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RHS Brings World-Class Botanical Art and Photography to Saatchi Gallery

World-renowned botanical art and photography has been brought together this summer in one fabulous Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Show at the Saatchi Gallery, London.


The RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show, taking place from 14th June to 7th July 2024, exhibits exquisite botanical art and photography featuring a rich variety of subjects from medicinal desert flowers to ornamental bananas, and from images of forest slime moulds to urban street plants.


It showcases the work of 22 leading global botanical artists and 18 photographers, representing countries including the UK, Italy, Portugal, Romania, USA, South Africa, Taiwan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Japan. This year’s show welcomes back previous medal winners while more than half are exhibiting their work in the show for the first time.


Review by Emma van Klaveren, Sarah Gardner and Elanor Wexler, ABA Committee Members

 

Botanical Art Show


In the 2024 show, a diverse range of subjects and themes are presented. Several explore the impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions on native species such as Sarracenia oreophila var. ornata in the USA, Australia’s Banksia serrata, and the endangered Aster danyangensis of Korea.


All botanical art entries were reviewed by an expert judging panel during the pre-selection process, prior to the show opening in June, and were assessed on aesthetic appeal, scientific accuracy and technical skill.


Congratulations to all of the exhibitors at the 2024 show. A full list of exhibitors and medal winners can be found here: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-london-shows/rhs-botanical-art-and-photography-show/botanical-art-entries-2024


Out of the 22 exhibiting artists, we would like to highlight our four ABA exhibiting artists who all won medals! Emma van Klaveren and Sarah Gardner attended the press preview of the show on behalf of ABA and were able to see their work in person:


 

Annie Chen “Woody Plants in the Amazon Rainforest”

RHS Silver Gilt Medal 2022, RHS Silver Medal 2024

@anniebotanicalart

Annie Chen; Woody Plants in the Amazon Rainforest
Annie Chen; Woody Plants in the Amazon Rainforest

Annie lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. She says “I have been illustrating plants in the Amazon Rainforest since my trip there in 2015. Following my studies of orchids and bromeliads, this is my third series and shows woody plants. Woody plants play the backbone role of the ecological families in the rainforest, carrying the operation of multi-layer ecology. The focus of my research is on the growth

pattern, including trunk growth, leaf expansion and even flowering appearance. My research methods include field notes, sketches and photos taken during the trip, as well as desk research and confirmation with experts. I also collected and planted some of these plants.”


Emma was stopped in her tracks by the complexity of these paintings, the dense composition conveys the vegetation of a rainforest. The artist specified the asymmetric hanging of her paintings.


 

Toni Dade “Magnolia grandiflora: From Bud to Desiccated Seedpod”

RHS Gold Medal 2021, RHS Gold Medal 2024

@tonimariald

Toni Dade “Magnolia grandiflora: From Bud to Desiccated Seedpod”;
Toni Dade; Magnolia grandiflora: From Bud to Desiccated Seedpod

Emma first met Toni in Portugal, at one of her exhibitions in 2022. Toni is fortunate to live somewhere full of the most glorious plants and the magnolia is one of them. She lives and works in Sao Bartolomeu de Messines, in the south of the country. She says “Over many seasons I have witnessed the transformation from bud to flower and then seedpod of the beautiful Magnolia grandiflora. I was especially interested in the metamorphosis of the seedpod during their maturation. This progression was the catalyst that inspired this project. After many failed attempts at getting a magnolia flower that remained in a stable condition long enough to paint, one morning I awoke to the most beautiful scent and the flower you see here. I would like to express my gratitude to the late Gren Lucas, OBE, FLS for his wise counsel.”


Emma has been following the progress of the seedpods on Instagram with great interest and saw two of them in real life in the SBA exhibition last summer when they won the St.Cuthbert’s Mill Award. It was wonderful to see the full compliment of the six pieces this summer. The bold colour and confident composition of this body of work contrasts starkly with the minute detail close up; the photos don’t do them justice! I also appreciated the traditional arrangement of the bloom and it’s dissections alongside the more contemporary positioning of the five seedpods.


 

Amelia Grass; "Overlooked: Wildflowers in the restored meadows of Glyntaff"'

RHS Gold Medal 2024 - First time exhibitor

@grass_illustrations


Dr Amelia Grass (PhD) is a senior lecturer in Natural History at the University of South Wales / Prifysgol De Cymru, specialising in the taxonomy of species and wildlife conservation.


On graduating from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Diploma Course in Botanical Illustration in 2022, Amelia received the Lizzie Sanders Award for excellence for her project ‘Wildflowers of Glyntaff’. This work formed the basis for the collection of botanical artwork that Amelia submitted to the RHS Show this year.

