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: the flora of Menindee

It’s a while since I wrote anything about the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project that I am involved with.

Very briefly…..I am part of a group of botanic artists who, since 2010 have gone annually to Menindee, a small town in outback new South Wales. We are collecting and then painting the specimens collected by Hermann Beckler, the doctor on the Burke and Wills Expedition, in 1860. Our website will give you a good overview while you can read more about my personal experiences on these posts.

As well as collecting and painting all 120 plants on his list, we have always had the dream of having an exhibition of the Project. Last year (or was it 2016?) we were accepted by the Art Gallery of Ballarat!

Since then we, with a big input from the fabulous staff at the Gallery, have been busy with the tasks needed to get the Exhibition up.

  • 40 paintings have been selected, scanned, mounted and framed
  • 4 cabinets with objects showing our themes of Art, Science, History and Country have been organised
  • Essays have been written for the catalogue, along with artist bios and statements about their plants
  • A slide show and narration (including bird song from the area!) has been produced. It will show in the smaller room off the main room.
  • Our Opening has been organised
  • Publicity is well underway

Now, we are about 5 weeks away from the Opening!!!!

So, if you are in Victoria (Ballarat is only an hour’s train ride from Melbourne ūüėȬ†) organise some friends to come to see the Exhibition. ¬†And if you can’t make it tell a friend who lives a little closer.¬†The cafe in the Gallery is very good too!

Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: the Flora of Menindee

25th February to 27th May 2018

Art Gallery of Ballarat

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Detail of my Menindee plant ~ Cullen australasicum

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An update on the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project

If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.

You can read my posts, which will give you more detail of the Project.

The Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project means many things to me, such as a chance to explore a very unfamiliar environment, an invaluable learning opportunity, a great way to spend time with likeminded artists, as well as being an interesting holiday!

But I know that the Project is much more than that, We have always been aware that it has a place in history. It has brought Dr Beckler’s contribution to Australian plant knowledge to the fore. We collect specimens of the plants to sit alongside Beckler’s in the National Herbarium of Victoria, and each specimen has detailed records of habitat, soil conditions, GPS location and so on. This provides current data on plants that exist in the Menindee Lakes/Kinchega National Park area, data that, when combined with Beckler’s collection, could be very useful for longitudinal studies. It is a great example of how citizen scientists can contribute to scientific knowledge.

As well, it was always our intention to have an exhibition of our paintings. That is happening in February/March/April 2018 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Organisation for that is currently ‘full steam ahead’.

My paintings from the Cullen genus:

And my painting of Pimelea trichostaycha:

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Now I am asking you to consider donating to the Project. All expenses, such as the travel to and accommodation in Menindee and art supplies, have been met by individual artists, something we have been very proud to do. The Gallery is very generously helping us with expenses for the exhibition, including the catalogue, curation and scanning. However, there are some things that we would like to find some extra money for, such as future publications to put the Project in its place in Australian botanical history.

We have set up a crowd funding campaign, that will run for another 50 days. If you would be able to help us, any amount will be appreciated. To find out more jump over to the Australian Cultural Fund page. If you email me at annebags@optusnet.com.au I can send you a PDF of the campaign.

https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/becklers-botanical-bounty-of-menindee/

Thanks for taking the time to think about this.

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I would like to find out more about Anne’s art.

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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

 


 

My painting in the Art of Botanical Illustration

I have already told you that my painting of Cullen pallidum was accepted into the Art of Botanical Art Exhibition. (Don’t know what I am talking about? This post will explain more about my painting.) Today I was able to see it hanging there, amongst world-class botanical art works.

Cullen pallidum, hanging in the Exhibition
Cullen pallidum, hanging in the Exhibition

Do I look happy? And proud? ūüôā

Today I didn’t have time to explore the works properly. I am going back, and then I will¬†tell you more about the other works. However, if you live in Melbourne or nearby, don’t wait for my review. Wander into the Exhibition, but be prepared to be amazed!

The Art of Botanical Illustration

Domain House, Dallas Brooks Drive, Melbourne (Up the Shrine end of the Botanical Gardens)

It finishes on 24 November, 10 – 4 pm weekdays and 10 – 6 pm weekends.

Enjoy!

On to the next thing

Life has been very busy lately.

Not only have I organised my painting for the Exhibition , but I have been organising another exhibition.

You will remember that I am a member of a group of botanical artists who, each year, go up to the small town of Menindee in the arid outback of New South Wales. We go there to collect and paint the plants that Dr Hermann Beckler collected while he was at the supply camp of the Burke and Wills Expedition. You can read more about it here, and you might like to visit our blog becklersbotanicals.blogspot.com

(My Cullen pallidum painting, that I have been raving telling you about in recent posts, was part of that project. But this is a different exhibition.)

The project a fascinating meeting of history, art and science. We have always intended to have an exhibition of our work and this one is a smaller version, a practice run! It is being held up at Menindee. There is a little gallery in the Information Centre and our 30 works should fit in very nicely. We decided to exhibit prints of our originals, which we are donating to the community at the end of the exhibition. They will be there for people to use as they need.

I have had fun doing the work, but it has been a steep learning curve! Fortunately John, the curator up at the gallery, has been holding my hand via emails and phone calls.

For example I had to put together the plant names for the catalogue. Unfortunately it is not enough to just say “daisy” or “saltbush”. The scientific names are needed. Boy, are some of those Latin spellings tricky! Also, botanic convention means that there is a precise way of writing them, italicised in the right way, commas at the right place, capitals and non-capitals, etc.

I have also been talking to media people in Broken Hill, the biggest town in the area. I am not good at ringing up people, especially people I don’t know. Emails, texts, even blogs, no worries; phone calls make me quite anxious. But I did it, and found lovely helpful people at the other end, just like I knew I would.

So, just incase you should happen to be passing through Menindee in September and October drop into the exhibition. If you are in Broken Hill or Mildura, make a detour. And if you can’t be there in person check out our Beckler Blog or wait for me to post some photos here. The details, for those of you lucky enough to be up in that marvellous part of the world, are

BECKLER’S BOTANICAL BOUNTY EXHIBITION
 
Monday 22nd September to Sunday 12th October 2014 (inclusive)
 
Darling River Art Gallery
Menindee Visitor Information Centre
49 Yartla St Menindee
 
Open daily, 10 am to 2 pm

I will leave you with some photos of us collecting and painting over the last few years.