how much longer can we look the other way?”

However, the aim of ‘Sight Unseen’ is not to frighten. Emma’s sensitive pen-and-ink portraits are a call to action: “Too often we fail to observe what is around us; we look but we don’t see.

This exhibition seeks to challenge our unfocused gaze, both aesthetically and politically. The natural world is in peril, and so are we and all our fellow creatures. If we don’t see, then we won’t notice as it vanishes before our very eyes.”

Some of her drawings are anatomical portraits of native British trees. They feature the familiar leaves and bark as well as the less familiar internal structure of cells, tissues and fibres. The layout of the ‘bars’ in these drawings is a visualisation of the patterns found in the DNA code sequence of each species.

Many of the ‘barcode’ drawings were inspired by the work of the science team at the National Botanic Garden on the Barcode UK project which aims to DNA barcode all the UK’s flowering plants.Pinus sylvestris_GS

Emma Tuck’s exhibition ‘Sight Unseen’ is in the National Botanic Garden of Wales Gallery until August 30.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is open from 10am to 6pm. Admission to the Garden is £8.50 (concessions £7) for adults and £4.50 for children. For more information about this or other events at the Garden, call 01558 667149 or email

Comments are closed.