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Irish botanical art at the National Gallery of Ireland this Spring

Free exhibition Drawn from Nature opens on 7 March 2020

Drawn from Nature: Irish Botanical Art opens at the National Gallery of Ireland on 7 March 2020 and runs until 21 June 2020. Admission is free.

Pioneering Irish artists are at the heart of the National Gallery of Ireland’s new free exhibition Drawn from Nature: Irish Botanical Art. From William Kilburn to Lady Edith Blake, the exhibition celebrates artists who made significant contributions to art, science, and our understanding of the natural world.

Curated by Patricia Butler (Guest Curator), assisted by Janet McLean (National Gallery of Ireland), Drawn from Nature features art spanning almost 300 years, from the 1720s to 2019. Contemporary artists include ISBA members Mary Dillon, Shevaun Doherty, Deborah Lambkin, Siobhán M. Larkin, Margareta Pertl, Yanny Petters, Susan Sex, Jane Stark, Lynn Stringer and Holly Somerville.

A volume of designs by William Kilburn (1745-1818) will be on display for the first time in Ireland as part of the exhibition. One of the most eminent calico printers of the 18th century, Kilburn was born on Capel Street in Dublin and later settled in London.

Works by painter and geologist George Victor du Noyer (1817-1869) will also be on display, including studies of mushrooms and apples which he documented for the Ordinance Survey and the Geological Survey.

painting of apples by George Du Noyer

George Victor Du Noyer (1817-1869)
Engl. King. King. Musk. Turnip. Black annat. Winter Rose, 1837
Courtesy of the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

Over 15 women artists are highlighted in the exhibition, including Ellen Hutchins, known as Ireland’s first female botanist. Hutchins discovered many seaweeds and mosses before her death in Cork at the age of 29.

Many of the drawings, watercolours, prints, and books will be on display for the first time at the National Gallery of Ireland during the exhibition. Works from public and private collections include selections from the National Botanic Gardens (Glasnevin), National Museums Northern Ireland, Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) and the V&A (London).

Janet McLean of the National Gallery of Ireland commented:

While many Irish botanical artists ventured across the world, others barely stepped beyond their townlands. This exhibition highlights how they are bonded by a common curiosity in nature and a compulsion to record it.

It celebrates centuries of looking closely, drawing carefully, and treasuring the complex beauty of plants.

Guest curator Patricia Butler, author of Irish Botanical Illustrators & Flower Painters, on which this exhibition is based, commented:

There is currently a vigorous revival of interest in botanical art worldwide and this exhibition pays tribute to the extensive and distinctive Irish contribution to the area. I hope that visitors to the Print Gallery in the National Gallery of Ireland will enjoy exploring the work of over 30 artists ranging from the relatively unknown to the widely acclaimed.

See nationalgallery.ie for more details and check our calendar of events on this website for two interesting talks related to the exhibition: Talk & Tea: Irish Botanical Art and Irish Contributions to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Éireannach – Judging in January

Our judges are meeting on 29 January to assess all the submitted paintings, which are being safely stored in the Library of the National Botanic Gardens. The judges will decide which paintings will hang in the exhibition that takes place from 5 to 27 May in the National Botanic Gardens. As well as paintings for the exhibition, the judges will choose paintings for a digital slideshow which will be seen at other botanical art exhibitions all around the world.  Many countries are taking part in Botanical Art Worldwide and we will be seeing some of their paintings at our own exhibition via the digital slideshow. Artists will be notified as soon as possible after the judges make their decisions.

We will produce a high-quality catalogue to accompany the exhibition and this is already in process.  We hope to find sponsorship for the book. The exhibition will open with a wine reception on 5 May; we are awaiting confirmation of our guest speaker to open the show: watch this space! On 18 May, which is the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art, we will hold an open day and we encourage everyone to bring along family and friends and to spread the word.  Zoe Devlin has kindly agreed to guide a wildflower tour of the paintings. The exhibition closes on 26 May and we’ll be taking down the paintings on 27 May. For more details, see our Éireannach project page.

A busy autumn for ISBA artists

It has been a busy autumn for some of our members! Here’s a quick round-up of what’s been happening:

Botanical artists from around the world gathered in Pittsburgh in October for the Annual Meeting and Conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists. The event coincides this year with the 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration at the prestigious Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. We are delighted and proud that Ligularia dentata by ISBA artist and committee member Siobhán Larkin was selected for this important exhibition and we congratulate her.