Amelia Grass; Overlooked: Wildflowers in the restored meadows of Glyntaff
Amelia Grass; Overlooked: Wildflowers in the restored meadows of Glyntaff

Sarah was drawn to the fine details in Amelia's work. Her watercolour illustration of Fox and Cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, demonstrates exquisite brush control, describing each tiny black hair (or trichome) along the flower stem and surrounding the buds. The complex tripinnate leaves of her Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, showcase the incredible precision required to produce gold medal-winning artwork. Additionally, the violets, blues and pinks picked out in the flower enlargements of her Viper’s Bugloss, Echium vulgare, are a sheer joy for any botanical watercolourist to ponder upon. 


About her project Amelia wrote: ‘I have a keen interest in British wildflowers and wildlife which has a strong influence on my illustration projects… The project was designed to examine in detail some of the native wildflower species found on the restored meadows of the Glyntaff campus at the University of South Wales. The species illustrated are some of those which are found relatively widely across the UK but are largely ignored or undervalued by the public. My work aims to highlight the beauty and complexity of these species which are vital components of our wildflower meadow ecosystems.’


 

Linda Pitkin; "Native British Woodland Wildflowers"

RHS Gold Medal 2019, RHS Silver Medal 2024

@lindapitkin12


Linda’s lifelong passion for the living world has been explored through both art and science. She pursued a long career in insect taxonomy at the Natural History Museum in London, while also achieving success as an underwater wildlife photographer. Her interests extended to botany, and she took up botanical Illustration in 2007, studying with local artist Leigh Ann Gale.


Linda Pitkin; Native British Woodland Wildflowers
Linda Pitkin; Native British Woodland Wildflowers

Linda kindly spoke with Sarah at the press preview, where she told us that her collection for this show took her several years to produce. She meticulously researched the plants, taking care to find examples of true native species which are indicators of ancient woodland and which had not cross-bred with garden varieties.


Her watercolour illustration of Lords-and-Ladies, Arum maculatum, captures the delightful sheen of the poisonous red berries, the translucency of the pale green spathe surrounding the inflorescence and the undulating nature of the arrowhead leaves beautifully. Her delicate use of mauves to define the tones and venation of the petals and sepals of the Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima are also a treat to study. 


Linda’s botanical art and photographic work, including her Gold Medal winning exhibit ‘British Native Aquatic and Waterside Plants’ from the RHS Botanical Art Show 2019, can be viewed at her website (listed above).


 

Photography Show


Elanor Wexler visited the show on the opening night and took the opportunity to look at the photography entries. The work on display had to be a “body of work based on a series of six images that have a cohesive theme within the spectrum of gardens, gardeners, wildlife in gardens and plants.” https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/pdf/rhs-london-shows/2024/photographers-guide-2024.pdf .

This wide ranging theme led to a fascinating range of approaches from some very talented photographers.


Barry Webb; The Unseen World of Slime Moulds
Barry Webb; The Unseen World of Slime Moulds

Personally, Elanor was drawn to the amazing macro photography on display, for example “The Unseen World of Slime Moulds” by Barry Webb. These images give us a different perspective on nature that is around us but too small for us to see in detail.


Sheena Rogers also explored this fascinating, microscopic world by focussing on close up images of Hebridean Lichens.


John Shepherd; Images from the Species Malus domestica,
John Shepherd; Images from the Species Malus domestica

Several artists presented work that took the style of botanical plates or focussed on particular species, for example John Shepherd's series covering images from the Species Malus domestica, and Anne Macintyre’s ethereal images entitled “Anemones Behind the Scenes”, in which she used backlighting to show the structure of these delicate flowers.





The favourites with the judges were all series of photography showing images of gardens, with the "Best Portfolio Photography Exhibit" going to Andrea Jones for “Gardens Illuminated”. Andrea really captured the magical qualities of light and texture in different scenes from around the world in these images.


Andrea Jones; Gardens Illuminated
Andrea Jones; Gardens Illuminated

All of the exhibitors can be found on this site with further links to their own websites, but do try to go and see their work in situ at the Saatchi if you are able to. https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-london-shows/rhs-botanical-art-and-photography-show/photography-entrants-2024 


 

The RHS are running the following competitions/awards which may be of interest:

The Plant Review Artist in Residence

The RHS are running "The Plant Review Artist in Residence competition" which gives you the chance of having your work featured in their magazines:


"Entrants are asked to submit a picture of a named plant of their choice in any medium and any style. The winning picture will appear in the December issues of The Plant Review  andThe Gardenmagazine. The winner will get a commission worth £1,000 to illustrate the frontispiece for all four issues of The Plant Review  published in 2025 (subjects chosen by the editor, deadlines 1 February, 1 May, 1 August, 1 November). Plus, free copies of the issues in which their artwork appears."


More details including how to enter can be found here: https://www.rhs.org.uk/competitions/artist-in-residence-competition


People's Choice Award

The public are able to vote for their favourite exhibit at the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show. This is called "The People’s Choice award" and will run from 6.30pm 13th June until 9pm on 25th June, winners will be announced on Wednesday 26th June. You will see this promoted at the show if you visit. If you wish to participate, please use the QR code to vote.


Website for the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show 2024



 

 

 

 


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