Botanical illustrations have a somewhat unfair association with geriatric pastimes and biology textbooks. In a new exhibition at Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery, the Royal Horticultural Society brings a fresh spin on the form by grouping a 200-strong selection of paintings, drawings, and photographs that showcase the diversity of flora.
The product of an open call, works from 34 budding and established international artists depict the networks of roots, petals, leaves, and stems in their abstract forms, but also in highly detailed, scientific cross-sections. Lockdown afforded many the opportunity to tend to their gardens and local green spaces, and the exhibition invites viewers to marvel at the infinite detail found in even the simplest organic forms.
From bold watercolours of tulips, to photographic studies of spindly bonsai trees and cascading foliage, intricately observed lichen, anemones, and fruit, the works on display are testament to the technical brilliance and legacy of art inspired by nature. Fran Black’s series Marram Grass – photographs of grass shooting in wisps from cracked ground in South Africa – exposes the “fragile beauty of these important plants that grow in the harshest environments”, and received a Silver-Gilt medal. Meanwhile Konrad Cox’s spherical panoramas of trees in the New Forest offer a dizzying perspective on the mirror quality of roots and branches.
Scheduled to run parallel with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, hosted in autumn for the first time in its history, the display is a visual boost in a season where the vivid colours of summer begin to fade.
Until October 3, 2021.