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Safekeeping is an Ode to Nature’s Preciousness

Artist and RMIT Ph.D. candidate Cara Johnson's new installation, Safekeeping, is an ode to the fragility and preciousness of nature. It features in Melbourne Gardens’ Indigenous Grassland on Observatory Lawn, as part of her latest exhibition, Understory. Shaped by personal experiences of land management, each of Cara's creations explores the complications of landscape restoration and tree planting, while considering the ongoing effects of land clearing.

Safekeeping currently lines the path through the Indigenous Grassland collection on Observatory Lawn. The piece was meticulously crafted by hand over a series of weeks on Cara's deck at home, using an invasive willow specimen she felled and whittled into individual pegs, as well as found tree guards and agricultural waste plastic, which she painstakingly wove into twine. Safekeeping's fence-like structure serves as a reminder to protect and place value upon precious plant species. 'It made sense to me. I just wanted to talk about how important those grasses are. I always think about fences and about what they keep in and out - often they exist to keep people out'. In the nearby surrounds you’ll find Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and Yellow Box Gum (Eucalyptus melliodora) that have long provided food and habitat to local fauna, while the Gardens’ horticulture team has encouraged Indigenous grass seed to regenerate in the soil, providing a refuge for local butterflies, ants, and grasshoppers.

Horticulturist Ken Lake, who has looked after the Indigenous Grassland collection for 20 years, collaborated with Cara throughout the installation. He holds great respect for the plants within the collection. 'It is important to safeguard our old trees. The Yellow Box and the Sweet Bursaria are some of the last remaining remnant vegetation in Melbourne, and the Safekeeping installation draws our attention to their presence and importance in the landscape. The collection is important because it includes the Yellow Box and the Sweet Bursaria, which are remnants of the original vegetation of the area, Both trees are registered on the National Trust Significant Tree Register and are of regional and state significance. The Yellow Box is estimated to be approximately 200 years old and the Bursaria approximately 180 years old. The Indigenous Grassland collection around them was created to protect them and to allow their character and form to be appreciated, and are an indication of plants that would have originally existed on the site'.

See Safekeeping and the full collection of Cara's beautiful artwork at the free Understory exhibition at Melbourne Gardens until Sun 15 Sep.

Presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria as part of Radiant Pavilion, the Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery and Object Biennial.

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