Medieval Medicinal Botany, Folding Gardens
Shelf Garden, viola plant, detail
Folding Gardens, Medieval Medicinal Botany, 2017-2019
Folding Gardens is based on the prominent 12th c. medieval manuscript: The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi. This manuscript was composed by the 12th century Andalusian physician and scholar Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi. This is one of the most remarkable medieval botanical manuscripts on medicinal plants, their names, their visuals, and their healing properties. Folding Gardens have been exhibited in four exhibitions in the Bay Area between 2017 to 2019.
Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco, 2019
Folding Gardens, A Stained Memory
“Having printed the work on foldable and transportable silk organza, for Karimi, the notion of carrying gardens of medicinal plants that can be instantly opened and viewed emphasizes the importance of remaining connected to the healing properties of nature. Inspired by original plant images from The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, a prominent 12th Century medicinal botanical manuscript, this installation evokes memories of Karimi’s childhood in Shiraz, Iran, where herbal medicine has been a prominent tradition since the medieval period. Spending time in both traditional drugstores and gardens of Shiraz with her grandmother, Karimi was deeply influenced by the deep belief in the healing powers of herbal medicine and the importance of staying connected to the natural world. During the Revolution of 1979, protests interrupted Karimi’s idyllic life and caused occasional shutdowns of her elementary school. During a rushed evacuation, Karimi was seriously injured, her blood staining the classroom floor. Having printed the black and white floral patterns at Kala Institute in 2017, Karimi now adds fabric strips of red tulips (symbols of martyrdom in Iran) and blood stains to reveal how a pleasant childhood in Iran became interrupted and “stained” by the Revolution of 1979.”
Folding Gardens, A Stained Memory, 2019, digital prints on silk organza, rods and threads, each strip: 10’x 24” total: 10’x 8’x 8′
San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, 2018
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, 2017
The Folding Gardens installation is accompanied by wall shelves, the sound of water fountain and an interactive Medicinal Herbal Volvelle (a wheel-chart). One shelf displays the folded version of strips and the other two display jars, containing medicinal plants’ extracts. Visitors can select any jar and smell its aromatic content and interact with the Medicinal Herbal Volvelle to learn about the healing properties of eight plants. They are also encouraged to walk around the Folding Gardens to see the drawings up close. Such a sensual experience that simultaneously engages the senses of sight, hearing, touch, and smell, again is meant to evoke the beauty of the natural world.
Folding Gardens, 2017, digital prints on silk organza, rods and threads, each strip: 10’x 24” total: 10’x10’10’
Folded strips, threads and shelf, 2017
Medicinal Herbal Volvelle, 2017
Silkscreen on hand-cut aluminium, laser-cut wood and printed text, 24”x 24”
Rotate the black wheel, using the nob, to reveal the healing properties of each plant
Bottles, shelves, labels and plants’ extracts, 7″x 24″x 8″
Open any bottle and smell the aroma. The labels explain the healing properties of each plant
Euphrat Museum of Art, De Anza College, Cupertino, 2017
Concept Design for Folding Gardens Installation:
Concept Design by Pantea Karimi, 3-D Modeling by Pedram Karimi, 2017
Concept Design for Folding Gardens Installation above the Wagner Carpet at Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada:
Concept Design by Pantea Karimi, 3-D Modeling by Pedram Karimi, 2019
Either of the arrangements will be suspended directly above the 17th c. Wagner Garden Carpet. Translucent fabric, hangers, and skeleton will be used to give a ghostly presence to the piece. This arrangement will help enhance the importance of the garden in Iranian culture in multiple ways:
Firstly, it allows the viewer to experience the garden as a three-dimensional entity. By reproducing the carpet’s own patterns and images—namely, fish, lilies, plane trees, cypresses, roses, and date palms— the suspended piece augments the carpet’s existence in the gallery, thus generating a more sensational visual experience. Instead of seeing the carpet up close and from a single point of view, the viewer will have the opportunity to observe and appreciate the colors and patterns of the carpet from multiple angles, and even from far afield. Thus, how visitors walk in the exhibition will be as diverse as how they might walk through a real garden.
Secondly, printed on translucent fabric, the images on the suspended piece overlap and merge in order to create a mirage image of the garden, referencing the otherworldly connotations of the Persian garden as heaven on earth.
Lastly, the proposed piece celebrates the cutting-edge nature of the Wagner Garden Carpet. Although the knotted strands adhere to traditional garden carpet motifs, the design of the Wagner Garden Carpet is dissimilar to the common chahar bagh or the “four garden” design of the time. The “four garden” design arranged the weaving into four quadrants with a single perpendicular water channel crossed by a hefty horizontal conduit. The “H” shape water channel in Wagner is quite unique. Indeed, an intricate piece above the carpet will help the viewer appreciate the complexity and uniqueness of the Wagner Garden Carpet.
Research at Malek Library and Fellowship Residency at Kala Art Institute
My fellowship residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, Jan-July 2017, focused on medieval botany. I explored ideas of creating medieval medicinal botanical gardens both in installation and prints.
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA, printmaking facility, Jan 2017
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA, Jan 2017, silkscreen stencil-making process
Pages of The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, written by Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi, 12th c., Andalusia
“The age of ghafiqi was also encyclopedic epoch, when creative energy in the Arab-Islamic world focused on organizing, comparing, and synthesizing its vast treasury had initially been acquired through translation, but its contents had been extended and significantly transformed by authors like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Abu Bakr al-Razi.”
Pages of Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, written by Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi, 12th c., Andalusia
Pages of De Materia Medica, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, originally written by Dioscorides, 1st c., Greece
De Materia Medica by Dioscorides was one of the earliest scientific botanical manuscripts to be translated from Greek to Arabic
These are leaves from an illustrated manuscript of the Arabic version of De Materia Medica, copied in the 7th c. and 13th c. in Iran
Images: Courtesy of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada and Malek National Museum and Library, Tehran, Iran
Malek Library, Tehran, Iran: researching Herbal of Al-Ghafiqi manuscript, Jan 2016