Sow (Dig, Rake, Riddle, Sow, Water, Weed, Pull)

Christine Borland


About the edition

This print was created by Christine Borland and produced in DCA Print Studio as part of 2020 Editions: a portfolio of prints created to mark an extraordinary, challenging year, and to support DCA's recovery from a crisis that has gripped the entire cultural sector.

As the UK-wide lockdown that began in March 2020 drew to a close, we invited a group of artists who had participated in our programme to submit work to be developed with our team in DCA Print Studio and included in a portfolio. Some had worked with us recently; others had taken part in projects soon after we opened in 1999, but all of them gave their time and work generously in support of DCA, and we are incredibly grateful to them.

The project came with some built-in specifications – shape, size, edition number – but the remarkable diversity of the finished works eloquently reflects the range of our programme, and the possibilities of working with our Print Studio.

This print is the first expression of a new body of work based around exploring the cultural memory and embodied knowledge of the life-cycle, processing and distribution of Scottish flax into linen.

About the process:

Garden Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

DIG: it starts with one line of string laid on the lawn, in early spring. Further lines radiate from the centre to make six segments. Cutting down with the spade, I shuffle around clockwise, joining the outer point of each string to make one continuous circular brown slit in the grass. And then I dig. RAKE: the soil underneath the turf is poor because the garden is still really part of the beach across the road. I wheelbarrow in dark brown topsoil, and rake it together with some compost until I think I have a seed-bed of ‘fine tilth’. SOW: Mother’s Day, 31st March - one daughter weighs enough of the silky brown seeds to make a dense planting of 2000 plants per square meter. Another 5 family members are lined up and made to rehearse until they can sow their allocated section in a smooth, circular choreography. RIDDLE: the family stand on the turf perimeter and watch me walk from the outside to the centre of the circle, riddling the finest of soil over the rich brown seeds, which I can clearly see sitting on the surface. I don’t mention it, but worry they are not evenly distributed. WATER: flax seedlings are ‘frost tolerant’ and they begin to emerge on April 16th after sleet and snow. I pull one up; the tough, branching root makes up two-thirds of the plant. Next day the hottest recorded spell of April weather begins. I hadn’t anticipated it, but I water every second day, using 24 watering cans each time. WEED: there are many vigorous weeds, most of which are new in my garden so probably arrived in the topsoil. I look them up as I weed and nearly all have associations with traditional medicine. e.g. Plantain; Leaves in poultice used for sores, blisters, swellings, and insect stings. PULL: in late June the first fragile blue flowers open, each lasts a day before fading to form a seed-head. On a sunny morning 116 days after sowing, when most of the seed heads have yellowed, I pull the flax. Working from the outside of the circle, I gather a bunch with my right hand and pull up with my left, repeating until I can’t hold anymore. At the end of the day only scraggly weeds remain inside the circle, the outside is edged by 60 bundles of flax, laid on the grass. Christine Borland

Other prints included in the 2020 Editions portfolio:

Prints can be bought individually or as a portfolio of all 10 prints.

Year 2020
Edition of 30
Media Screenprint on Somerset Textured White 300gsm paper
Dimensions 42 x 29.7cm
Signature Numbered on verso in pencil and accompanied by a publisher’s certificate of authenticity

About Christine Borland

Christine Borland’s career as an exhibiting artist spans the last 25 years; rising to prominence at the Aperto 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, Borland was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997 and has subsequently exhibited widely around the world. Works are held in museum collections nationally and internationally including Tate, London and Migros Museum, Zurich and several permanent works are sited in the UK - at Whitworth Park, Manchester and in the grounds of Glasgow University. Upcoming shows include a solo exhibition at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh in August 2021. Christine Borland is based in her studio by the Clyde Estuary, she works part time as a Professor of Art at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Own Art 
Spread the cost of buying artwork with Own Art and purchase Sow (Dig, Rake, Riddle, Sow, Water, Weed, Pull) by Christine Borland in 10 monthly payments of £12 (representative 0% APR). Email for more information or to buy.

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