Nature on Paper: Capturing Flora

Last month, I was invited to view the latest special exhibition; Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Of course, after the gallery’s impressive exhibition last year, the boys and I decided to take a little day-trip to have a look at this latest collection.

It was a beautiful exhibition in an equally beautiful gallery…

The exhibition Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will take visitors through a historical journey of how Australia’s amazing and diverse flora have been recorded, interpreted and popularized by botanical artists from William Dampier and the early explorers to the present day.

The very first thing that came to mind as I wandered around the huge collection of botanical art currently being housed at the gallery, is that this form of art demonstrates the most incredible melding of art and science. I can’t think of another example of art being used so expertly as part of a scientific craft. The work is meticulous, finely crafted and emotive all at once.

Over decades and generations, the practice of botanical art has changed in practice and product, and this exhibition does what no other has done before. It explores the evolution of Australian botanical art over the centuries as well as highlighting the differences in emphasis and technique between botanical artists.

It demonstrates a kind of illustrative dissection, showing with amazing detail the miracles of nature… in the seed, the petal, the leaves of some of Australia’s most iconic plants; Banksias, Wattles, Kangaroo Paws and Gums.

Through it’s historical content the exhibition communicates well the attitudes of these dedicated artists toward their craft and towards the flowers and plants which they paint…

I have never been guilty of curving a stem on my paper… or of magnifying a flower for gay effect – Louisa Anne Meredith, b. 1812

I thoroughly enjoyed Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art and I think gardeners would love it even more than I did. It is both a history lesson, a botany lesson and a fantastic experience of a highly specialised and beautifully crafted art form.

Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will run until Sunday, 2 December 2012 at Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat. Admission is just $12, Concession $8, and Child and Gallery Members get in free.

For more information, visit the gallery’s website here.

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