5 January 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

An eternal promise of renewal

I love flowers - their shapes, smells and colours. I love the way they open to the sun and grow towards the sky. I like the way they announce the spring and celebrate the summer. I like garden flowers and wild flowers and pictures of flowers.  Claude Monet said that perhaps he owed having become a painter to flowers.

I was reminded of all this on a visit to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth. Their exhibition “Flora and Fauna” (from 23 October 2010 to 9 January 2011) displayed a range of South African works of art depicting flowers.

Of course art inspired by flowers forms part of long tradition. From ‘Vanitas’ paintings which link the transience of flowers to mortality - to precise scientific renderings of the minute details of a flower’s physiology - artists have been painting flowers for centuries.

Among my favorites in this particular exhibition were “Desert Plants” by Walter Battis, “Buckland’s Afternoon” by Noel Hodnett, a Gladys Mgudlandlu landscape, Douglas Goode’s “Modjadji and Friend” from the portfolio ‘Flowers as Images’ and Carla da Cruz’s “Growth” in glazed earthenware.

Of course there are plenty of plants and flowers to inspire South African artists, whether it is for botanical illustration, or something more expressive - or a combination of the two.

We have the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world. Some 18 000 species of vascular plant (plants with vessels for bearing sap)  occur within South Africa’s boundaries and 80% of these occur nowhere else in the world - so plenty to paint, photograph, sculpt and sketch.

We even have our own Botanical Art Biennale at the Kristenbosch National Botanical Garden. The next one takes place in 2012. You can find out more about it from the Botanical Arts Association of South Africa.

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

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