Image: Simon Starling, Rescued Rhododendrons (7 Rhododendron ponticum plants rescued from Elrick Hill, Scotland and transported to Parque Los Alcornocales, Spain, from where they were introduced into cultivation in 1763 by Claes Alstroemer), 1999, Courtesy the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow © Simon Starling
Simon Starling was born in Epsom, England in 1967 and is now based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art. In 2003 he represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale (with Claire Barclay and Jim Lambie) and he won the Turner Prize in 2005.
Starling makes objects, installations and pilgrimage-like journeys, which draw out an array of ideas about nature, technology and economics. He describes his work as 'the physical manifestation of a thought process', revealing hidden histories and relationships. Rescued Rhododendrons (7 Rhododendron ponticum plants rescued from Elrick Hill, Scotland and transported to Parque Los Alcornocales, Spain, from where they where introduced into cultivation in 1763 by Claes Alstroemer) (1999) is a series of five photographs, which document the artist’s journey by car from Scotland to Spain, with a selection of rhododendron ponticum plants. The plants originated from the south of Spain but were introduced to Scotland in the eighteenth century by a Swedish botanist, named Claes Alstroemer. The rhododendrons were planted widely in gardens, due to their colour and beauty, but they quickly grew and spread and are now commonly regarded as the ‘scourge of Scotland’.
Starling decided to return a selection of the plants to their natural habitat in southern Spain, documenting his journey through the UK, France and Spain. There is a formality to the way in which he composes his photographs that clearly relates to still life painting. Starling’s approach is also very economical, and each element shown in the photographs has a role in the staging and realisation of his adventures; the car is the mode of transport but also powers the photographic lights for example.