When art and research meet

Jun 6 2018

Each year the HMRI Researcher of the Year enters into a collaboration with an artist who strives to represent their research through the medium of art. To honour Professor Clare Collins selection as 2017 HMRI Researcher of the Year, artist Leda Turner took her botanical art illustrations to a whole new level.

The artwork was unveiled at the Researcher Showcase, and Leda’s words resonated with the crowd – and Professor Clare Collins. While a picture is worth a thousand words, we thought we’d like to share Leda’s words on her inspiration with you.

“I believe that botanical art is, in fact, the artistic interpretation of scientific illustration – of flora and the plant world – which I believe ties in beautifully with Clare’s work in dietetics and nutrition.

I met only once with Clare but our discussion could well have gone on for hours such was our common interests and an uncanny similarity in our childhood stories.  Clare grew up in what was a largely matriarchal family whose vibrant interactions, closeness and a healthy diet with a strong emphasis of home-grown fruit and vegetables and I heard a strong message that her childhood has informed her clarity of vision in her work.

Clare spoke of the garden that fed, sustained and nourished the family - always pumpkin vine creeping from the compost heap, passion fruit vine clambering over the fence.  Her stories so reflected my own upbringing where my father’s garden produced the bounty that my mother turned into the simple yet delicious Italian meals that graced our table. 

I came away from that discussion impressed with Clare’s vitality, passion and what was clearly nurturing leadership of a dynamic team.  Ideas and concepts buzzed together with an anxious desire to reflect this inspiring story and do it justice.

A concept soon evolved - a poster style referencing education which I saw as elemental to Clare’s research focus of identifying technological tools to share information and aid informed decision-making.  Consequently I began with a garden bed whose flourishing plants bear roots that spread vigorously just as education does but also a signal to laying the foundation of strong growth of the members of her team. 

When Clare particularly asked for inclusion of the Queensland Blue pumpkin, such a staple presence in her memory and also proudly stating her Queensland roots, I made it the core and starting point.  Its vine that creeps, enfolds and borders the painting is another herald of the spread of knowledge. 

The centre of the pumpkin leads to the passionfruit flower, a nod to Clare’s obvious passion for her work and life in general but also representing the complexity of nature, due to its fascinating reproductive structure.

The apple you may think is obviously a reference to the old saying “an apple a day ...” but also to me it is about choices (and temptation) which her work so wonderfully highlights by proof that these choices can and do produce better health outcomes.

Colour was important to Clare just as is a varied and colourful diet hence I included some of the most vivid and with some meaning, for example carrots for the vision that inspires her work. 

I included a honey-bee, so important to the pollination of our gardens but also again representing the collection and spreading of information but not forgetting the known health benefits of honey.  Clare pointed out that she loved the inclusion of the bee “because there’s always a sting in the tail when it comes to nutrition”.

The painting peaks with a pumpkin flower to bring it all together and in a circle that promises flourishing and ongoing success.

This artwork will be auctioned at the HMRI Ball on June 16. Money raised from these auctions will help fund vital health and medical research at HMRI.

Professor Clare Collins and Leda Turner

Artist Statement

Picture if you will a Queensland girl in a rural setting

Flourishing amidst a large and loving family

A life outdoors in a garden bursting with produce

Making lasting memories

Blue pumpkins nesting in compost

Passionfruit vines clambering over fences

Bees a-buzz, honey in their mouths, stings in their tails

An upbringing presided over by women of character

Urging resilience

Encouraging, supporting the quest for knowledge

A passion and vitality for life and work

That grew and unfurled like vigorous roots

In a fertile bed that now nourishes and nurtures a team