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Work of the Week | 4 July 2022

CAG.3138 Katie Holten, Irish Tree Alphabet, 2020, colour pencil and ink on paper, 30 x 20 cm each (series of 29). Purchased, VISUAL Carlow and the Artist, 2021. © the artist.


Irish Tree Alphabet (2020) by Katie Holten is a new work that seeks to reconnect us with the natural world.

Responding to the climate and biodiversity emergency, Holten’s series of 29 images draws trees from a list of existing native, as well as non-native, arboreal species that have made a home in Ireland for numerous reasons, including the changing climate.

Recently acquired for the National Collection, this work is rooted in the alphabet of early Irish written language, Ogham, the characters of which were called feda (trees) or nin (forking branches) due to their shape. The artist assigns each letter of the Latin alphabet with a corresponding tree in its Irish form: A = Ailm (Scots pine), B = Beith (birch), B = Coll (hazel), and so forth.

Holten’s tree drawings have also been turned into a font called Irish Trees, which is available as a free download from the website:

Katie Holten (b.1975) is a visual artist and environmental activist based in New York and Ardee, County Louth. For over twenty years Katie Holten has made unconventional works, pushing the boundaries of ecological art. At the root of her practice is a commitment to study the inextricable relationship between Humans and Nature, between organic systems and human-made systems. Drawing, walking, conversations, reading and weeding are her primary research tools. Her works include the major commission, TREE MUSEUM (2009-10), for New York City’s Grand Concourse, and the forthcoming book, ABOUT TREES (2023).

Irish Tree Alphabet (2020) by Katie Holten is featured in BOTANICA: The Art of Plants (Floor 1) until 25 September.

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