Basil Man/Pagan



In February 1993 ISN'T GALLERY asked me to make a work for an exhibition.

Exhibit A: all the evidence you need/all evidence presented.

I made a pendant, a simple oval sheet of aluminium with the word Pagan impressed onto the surface. The pendant/chain was hung around the 'neck' of a life size figure constructed from sprigs of fresh basil tied onto a wire frame. The 'basil man' wearing the pagan necklace hung on the wall, the fragrance pervaded the gallery and was subtly perceived well before you saw the object. Over the next two weeks the basil dried and became brown. During the exhibition the pendant was stolen from the basil man.

My work as a commission jeweller is intimately connected to ritual - the objects I make are so often the material marker of a rite of passage. These 'knots' in the development of a life span are of interest to me, I perceive them as being charged with a certain energy. In particular I am interested in how we negotiate these transitions at this end of the century, a time when many people feel impelled to replace existing modes of ritual expression.


Pagan - a word that conjures up ancient religious culture, has a renewed contemporary meaning. Paganism as an ecological spirituality rather than a quest for enlightenment is an attempt to restore our sense of the sacred in everyday life.

Basil - an aromatic herb with apotropaic qualities. Often associated with weddings and funerals in other cultures (Indian, Greek) One variety, Sacred Basil, is worshipped in Hindu polytheistic tradition - where it is planted around shrines and temples. This plant is amongst those that give off the most oxygen.

Barbara Heath


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1997-2001 Barbara Heath