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The Years of Magical Thinking

Photo by Tom LLoyd


Karen was awarded the Dorothy Una Ratcliffe Fellowship in April 2017, which centred on a residency at the National Trust's Acorn Bank property, set in a beautiful location near Penrith, NW England.
Karen was invited to respond to the house's history and context, and to make an exhibition there.
Acorn Bank is best known for its extensive gardens, which include notable apple and herb collections. The house itself dates back 500 years, and was gifted to the Trust by its then owner Dorothy Una Ratcliffe in the 1950's, after which it became a Sue Ryder Foundation nursing home for some decades until the early 1990's.

Karen developed further her interest in hydrosols (fragrant plant distillations), which she'd first made during her Hauser & Wirth Somerset residency, working in Acorn Bank's dove cot and harvesting the garden's plants. Using a traditional copper still, she and her assistant Emma Quinn and NT volunteer Glenis Price distilled around one hundred species from the garden into 120 litres of aromatic liquid.

For the show at Acorn Bank, this liquid circulates slowly around a fountain of sorts, installed in Dorothy's empty Drawing Room. The fountain is crafted from a stack of second-hand crockery, the pale green institutional 'Beryl' range, familiar from church halls and hospices from the 1930's to the present day. The hydrosols combine to emanate a powerful 'green' smell which evokes the garden - a place that in the years as a nursing home, would have been inaccessible to most residents.
You can read more about the background of the show here.

Karen's show, 'The Years of Magical Thinking' ran August 10 - October 30 2017 at Acorn Bank.

Photo by Tom LLoyd

Photo by Tom LLoyd