RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show 2023 at the Saatchi Gallery
For the third year in a row, the Royal Horticultural Society returns to the Saatchi Gallery to showcase new work from leading botanical artists and photographers across three galleries. For over 100 years the RHS has been the authority on botanical art (in a pleasing case of nominative determinism, the current director of the RHS is called Keith Weed). The entries here contain at least six artworks built around a theme of the artists’ choosing and are judged on scientific accuracy, technical skill and aesthetic appeal, with artists and photographers awarded RHS gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze medals, as well as a series of special awards including Best Botanical Art Exhibit and Judges’ Special Award. .
Artists from the UK, Korea, Japan, Australia and Scandinavia, amongst others, present a diverse range of flora, from pomelo fruits to lichen to ferns to seaweed and more. The art is meticulous, mostly done in coloured pencil and watercolour, and the love for the natural world really shines through in the attention and care in the detail captured. Some artists delightfully describe their work as “portraits”.
Jacqui Gilleland’s day-glo depictions of eye-catching Australian eucalypts are just that: glorious puffs of pinky-orange shaded plants that stand out. Asuka Hishiki’s watercolour captures the strange Buddha’s Hand plant. Scandinavian berries are shown in cross section, and seaweed is made to look more glamorous than it usually does in real life.
In the photography section Konrad Cox’s Forest Portals are spherical panoramas of the New Forest created by joining multiple photographs of the same setting, to make “immersive, hypnotic and often surreal” images (according to Cox). He describes his process as like “tuning an old radio, first making large movements to tune into the frequency and then making increasingly fine adjustments until the signal is strongest” – which is a great description of the artistic process.
It is a lovely exhibition, specialist in its scope but meditative in its detailed observance of the natural world. In a way, perhaps the best homage one could pay to the flora that sustains us is to pay attention to it.
RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show 2023 is at the Saatchi Gallery from 16th June until 6th July 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.