Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reflections on the RHS Botanical Art Show Autumn 2014

The Botanical Artists selected by the RHS to exhibit at their Autumn Botanical Art Show 2014
- from Bath, Cornwall and Lincolnshire (England)Midlothian (Scotland)Powys (Wales),
and Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, South Africa and the USA (Maine and Florida)

More from the artists and photographers whose work was submitted and selected for last week's Royal Horticultural Society Exhibitions of Botanical Art and Botanical Photography - with a view to winning those all important RHS Medals!

RHS Botanical Photography

I viewed the Botanical Photography first (displayed on the Mezzanine level in the Lawrence Hall for anybody who missed it).  This is always exhibited at one of the RHS exhibitions in October - usually the Autumnal colours rather than the Harvest themed.

Four Gold Medals were won as follows.

GOLD MEDAL: Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria by Laurence Hill 
It's not really bendy - it's just my camera trying to get it all in!
Laurence Hill has an extremely unusual display of Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria. It was very impressive both in terms of scholarship and techniques.

His display played tribute to:

  • shashin - which relates to how images were created as prints and the incredible importance of demonstrating authenticity - of having handled the plant
  • Iinuma Yokusai - a Honzu-Gaku (Herbal doctors) of the late-Edo period who was responsible for the publication of the first botanical book in Japan - the Somoku-dzusetsu (an iconography of herbaceous and woody plants of Japan)
His photographs are printed on rice paper and the format adopted is that of the old wood block prints of plants.
Two of the exhibits in Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria by Laurence Hill 

Laurance has also developed a website - Fritillaria Icones - which serves as a photographic botanical database for all all Fritillaria species. Its purpose is to help with identification, research and conservation of Fritillaria.
RHS Botanical Photography - The Art of Plants by Nigel Chapman
GOLD MEDAL WINNER: The Art of Plants by Nigel Chapman
Nigel Chapman is a regular exhibitor at the show and has won many Gold Medals  (see my previous post about him RHS Gold Medal winning Botanical Photography in 2012). Nigel and I are both interested in photographing patterns in the same sorts of plants which makes viewing his display a very interesting experience for me. You can see his former exhibits at the RHS on his website

RHS Botanical Photography - Past Perfect by Polina Plotnikova GM
GOLD MEDAL WINNER: Past Perfect by Polina Plotnikova
Polina Plotnikova is a Russian born UK-based photographer who now lives in the London Borough of Bromley.  This is the page relating to Polina's previous submissions to this October RHS exhibition.

The fourth Gold Medal was won by Plants (in this instance "Lichens on Flint") by J Cassidy Photography (Cambridgeshire).

RHS Botanical Art

This is a commentary on other interesting aspects of the Botanical Art Show

Medals awarded

The medals were awarded as follows.

Using a black background

The 'classic' background for botanical art is white paper (and all the variations on white that this means!). However a black background can also been found in botanical art history and Julia Trickey's Silver Gilt display was of Parrot Tulips on a black background.

Julia Trickey's display of Parrot Tulips - with a black background

Awarded a Silver Gilt Medal
Here's a photo (below) of Julia showing me that the black goes on last of all!  Adjustments are then required to balance out the colour within the context of the black background.

Julia Trickey with a Parrot Tulip with a black background

- and a digital image on her mobile devise showing the completed watercolour painting
BFORE the black background was added.
Another contemporary botanical artist who also works on black is Susannah Blaxill. As you can see from the work of both artists, the use of a black background can make the colours glow.

Another type of background

Mangoes by Hillary Parker

Awarded a Silver Gilt Medal

I was very impressed with Hillary Parker ASBA's Mangoes. The background is a very subtle monochrome map which illustrates where in the world each mango was found. I love the fact you do not notice the map until up close and that the delineation did not distract from the main subject.

The geography of botany is something which is not often highlighted and it was a refreshing change to see this particular aspect of each plant highlighted in this way. I gather the Judges also liked it!

The international aspect

Every RHS Botanical Art show I turn up to I'm very impressed with the number of artists who have submitted from overseas - and been accepted - and then travelled to the show.

That's a major commitment and expense - but just imagine having to get all your labels and subject narratives done in a language which wasn't your first language!

This is Hae Kyung Kim from Korea and her exhibit of Stories of Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) - The Eternal Flower of Korea

Stories of Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) - The Eternal Flower of Korea by Hae Kyung Kimawarded a Silver Medal

The display

I do hope those organising the show will try in future to allocate stand panels so that it's possible to see the complete display easily.

I felt it was really unfair to those who were on the outside edges of the right angled stand as it was completely impossible to appreciate all the exhibit at once. That's very sad also for the visitors when two of the exhibitors affected were both winners of Gold Medals!

I think this is the first show I've been to where this aspect has been so poor.

I guess the saving grace is it wasn't as bad as the Spring Show where the artists were really crowded and viewing and movement was very difficult for visitors. Plus the artist who won the best overall display was stuck in a very dim spot!

I'm absolutely sure it's not beyond the wisdom and capacity of the exhibition organisers to ensure that, at all future shows, the layout of ALL the stand panels will ensure:
  • the botanical artists have enough space for their exhibit so that people can view their work properly
  • every exhibit can be easily seen in its entirety.

More about Botanical art

You can find more resources about Botanical Art in my resources for artists websites:
  • Botanical Art - Resources for Artists [UPDATE: Now Botanical Art and Artists - This site shares information about botanical art - societies, collections, books and other resources which support the development of botanical art. It also links to leading botanical artists in the past and present..
  • [Link UPDATEThe Best Botanical Art Instruction Books Learn about the best botanical art instruction books.
  • The Best Books about Botanical Artists & Illustrators If you love botanical art and want to know more about some of the important the artists - in the past and present - who have created botanical art and illustration
  • [Link UPDATEBotany for Botanical Artists Did you know that RHS Gold Medal winning artists often have a very strong botanical theme to their artwork?
  • [Link UPDATEA History of Botanical Art This site focuses on the development of botanical art and botanical illustration. 

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