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Work of the Week | 16 May 2022

CAG.3150 Jennifer Trouton, Mater Natura: The Abortionist’s Garden, 2020-21, watercolour on paper (series of 32), 38 x 26 cm. Purchased, 2021. © the artist. Photo: Jed Niezgoda.


As its title suggests, Mater Natura: The Abortionist’s Garden (2020-21) by Jennifer Trouton relates to urgent feminist questions of bodily autonomy and the State.

In this series of watercolours, the artist has selected thirty-two herbs and flowers that have traditionally been known to induce abortion during pregnancy. Each watercolour forms part of a garden of such plants, perhaps overseen by the named figure of the title: Mater Natura (Mother Nature). Paired with these are maps of Ireland and the female pelvis and uterus.

Jennifer Trouton, "Calendula (Marigold)" from Mater Natura: The Abortionists Garden, 2020-21. © the artist.

Jennifer Trouton, "Calendula (Marigold)" from Mater Natura: The Abortionists Garden, 2020-21. © the artist.

The number thirty-two is significant here, aligning as it does with the number of counties on the island of Ireland. Laws addressing abortion provision have been in place since 1803, with the punishment for providers at that time including the death penalty. Additional legislation was enacted in 1861, 1945 (Northern Ireland), and 1983 (Republic of Ireland).

In 2018, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland – which effectively criminalised abortion – was repealed by referendum. This outcome was achieved through decades of activism and the efforts of the “Repeal the 8th” campaign. In 2020, changes in abortion law came into effect in Northern Ireland. Despite these changes, however, ‘conscientious’ objection by medical practitioners, and legal restrictions on when and why abortions can be performed, mean that women from this island are regularly forced to seek medical procedures in Great Britain.

In her work, Belfast-based Jennifer Trouton (b.1971) subtly weaves ideas of gender, class, and identity within Irish history. Her work has recently been exhibited at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Solstice Arts, Navan; and Butler Gallery, Kilkenny.

Mater Natura: The Abortionist’s Garden (2020-21) by Jennifer Trouton is featured in BOTANICA: The Art of Plants (Floor 1) until 25 September 2022.

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