Tales of Nature – Fabulae Naturae

Image credit Studio Orta

Image credit Studio Orta

Back in March I wrote a piece for the blog reflecting on the impact CSF’s projects and work have had on me during my time here at CSF. Shortly after this I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Professor Lucy Orta, UAL Chair of Art in the Environment and not in my day-to-day capacity supporting CSF but in an exciting extra curricular way. Lucy and the other UAL Chairs work with students and staff on activities outside the normal curriculum and disciplines of the University.

Lucy emailed me an opportunity she wanted to share to our postgraduate community, she needed graphic or textile designers to collaborate on a project commissioned by the ZegnArt foundation for the opening of Milan Expo 2015. The project involved creating colour variants and harmonies of floral contour drawings provided by Lucy, based on research she had conducted on plant species as well as looking at the Herbelein archive of Zegna Foundation, which includes textile prints dating from 1850s to 1980’s. With my textile designer hat on I immediately asked if I could apply, and so I did along with 3 other UAL postgraduates; Sean Murphy, Namrata Bhatter and Roopa Sachidanand.We were all chosen by Lucy to work on what was, for me, a fantastically beautiful ‘art therapy-esque’ colouring-in project. The line drawings were gorgeous and inspiring, and the project was a great way for me to get creative again, something has been more difficult for me to do since the arrival of my son in 2012.

Our reward for taking part in the project was to be flown out to Milan for the opening event at Ermenegildo Zegna Headquarters at the beginning of May to an event celebrating the opening of the Milan Expo 2015.  I arrived in a very sunny Milan full of excitement, having never visited the city before I was determined to make the most of this whirlwind opportunity and take in as much as possible. So a stroll past the Castle into town followed, where I got chance to wander around the beautiful cathedral Duomo watching the crowds taking selfies and feeling thankful that my view, unlike so many others who told me it would be, was not masked by scaffolding. Next, on to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II jostling in the crowds as I walked through the space, constantly gazing at the ceiling. A quick lunch stop and then on to the best part of any city break – the 45 minute walk across the city through the back streets to my hotel and the luxury of rest. And then on to the main event.

Together with the UAL postgraduates I strolled around the corner from our hotel to the Zegna head-office, its elegant and modern façade vividly and proudly projecting itself out in contrast against this urban area of Milan. Walking into the building the floral murals filled the glass walls, lighting reflecting the pattern and colour onto the ceiling. Lucy and Jorge Orta had created a series of enormous wall murals from the designs we had collaborated on, transforming the Zegna building into a forest of floras. Running through the building zinc branches led visitors to food stations where a menu of sustainable delights where served following this years Expo theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.Alongside the mural installations Lucy and Jorge staged a Symphony of Absent Wildlife, which heightened the feeling of stepping into a fairytale world, inhabited by fictional creatures of a mythical forest.

My feet couldn’t take another day of marching the Milan streets so the next morning a gentle stroll around the new Museum of Cultures awaited. And time to reflect on what a fantastic opportunity it was to be involved in the project, meeting some of our talented postgraduate students and collaborating with an international artist. All in all a great day at the office.