The Power (and Fragility) of the Holobiont, 2023

Fifteen small paintings of watercolour, soil, blood, tears, binder.

This series plays with the realisation that humans and soil species have evolved in tandem. Recent genome sequencing reveals that we are much less human than we may imagine as 99% of our genes are actually microbial, and many of these are bacterial. We are essentially giant ‘hosts’ for a dynamic and diverse population of bacteria. All plants, animals and humans are Holobionts, or ecological units; a combination of a host and the many other species living within or around it. Playing with the framing of microscopic observation, the artist imagines a relationship between the essential substance of blood and soil, with stages of interaction depicted in between. Here there are ‘friendly’ bacteria found within her gut as well as microbes commonly found in soil microbiomes. The second row depicts a fictional metamorphosis between the plant. tree, human and bacterial, referring to natural patterns in fingerprints, tree rings and intestinal formations. Following a gut microbiome analysis the artist further researched what microorganisms exist in her own gut and found that some of these closely relate to microbes found in soil. Questions then arose about how much of plant matter (a large proportion of the human diet) is influenced by microbes.

‘99% of the genes in our bodies are microbial.’
Anderson, Cryan, Dinan, 2017. The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection

Art quality digital prints on Hahnemulle bamboo paper at 30cm x 30cm of all paintings. £75 each. + P and P

Available on request to the artist on

1. Human-Soil Symbiosis, 2023
Painting on paper, made with soil, binder and watercolour.

2. Soil-Gut-Plant Axis, 2023
Painting on paper, made with soil, binder and watercolour.

3. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, 2023
Painting on paper, made with soil, blood, binder and watercolour.

Limited edition prints of these paintings are available to purchase in the Botanics Shop in the John Hope Gateway.

Click on image to enlarge and scroll through gallery

Top row, left to right:

1. Human nutrient substrate

2. Plant fibre feeding organism 1
Human gut bacteria

3. Plant fibre feeding organism 2
Human gut bacteria

4. Plant fibre feeding organism 3
Human gut bacteria

5. Nutrient uptake system

Middle row, left to right:

6.Our gut DNA is unique
Metamorphosis 1

7.Our gut DNA is unique
Metamorphosis 2

8.Our gut DNA is unique
Metamorphosis 3

9.Our gut DNA is unique
Metamorphosis 4

10.Bacteria spinning vortex

Bottom row, left to right:

11.Sunlight and mineral transmutation
Diatom found at RBGE

12.Beneficial soil microbes
Algae (diatom) and Fungi

13.Beneficial soil microbes
Bacteria and Actinomycetes

14.Beneficial soil microbes
Protozoa and bacterial nematode

15.Underground substrate

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