Christine Borland’s new exhibition, In Relation to Linum, explores the lifecycle of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and considers the symbiotic nature of its nurture, evolving the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s 350-year relationship with the plant.
Spun flax fibres produce linen, one of the most ancient forms of textile. Prized too for its seeds’ medicinal properties, flax features in Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis, the first catalogue of a plant collection in Scotland, which listed 3,000 plants growing at Edinburgh’s Physic Garden in 1670 – later to become RBGE. In 2021, Borland planted flax anew at RBGE, continuing the contemporary and historical cycles embedded in this project.
Unable to sow flax seeds at RBGE during its temporary closure in 2020, Borland distributed seeds to gardeners across the country, who grew flax alongside the artist, in their own gardens, community allotments and co-opted public spaces. The growers shared the same seasonal rituals, which would have sustained both society and environment before the modern scientific and industrial era displaced the plant-lore of women as healers and makers of cloth.
Drawing on this process, In Relation to Linum is an intimate reconnection with the ecological heritage and future of growing and making practices, and their associations with care.
Christine Borland: In Relation to Linum is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and sits within RBGE’s Climate House project, supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund’s Transformative Grant.