The Exhibition is Open!

Some of you have been following the progress of Beckler’s Botanical Bounty for years, from the first visits to the outback town of Menindee, through my paintings of the plants I found there, to working on things for the Exhibition of our work at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. For those of you who are newer to my blog I will give you a couple of links to bring you up to speed.

A collection of posts about my involvement in the project Beckler’s Botanical Bounty.

The website of out project, which has condensed versions of who we are, what we are doing and who Hermann Beckler was and why he is important.

My newsletter subscribers have seen a little of what I am about to show you in this post. Click here if you would like to get my free, fortnightly newsletter.

Our Opening was Saturday of last week, and I didn’t stop smiling for the whole day!

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I was moved to tears when I first walked into the room of our exhibition. It looked so beautiful! Someone said later that it was like walking into a science book. Another said it was like the environment of the Menindee area ~ you were encouraged to look closer to see the treasures that were hidden in plain sight.

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My first glimpse, and then with lots of people from the Opening…..

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Photos don’t do justice to the paintings. Botanic art requires fine details, often microscopic, to be shown, as these can be the identifying feature. However, the following gallery of photos will give you a taste of what a selection of the 40 paintings are like. (Apologies for the poorly cropped photos.)

But let me be a real show off and give a full photo to my three paintings! (Well, it is my blog!!)

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The Project has had four themes going through it ~ Art, Country, History and Science. We wanted to reflect those themes in the display too. There are four plinths in the centre of the room, each showing artefacts to illustrate the theme.

The actual Opening was great fun. There were about 300 people there, all excited about the Exhibition (but probably not as excited as me!). So many people that our speakers, including Prof. Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria and opening speaker, were just heads above the crowd.

As well as the Welcome to Country we had a Smoking Ceremony that cleansed all who laid a gum leaf on the smouldering fire. I felt very blessed to have been involved.

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The catalogue of the Project had taken a lot of time from a lot of people. It was worth it, because now we have a very elegant record of the Project and the paintings in the Exhibition. They sold like hot cakes at the Opening.

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Over 20 artists have been involved since 2010, the beginning of all of this. There has been a range of artistic abilities but it was always our intention that each artist would have the chance to have at least one painting exhibited, and every exhibiting artist is included in the catalogue. So, let me show off some more and post my spread!

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My biographical piece in the catalogue
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The accompanying image of my painting of Cullen pallidum

And finally…..one of the joys of the Opening was that my Mum was able to be there. (You can spot her in a few of the photos!) And my regret that my Dad wasn’t there. Mum is 91 and has always been my strongest supporter, in everything I have done.  She has followed my travels to Menindee and all my art that has flowed from the trips. Today I opened a card she had sent me, and what she wrote shows you why she is such a special person.

Dear Anne,

What an amazing time we all had last week at Ballarat! How proud we are of you! This has been a great journey for you, and we hope, that whatever art road you choose to travel, you have much enjoyment and adventure.

Who knows where your many talents are going to lead you ~ but you do know that your family is behind you always!

Much, much fond love, dearest Anne

Mum

So, if you are any where near to Ballarat, or know of someone who is, the details are

Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: the Flora of Menindee

at the Art Gallery of Ballarat (the link will give you directions)

on now until May 27th

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Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Exhibition

I am so excited! On Thursday we confirmed that our exhibition for Beckler’s Botanical Bounty is going to be held in February, 2018, at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

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The magnificent foyer of the Art Gallery of Ballarat (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

Let me do a little explaining…..

I am part of a group of botanic artists who are working on a project to collect and paint the specimens collected by Dr. Hermann Beckler on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. To find out more you can head to our website Beckler’s Botanical Bounty, and you may like to read other posts of mine.

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Typical of the Outback habitats we explore for our plants. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

For 6 years we have headed up to Menindee, an hour out of Broken Hill, Outback New South Wales. An exhibition has always been a priority for us and Ballarat was always at the top of our wish list. It is a wonderful, innovative gallery, with a strong interest in botanic and natural history art. Last year we finalised our exhibition proposal and sent it off to the Curator at Ballarat. And that’s where we have ended up!!

I must admit, as I was standing in the room our exhibition will be in, I thought “What have we done? Can we actually pull this off?” And then I thought “Of course we can, because we have a whole swag of supportive and knowledgeable people behind us!”

It seems like a long time away, but we have lots to do. I will certainly keep you informed. For now my first task is to get my painting finished!

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Cullen cinereum, close up of an area, to show the stalks going in front and behind the leaves.

Vignettes — an exhibition pushing the boundaries of botanical art

I always find it interesting to reflect that when I began botanic art workshops I didn’t really like botanic art all that much! I am not sure what drew me to the classes, but something did, and here I stayed. 🙂

I think that explains why I love contemporary botanic art, the sort that pushes the boundaries of the genre, as this exhibition does. It is Vignettes, showing the work of four artists — Amanda Ahmed, Mali Moir, John Pastoriza~Pinol and Sandra Severgnini — and is on at the Ballarat Art Gallery, a gallery that has a strong interest in botanic art.

