Integrating Biology and Botany into the Visual Arts and Vice Versa

As I continue to try to attract other departments within the school into the gallery, I find the perfect exhibition in the form of Hayward Touring exhibition: Karl Blossfeldt | Art Forms in Nature. Staging a concurrent exhibition of the 1958 Plant Delta work of Nigel Henderson (sourced from a private gallery I had previous dealings with in one of my professional incarnations) and using the work of French photographer Evelyne Coutas and iphoneographer Nettie Edwards (who we included in the previous Nomads & Orphans exhibition) – we now can look at the treatment of plants within photography from the late 19th Century to the present day! Reaching out to the science departments who are coincidentally studying seed dispersal, pollination and variation/classification – we have now had over 120 students spend an average of an hour working with the material in the last 4 school days.

The write up went as follows:

BRENTWOOD ROAD GALLERY

In association with The Hayward Gallery and Richard Saltoun Gallery

KARL BLOSSFELDT: ART FORMS IN NATURE (5th Nov – 21st Nov, 2014)

NIGEL HENDERSON | EVELYNE COUTAS | NETTIE EDWARDS

PLANT DELTAS | PLANT MACROS (5th Nov – 20th Dec, 2014)

The forms and structures of plants and the subsequent forms and structures of art (art being in a Kantian and Platonic sense, echoes and shadows of nature itself) are the concepts from which this exhibition grows and twists like the tendrils of one of Blossfeldt’s or Edwards’ photographic subjects.

Examining the use of plants within photography, Brentwood Road Gallery presents a selection of photographic work that spans over three centuries – Karl Blossfeldt from 1890 – 1930s; Nigel Henderson’s work from the 1950s; Evelyne Coutas’ from the late 20th Century to present day and Nettie Edwards’ from 2013 – 2014.

Although these exquisite artists are separated by decades of development and modernisation, they seem to hold a timeless and fervent principle that their artistic practice should not just be an extension of the ego but instead should, in Blossfeldt’s own words, “reawaken a sense of nature” and “point to its teeming richness of form…”

From Blossfeldt’s rigorous documentation of plants, which he enlarged up to a factor of thirty using a homemade camera; to Henderson’s attempt to abstract plant form, evoking, through this abstraction something almost akin to Basquiat’s figuration – screaming figures of questionable intent that worry this curator if taken as a Rorschach test; and then to Evelyne Coutas’ work….

The delicacy and intimacy of these pieces, capturing the life essence, the aura of her leaves, dancing through a spectrum of luscious then piquant colours, all on a textured and sensuous Japanese paper – almost a wiccan craft.

And lastly Nettie Edwards, the first mobile photographer to have her work exhibited at the Fox Talbot Museum. Exploring extending the boundaries of mobile photography through alternative processes, in particular, Anthotypes: by which photographic prints are created with plant matter (resonating with Henderson’s practice in particular), and enlarging her subjects just as Blossfeldt did 120 years ago; simultaneously documenting and experiencing natural forms. Her work also playfully questions the ‘verbs of sight’ – the microcosmia of flowers, largely unseen in everyday (again harking back to the Surrealist interpretation of Blossfeldt’s work as uncovering an “Unknown Universe”) is now open to visual investigation, not to be glanced at or glimpsed at but instead to be embraced within the gaze of the eyes, the coruscated, saturated colours holding our sight. All four of these photographers’ work have been made to and in turn should be viewed under Ezra Pound’s aphorism, being that the “Glance is the enemy of Vision.”

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