October 29, 2022

Artcore’s Cabin sits underneath a magnificent walnut tree. The tree has been dropping its fruits loudly on the Cabin’s roof when I have been sitting inside, whilst contemplating ideas for my residency on the relationship and rupture between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. This proved impossible to ignore.


Artcore Cabin, Derby city centre

I started to think about how walnuts look like brains, which is a common comparison. Perceiving human-likeness and resemblance in nonhuman objects is not so much pareidolic but creates anthropocentric visual analogies between things. I set about painting walnuts (commercial ones) using colours associated with camouflage.


Rachel Magdeburg, Old Walnut, 2022, water-based paint on un-stretched raw canvas

The image below takes these ideas further and lets the walnut-brain’s form leech substance and colour, a kind of dissipation of the rational, contained organ that seeps when painting.

Rachel Magdeburg, Walnut-Brained, 2022, water-based paint on un-stretched raw canvas

The metaphor of brain as tree has recently been written about in Baylee Brits essay ‘Brain Trees: Neuroscientific Metaphor and Botanical Thought’ in the book Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World (Gibson and Brit, 2018).