A portfolio of 12 etchings by Michael Landy. Published 2003 by Charles Booth-Clibborn under his imprint The Paragon Press in an edition of 37. Etchings proofed and editioned at Hope Sufferance Press, London.

Michael Landy’s portfolio of 12 etchings, Nourishment, was published by Paragon Press in the winter of 2002 and, drawing seasonably on ideas of hostility and survival, it signalled the artist’s first stirrings after Break Down. In Break Down, the February previous, Landy had dismantled all of his possessions on a factory line in a disused department store on Oxford Street and consigned them to landfill. He had laid himself bare on a massive, public scale, after which Nourishment, as the title suggests, was a strategy for rehabilitation, both creative and financial. Landy’s fine drawings tread the line between feeling sorry for himself or plucky. They are, says Julian Stallabrass, ‘traces of an extended, private performance, a romantic homage to that which is trodden underfoot.’[1]

Weeds, or ‘street flowers’ as Landy prefers, are a subject he started to explore at the turn of the millennium, but with his reference books scrapped along with everything else he had to start over. ‘Having nothing was a kind of regression, so I was interested in going back to being a child, to just having a drawing pencil and paper.’[2] Landy collected specimens and brought them back to his studio, where over several months he nurtured and observed them for as many hours as there was daylight. Drawing was a way to start, literally, from scratch. The etchings were a fruitful progression. Uprooted, they hover on white paper, colourless, as if suspended in formaldehyde.

Following the cartoonish diagrams made to commemorate Break Down (see the example in the British Council Collection), here roots, stems, seed pods and tendrils are recorded in a style that verges on the academic. ‘People might think that it's so different from previous work,’ Landy hints. ‘Maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.' [3] And up close these weeds are not the perfect specimens of academic studies. Landy is nitpicking, and frills and kinks are noted, along with frayed edges, knots and other asymmetries. Portrait-format and life-size, the weeds are recognised as individual characters, justifying the eccentricity of their names: Shepherd’s Purse, Creeping Buttercup, Thale Cress, Herb Robert. Needing little in the way of water, sunlight or soil, weeds can survive in the most meagre of circumstances, in gutters, cracks in the pavement, or a depleted artist’s studio. They are at home with the ‘common’ vocabulary of rubbish, market stalls, and shopping trolleys that Landy has made his own.

[1] Julian Stallabrass, ‘An artist after Break Down’, Evening Standard, 17.12.02
[2] Michael Landy in conversation with James Lingwood, Everything Must Go (London: Ridinghouse 2008)
[3] Heidi Reitmayer, ‘Hello Weed’, Tate: International Arts and Culture, No.3, January/February 2003, pp.60-68