The extraordinary world of plants is celebrated in a new display by artist and academic Edward Chell opening at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in south London this summer.
Bloom is a series of detailed painted plant silhouettes inspired by plants, and images of plants, in the Horniman’s Gardens and historic collection.
Painted onto individual gesso panels, and accompanied by other related objects he has made, Edward’s images will be shown alongside some of the artefacts that inspired them.
The 40 panels respond to a set of the Horniman’s rare books by 19th-century British naturalist and early photographer Anna Atkins, looking at these in relation to plants in both living and dried form in the Museum’s archives. Chell’s panels link the blue of Atkins’ cyanotypes, or ‘sunprints’, to the blue and white china so prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries.
One of these books, which document British algae and are widely recognised as the first to be published with photographic illustrations, will be on display with other pieces from the Horniman’s stored collections. Bloom can be seen from Saturday 11 July 2015 in the new display space in the Horniman’s recently redeveloped Natural History Gallery entrance. This space showcases installations by artists, and others, exploring how they have been inspired by the Horniman’s natural history collections and nature.
Edward Chell, who is known for his work exploring how landscapes have been affected by urban development, says: ‘Plants are in the news a lot these days whether it is the debate between GM and organic crops or deforestation and environmental degradation. The desire for discovering and recording new species that drove the Horniman collections are now more likely to be driven by the threat of extinction rather than collecting.
‘These plant forms are also extremely beautiful and like the blue and white porcelain that also informs them, they carry notions of the exquisite as well as memento and loss so inseparable from the silhouette imagery associated with ceramics of that era.’
Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman says: ‘Edward’s work is influenced and inspired by many different things – from the Horniman’s early cyanotype folios of Anna Atkins, to the plants he encounters and photographs in gardens, on roadside verges and in museum collections like ours. All are used to produce beautiful and intricate plant silhouettes, drawing us into the worlds of plant collecting and recording, early photography and the naming and classification of living things.’
Bloom runs concurrently with Plantastic, the Horniman’s family-friendly interactive exhibition which brings the miniature world of plants to life on a massive scale. To complement Plantastic visitors to the Horniman’s 16 acres of beautiful gardens this summer can also see specially designed and themed outdoor displays including a mass planting of sunflowers, a floral picture of the ‘anatomy’ of a flower, and a spectacular border themed around plants that attract pollinating insects.
Bloom can be seen in the Horniman’s Natural History Gallery from Saturday 11 July to Sunday 6 December 2015. Entry to the Gallery is free. An accompanying full colour book, Bloom, with a foreword by curator Tim Corum and essays by ecologist Hugh Warwick, Anna Ricciardi and Edward Chell will be available from the Horniman Shop from September.