Top, L to R: Amanda Ahmed, Mali Moir Bottom, L to R: John Pastoriza~Pinol, Sandra Severgnini
Top, L to R: Amanda Ahmed, Mali Moir
Bottom, L to R: John Pastoriza~Pinol, Sandra Severgnini

Vignette, according to the catalogue, has three meanings

1. a decorative design or small illustration

2. a decorative design representing branches, leaves, grapes or the like, as in a manuscript

3. any small, pleasing view

These definitions fit the exhibition so well. Each artist has 12 works and each is 12.5 by 12.5 cms and each image is a small jewel. The artists are all firmly grounded in the botanic art tradition but, as the gallery website says, they

have drawn on their studies in botanical art to create new work that reflects on human frailties and transient concerns.

These artists make reference to the great botanical/natural history painters of the eighteenth century. The exhibition will be an opportunity to marvel that objects from the natural world can be observed with such minute precision, while suggesting themes of a universal nature.

I first met Amanda Ahmed in class. I was fascinated by a project she was working on that was revisiting the plants that Ferdinand Bauer had painted on an expedition with Matthew Flinders. Bauer is one of the greats of botanic art. One of his images is here, while Amanda’s reinterpretations are here.

Most of her images in the exhibition are single dried, twisted leaves, created in graphite pencil. They float down and across the paper creating a sense of movement. Her initial impetus for the work was a book belonging to her great-great-grandfather, Proverbial Philosophy. She took its musings and illustrations as a way to reinterpret botanic art, coming up with her belief that:

botanical illustration occupies a unique postion in terms of visual representation because of its capacity to blur the boundaries between objective recorded information and subjective interpretation.

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Some of Amanda’s art work

 

Mali Moir was my tutor and is now a friend. She is the inspiration for our Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project. Her background is at the scientific end of botanic art and her work on plants for publication in various flora had to be detailed and very precise. She has been the artist in residence on two bio-diversity surveys, one to Wilson Prom and the other to Papua New Guinea. You can read more about both, including photos, on her website. Mali has painted specimens from those expeditions for this exhibition. There are squids and barnacles (who knew how beautiful they are?!) and bird skulls, delicate transparent sea anemones and fantastically detailed but tiny crabs. She has taken the traditions of scientific illustration — exact scale, minute observation of detail, truthful colour — but has gone beyond, in ways such as sometimes leaving her pencil guidelines and notes. All her works are watercolour painted on vellum (animal skin).

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Some of Mali’s work

 

John Pastoriza~Pinol’s work is also painted onto vellum.

Vellum has been used for hundreds of years, just think of the exquisite Medieval illuminated manuscripts. The delight of watercolour paint is that it allows light to move through it. It is why watercolour paintings can have such translucence. Paper is the usual medium for watercolour as the white paper allows the light to reflect back through the paint. However some of the paint is absorbed into the fibres of the paper. Instead of being absorbed into the vellum the paint stays on the surface of the skin. Imagine how this allows the light to bounce back from the surface through the paint, creating vibrant and luminous paintings. (Apparently it also means that you can easily wash off mistakes!)

John has deliberately used vellum for his work and not only for the painterly effect. His subjects are the harbingers of autumn — a chestnut, a maple leaf, acorns, rose hips — and are presented as a timeline from late summer to late autumn. He deliberately chose the vellum skins according to their thickness, with the thinner ones showing youthfulness and the thicker ones showing growing older and ageing. Because as well as his subjects from the natural world he has included tattoos. Look at the image from the Gallery’s website to see how beautifully this unusual combination works.

Some of John's work
Some of John’s work

Sandra Severgnini was the only artist who I had not seen before. I would certainly love to see more of her botanic work. Even though she was working in the small 12 x 12 cm format her work was beautifully composed. One work was the flower bud of a bromeliad, another only part of the large strelitzia flower. The conventional way of painting a pinecone is to put it in the centre of the page or maybe include a section of branch. Sandra did two pinecone paintings. One an immature cone, the other an open, mature one, and both were painted right on the edge of the paper. Another showed a fern frond just beginning to uncurl from the bottom corner of the picture. Her work was like looking through a small window, where you were made to see the patterns and colours and complexity of the subject.

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Some of Sandra’s work

IMG_1446  Vignettes is on until Sunday March 15. The Gallery is open each day from 100:00 to 5:00. Entry is free.

Art Gallery of Ballarat

40 Lydiard St Nth

Ballarat VIC 3350

It is very close to the train station, so easy to get to from Melbourne. And Ballarat is a lovely regional city, with beautiful botanic gardens. Worth a visit to see this stunning exhibition and have a day out as well. 🙂