Ligularia dentata by Siobhan Larkin

Ligularia dentata by Siobhán Larkin. (Photo: Shevaun Doherty)

Siobhán works in coloured pencil and watercolour, and recently won an award at the Irish Watercolour Society exhibition in Dublin.  Another ISBA artist, Shevaun Doherty, is among the artists invited to the ASBA Conference to demonstrate ‘Mastering Beautiful Bloom on Fruit in Watercolour’. Mary Dillon is also attending and spreading the word about botanical art in Ireland. Thanks to Shevaun and Mary for sending us photos.

hunt

Siobhan’s work on display at the Hunt Exhibition. (Photo: Mary Dillon)

Teasel_Petters

Teasel for finches, November by Yanny Petters

Congratulations also to ISBA member Yanny Petters whose Teasel for finches, November will join the prestigious art collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood at the Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew, London. The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first gallery in the world dedicated solely to botanical art. This painting is part of Yanny’s very successful solo exhibition–“Come with me, I’ll show you something beautiful” / “Komm mit mir, Ich zeig’ Dir ‘was Schönes”–at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin, featuring her exquisite Verre Églomisé paintings. The exhibition continues until 6 November, so if you are in Dublin, do make a point of viewing the exhibition. You can see photos from the exhibition opening on Yanny’s Facebook page @YannyPettersBotanicalArtist

Another ISBA member, Ida Mitrani, is one of the artists whose work features in the Lines of Negotiation exhibition in the Lexicon in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, running until 05 November. Congratulations to Ida, whose work Totality was bought by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Arts Office for their public collection.

Totality by Ida Mitrani

Totality by Ida Mitrani

The second Art in the Garden exhibition took place in October (9th to 16th) in Tourin House, Co. Waterford (the first of these exhibitions was held in the National Botanic Gardens in 2014, featuring art work based on the Kilmacurragh Gardens).  Close to thirty artists had work in the exhibition, in various media; almost a third of the artists were ISBA members. The exhibition was opened by Patricia Butler, Art Historian (who wrote the forward for our own Aibítir catalogue). Well done to all!

Hip Operation

So, the nights are drawing in … next week the ISBA will meet to see how the ‘Hot Petals’ challenge (set by Holly Somerville earlier in the summer) worked out and also to set a new challenge for the coming months. But as the weather cools and the evenings close in, what’s a botanical artist to do for inspiration?

Arum maculatum berries by Jane Stark

Arum maculatum berries by Jane Stark

The flowers of summer may be gone, but the Anemones and Michaelmas daisies are blooming still in our gardens, providing plenty of challenge for those who want to try their hand at the paler end of the spectrum or especially the  whites and botanical greys (if you choose Anemone japonica ‘Honorine Jobert’ for example).

The flowering heads of the ornamental grasses (Miscanthus spp., Molinia caerula and lots more) are shimmering in the autumn light – not easy, but very graceful subjects.

But if working in colour is your thing, or the ‘Hot Petals’ challenge has left you wanting to do more with intense colours, then remember that Autumn is harvest time! And so many of the hips and haws and seeds ripening now will provide plenty of delightful subjects for those with a need to wield paint or pencil as the season changes. So get out there with eyes wide open and your sketchbook at the ready.

You might discover the bright orange berries of Arum maculatum (Cuckoo pint) under the trees of your local woodland as Jane Stark did earlier this month.

Or if you’re in the mood for some foraging, you’ll be checking the hedgerows for brambles: you can always paint the blackberries at all stages of ripeness before you go on to eat them in delicious crumbles or jams. Here’s what Yanny Petters did with hers:

BLACKBERRY2_web

Bramble/Blackberry/Rubus fruticosa by Yanny Petters

conker_isba

‘Conker’ (Aesculus hippocastanum) sketch by Fionnuala Broughan

You could always head out with your children (or borrow someone else’s!) to collect conkers and practise textures: the spiny, sometimes mottled case providing one challenge, the shiny chestnut inside another. This year seems to a be a great one for beech masts and again the spiny cases with their contrasting velvety lining are a good textural challenge! You can always reward yourself after a good drawing with the little triangular nuts inside.

But what artist wouldn’t love to get their hands on the rose hips, the haws and the rowan berries that make our hedgerows glow with vermilion and scarlet and garnet.

