Michael Landy, a pioneer of the Young British Artists movement, was born in London in 1963. Landy is best known for his performance installation piece “Break down” where he destroyed and displayed all his possessions. In 2008, Landy was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts London and continues to make a big impact in the artistic industry.
‘Creeping Buttercup’, which is a detailed study of individual weeds, is a part of Nourishment -a collection of etching pieces. It is said that to acquire the materials needed as inspiration for Creeping Buttercup, Landy found weeds growing in the street.
The meticulous study of the weeds signifies the miraculous growth that can occur in an unfruitful / famine – filled land. Just as in an urban street it is unlikely to find a lot of green spaces.
When one carefully observes this particular etching piece (above) there is a sense of hope that stems from it ; a fresh and distinguishing feature that can only be connoted from plants.
Creeping Buttercup is one of my favourite pieces from Landy’s collection due to its minimalistic approach and the story that led to its creation. Landy chose etching, over sketching or painting et cetera, which highlights his dedication to the piece as he wanted to express every detail including the tones of the weeds step by step.
Landy has stated that the weeds “are marvelous, optimistic things that you find in inner London…. They occupy an urban landscape which is very hostile and they have to be adaptable and find little bits of soil to prosper “. Landy’s optimistic approach to this piece highlights the themes of determination, hope and rebirth that are displayed in the etchings. When one comes to look at the piece it is hard not to feel a renewed strength growing within as one contemplates the harsh barrier that the weed had to survive through in order to thrive in its environment. Could it be that Landy is eluding that just like those weeds who overcame the worst conditions in order to thrive one can also do so in our everyday lives. No matter how dim the situation is one should adapt to the circumstances so that they can thrive – just like the weeds.
Weeds are usually overlooked by passers-by but Landy collected them and tended to them maybe to show that if you can find someone to care for you, you can reach your potential. I believe that the piece expresses that it only takes one person who sees how special you are and who treasures you for you to thrive. As we live in a harsh and unpredictable world that person could be oneself.