Almost Nothing But Blue Ground
Tom Pope and Matthew Benington
8 - 19 April 2024

Opening, with Performative lecture
5 April, 18:30
Free entry
Exhibition dates
8 - 19 April
Tuesday - Saturday
11:00 - 17:00
Cyanotype Workshop, 6 April, 10am - 2pm
Performative lectures, 13 April, 2 & 5pm

Initially developed at FormaHQ, Tom Pope and Matthew Benington’s performative lectures return to the space, this time accompanied by an exhibition of archival material, objects and collaboratively made cyanotype prints. Almost Nothing But Blue Ground interrogates the Victorian fern craze, land ownership, capitalism, and the colonial project, through the lens of pioneering Victorian photographer and botanist Anna Atkins.

Anna Atkins, who was both a pivotal figure in the history of British photography and a direct and indirect beneficiary of colonial exploitation, produced the first book that used photographic illustrations, ‘British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions’ in 1843. Almost Nothing But Blue Ground focuses specifically on Atkins’ later book ‘Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns’, which was created collaboratively with Anne Dixon in 1853. Many of the ferns included in the book were from Jamaica - testifying to the fact that Atkins’ husband and father-in-law jointly owned at least eight plantations and thousands of slaves in Jamaica.

Almost Nothing But Blue Ground uses research, socially engaged strategies of making and dialogic modes to explore the links between botany and the plundering of foreign lands. The exhibition presents archival material, objects and collectively made cyanotypes, which are activated as illustrative exhibits in a series of performative lectures. Many of the exhibited materials were collected during a performative week-long walk that Pope and Benington conducted in 2021, when they travelled on foot from Atkins' house in Tonbridge to Dixon's in Ferring. On the journey, Pope and Benington dragged a trolley that carried photographic darkroom equipment and served as a table for them to create, socialise, and discuss the impetus of the project with people they met along the way.


Performative Lectures
13 April, 14:00 & 17:00
45 minute performative lecture with 25 minute discussion

Featuring post lecture conversations with guests Richard Court, artist and resident gardener at Forma’s Peveril Gardens and John Hunnex, Curator of British and Irish Herbarium at The Natural History Museum, respectively.

Free entry. Capacity is limited so booking is essential. RSVP does not guarantee entry. We recommend arriving early to secure a space.


Cyanotype Workshop
6 April, 10:00 - 14:00

Hosted by the artists, this workshop will cover themes such as the restorative potential of the garden, the life and work of Anna Atkins, the cyanotype process, Sir John Herschel, the transatlantic slave trade, colonial botany, ideas around the decolonisation of museum collections, public access to land, and the Victorian fern craze. The workshop will take place in Forma’s rooftop oasis, Peveril Gardens.

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Print Edition
The Brick, 2024 (Edition of 15)
Shipping from 5 April 2024.

Preorder now


Visit the FormaHQ website here for more information on this exhibition. 

You can visit Tom's website and Instagram here to find out more about his work. 


Photo credit: Kett’s Oak A1243, Cyanotype, 594 x 420mm, 2021, Tom Pope and Matthew Benington

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