Rosa_glauca_hips

The intense red hips of Rosa glauca contrast nicely with the glaucous foliage. (Photo by Bernard van Giessen)

 

 

There probably aren’t too many practising artists reading this who haven’t taken up their brushes to capture the intense reds, satiny textures and gorgeous shapes of rose hips. But some of you might like to try rendering them in a medium you haven’t tried for a while. For those of you who work in watercolour who’d like a change in pace, or for those (like me)  just starting out, here’s a tutorial (in English) by Dutch artist Sigrid Frensen on how to draw rose hips in coloured pencil.

 

 

And finally–and always–there’s composition, when you move from the freedom of your sketch book to the rigour (and terror, for some) of the Blank White Page. Here’s an exquisite and inspiring gathering of rose hips, holly berries, sloes and haws by Holly Somerville:

Autumn fruits by Holly Somerville

An autumnal gathering – hips, haws, holly berries and sloes – by Holly Somerville

Whatever challenge you set yourself–colour, texture, new medium, composition–enjoy the work, and who knows, it might well tie in with the next ISBA project: you’ll hear more about this at next Thursday’s meeting if you’re there, or afterwards by email. Do tell us in the Comments section below how you’re getting on. Comments have to be approved (trying to keep the spammers at bay) so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up straight away.

Thanks to Jane Stark, Yanny Petters, Bernard van Giessen and Holly Somerville for their contributions, and to Sigrid Frensen for the link to her tutorial.

Getting your work out there (PR by another name)

This week’s blog is written by Yanny Petters, who has just heard that two of her works (Wild Strawberry and Floral Alchemy) have been selected for the Art of the State Exhibition 2013 ‘Encounters’,  the latest in a series of annual joint art exhibitions organised by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) in Northern Ireland and the OPW in the Republic of Ireland.  The exhibition will tour Ireland by travelling to four destinations, two in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic. Destinations this year will be Derry, (City of Culture 2013), Lisburn, Cork and Limerick.

I was asked to write a blog on the subject of PR, and I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on the subject to cover a time when the methods of getting our art work noticed are changing almost by the day.

Really what I can offer is just my experience from my starting out as an artist in the early 1990s when everything still went by ‘snail mail’, to the present day when facebook and twitter are the norm.

Starting out
When I realised that I wanted to work as a professional artist I was working on a Community Employment (CE) scheme at Signal Arts Centre in Bray where I learnt a lot about PR in the sense that I had to deal directly with people visiting the gallery as well as doing community work.
Presentation was all-important, as it still is of course, so having a striking image was essential, but there were other elements which continue to be vital, and one of most important of these is: making connections.

The press
Firstly, to get the press to take notice you need to think about what the various newspapers or magazines are looking for. This usually includes the mention of ‘local celebrities’, politicians and photo opportunities. A carefully drafted press release is vital and should include lots of catchy words, describing the ‘not to be missed’ event. There are good guidelines on the web for press releases. It’s also useful to be able to drop a few ‘important’ names, mention awards, celebrities, sex if possible … in other words all the things that sell papers! And remember: personal stories are popular.

The publication dates of the papers/media outlets you’re targeting need to be established as well as a contact person. Many’s the beautiful press package was sent to The Editor only to be ‘lost’ because it wasn’t sent to the right name. So, the research is important, as is following up after you’ve sent the information (by whatever media) with a phone call: this is key to getting things noticed.

All media are constantly being bombarded with information, all clamouring to get published, and my experience is that it takes time to build a relationship with a publication to get a look in.
Some will only give you editorial space if you also advertise for instance!

The images
At all times the image supplied is vital, that it is strong in colour and structure. Local papers prefer pictures of people, so the artist hanging the exhibition would be more likely to be published than a painting. Asking them to send their photographer sometimes works. And with newer media now, perhaps we need to design ways of being visually irresistible even when seen on the little smartphone screen.

Stay connected!
More than the published media I found that collecting names of people interested in my work over the past 18 years has been extremely important. While they support my exhibitions and buy my work they also spread the word. I have found too that by printing greetings cards and calendars and by teaching I have been able to extend the list and also keep my name out there.
I think it is still very important to keep personal contact with the publications: if you have a friend or family member who works in the Irish Times or the Irish Arts Review, don’t fall out with them, whatever you do!

Online…
Newer media such as facebook and the web have of course helped hugely. While the artist is competing all the time for attention, if you’re inventive with how you use the web, the information can circulate rapidly. I am lucky enough to have an agent who is very good at all that stuff which frees me up to paint! I also have a media-savvy husband who is in charge of my web site and facebook page (lucky me!).

