An art-science ACE project to explore the common allergy hay fever, highlighting pollen’s beauty and malevolence.

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Pollen: friend or foe?

Friend: Pollen is an exceedingly good friend to humans.  Pollen is vital for plant reproduction as it contains the male coding for making new seeds. Dr Madeline Harley, now retired from the position of Head of the Pollen Research Unit at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew said;

‘No Flowers – no pollen. No pollen – no flowers’

This elegant phrase states it  clear and simple.  If there was no pollen, a serious problem would arise for sustaining the plant world. Plants would not be able to reproduce.   This would in turn impact on humans and their very existence as plants form a large part of the human diet and the diets of animals used for food. Therefore, pollen is a friend for sure!

Pollen has a secret poetic beauty when inspected close-up. Its ornamental and elaborate micro-architectures  emanate a fascinating splendour and intrigue of its own… so uniquely fashioned.  A pollen grain is  worthy of closer inspections at high magnification  purely for its unique structure.

Foe: Pollen could also be considered a nuisance to the sufferers of hay fever .  Certain pollens are particularly allergenic  and these are mainly from trees, grasses and weeds…so when these plants flower, the troublesome symptoms  of hay fever start ! The tree pollens are released earlier in the season, followed by the grasses and then by the weeds. This season peaks between  February to October.  When pollen grains enter our noses, eyes and respiratory systems the tiny particles can cause allergic reactions resulting in hay fever for humans  causing a range  of  symptoms such as  sneezes, sore itchy eyes respiratory problems and ultimately a very miserable summer.  

My evolving art works emerging from this research, data and collaborations, aim to highlight both the beauty and the malevolence of pollen through an artistic lens. These two opposite aspects will underpin and inform the emerging art works.


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