I expect the way forward is mainly through the internet so the thing is to find eye-catching ways to present yourself. The average punter’s attention span is quite short, so we need to get noticed, and be seen regularly, to stay in people’s minds.

Good luck to the ISBA. This wonderful dynamic group should have the media sitting up with their ears pricked!

Wild Strawberries by Yanny Petters

Wild Strawberry by Yanny Petters (image copyright Yanny Petters 2013)

Floral Alchemy by Yanny Petters

Self Heal by Yanny Petters (image copyright Yanny Petters 2013)

Yanny Petters Floral Alchemy Exhibition

"Taraxacum

Taraxacum officinale ~ Dandelion
Verre Églomisé/painting on glass 42cm x 39cm

“My work is inspired by the minutiae of nature. I explore the detail, colour and form within the realm of nature and the environment. My wish is to share with the viewer my fascination with the beautiful and bizarre, in a world which we all too easily take for granted.”             Yanny Petters

Yanny Petters’  Verre Églomisé panels are beautifully crafted and exquisitely rendered, drawing attention to those humble plants that most of us consider to be weeds. She says,

Vicia sepium ~ Bush Vetch painting & gilding on glass  Verre Églomisé   42cm x 39cm

Vicia sepium ~ Bush Vetch
painting & gilding on glass Verre Églomisé 42cm x 39cm

“Wild plants are an essential part of the symbiosis of the earth, giving humanity the basis for medicine, food, dyes and garden flowers as well as many other uses. I have always had a particular interest in Irish wild plants; the act of exploring paint techniques to depict these plants has been both fascinating and educational.”

It was whilst training as a signwriter that Yanny first came across the technique of Verre Églomisé and fascinated by the possibilities, she began to experiment and to develop her own unique style. Verre Églomisé involves painting on the back of glass using opaque colours and gold leaf and dates back to the Middle Ages. At that time, the typical subjects were religious icons and depictions of significant figures. The frequent use of gold leaf often made these panels very valuable and as the glass was hand blown, paintings on glass were restricted to small dimensions.

  Papaver rhoeas~ Common Poppy Verre Églomisé /painting on glass  42cm x 39cm


Papaver rhoeas~ Common Poppy
Verre Églomisé /painting on glass 42cm x 39cm

Yanny’s love of the illustrated Herbals of the 16th century has also influenced her creative path. These early illustrations of plants, used to identify medicinal varieties, were printed from engravings or wood cuts. Just as with the traditional Verre Églomisé, paper and vellum were very expensive and limited in size, so the artists had adapt the shapes of the plant into the available space to give a pleasing design, whilst still conveying accurate information, although sometimes with artistic licence. A couple of better known examples of these would be Tabernaemontanus whose prints are in John Gerarde’s ‘The Herball’ (1597) and Petrus A. Matthiolus (1565) whose cuts were copies from Leonard Fuchs (1545).

Yanny’s work is the product of many long hours of careful observation in the field. From these field drawings Yanny designs each panel on paper. The glass is then etched with acid, and in some pieces, she also engraves elements of the design giving the artwork a soft line and sparkle. Colour is applied in a series of carefully selected layers with the highlights being applied first. Gold leaf is applied to certain parts of the design giving a reflective quality to these areas. The finished painting is sealed with a layer of varnish or paint effect.

Trifolium pratense~ Red Clover painting & gilding on glass  Verre Églomisé  42cm x 39cm Yanny Petters 2013

Trifolium pratense~ Red Clover
painting & gilding on glass Verre Églomisé 42cm x 39cm
Yanny Petters 2013

Her work can be found in many important collections, including Dr. Shirley Sherwood’s Gallery at Kew Gardens, London, and in the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin.

Yanny’s exhibition of Verre Églomisé panels, Floral Alchemy is currently on at The Olivier Cornett Gallery until May 24th 2013.  Just like an Alchemist, in her hands weeds become as precious as gold, and pictures of wild plants become as valuable as icons.

For more information and how to get to the exhibition, go to 
www.oliviercornetgallery.com   

Her work can be seen on her website www.yannypetters.net

A very interesting essay comparing Yanny’s painting of ‘An Irish Meadow’ to Albrecht Dürer’s ‘The Large Turf’ can be found here

 

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