Yesterday I visited Plantae 2023 - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists at the Mall Galleries to view the exhibition and to choose the winner of award I sponsor.
I'll be going back tomorrow - when it will hopefully be a little less crowded - to review again the artwork and the winners of various awards and Certificates of Botanical Merit. There will then be three more posts after this one focusing on:
I'll be focusing in this review on:
Here are the headlines for WHAT'S CHANGED
I'll also be highlighting throughout what I particularly noticed which won't get a mention in other posts.
I'm also going to be uploading photos I took yesterday to my BA&A Facebook Page once this review has been published - and I'll include links here once that's been done.
(Now included below)
What's different about Plantae 2023?
It's simply not the same exhibition that it has been hitherto - and looks much better for it.
In effect, rather like the Monarchy and its new Carolean Age, it feels a bit like we're entering a new Age with the SBA too.
This exhibition has just 366 artworks - in effect halving the size of the exhibition. That's because, in the past, this was an exhibition which used to hang more than 700 artworks on the wall. Latterly reduced to c.500.
This one was hung in just one day with the assistance of
A MORE BOTANICAL EMPHASIS
Two things seem to have happened. The first is that the new digital selection process means that
The second thing which seems to have happened is there are fewer "flower paintings" for want of a better term.
While this society may have started out in 1985 with rather more flower painters than botanical artists, it now has a membership which has been increasingly bolstered by those coming through the Distance Learning Diploma Course route means many more now have a very sound grounding in the knowledge and expertise required for botanical art. That in turn means fewer paintings of the type which used to be allowed in the past and much more emphasis in this exhibition on a wide range of botanical art.
In other words it's now doing what "it says on the tin"! As with everything, it's all a process of evolution.
MORE INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS
There are 186 artists from more than 30 countries exhibiting in this exhibition.
I'm going to see if I can work out what those countries are - or obtain a listing from the SBA. I've certainly done posts about lists of selected artists in the past - and linked names to their main site online.
I think I'm right in saying that there were botanical artists from the Ukraine, Indonesia and Portugal at the PV last night.
MORE YOUNGER ARTISTS
It may be that I'm now a lot older than I was when I first started visiting this exhibition 17 years ago in 2006 (i.e. the young artists then are middle aged now, and the middle aged then are now much older!) but one of the things which struck me the most yesterday was the fact that many of the artists are now a lot younger! As somebody who attends most of the PVs of the national art societies that exhibit at the Mall Galleries it certainly didn't have that feel of those aged 50+ rule the roost! This is emphatically not a society dominated by ladies who have reached retirement age and need a new occupation!
That and the fact that many familiar faces from the past were simply not there. Which is a pity - but understandable. I suspect some of them will visit on the less busy days.
Artists are still typically female - but not exclusively so.
MANY MORE PEOPLE AT THE PRIVATE VIEW
One of the most amazing things for me was just how many people were at the Private View. This has always been a Society which has had a very good attendance at the Private View. This year, the Society has excelled itself and those attending filled the West Gallery when the speeches were being made and there were still people enjoying the exhibition in the North Gallery.
The trick now is to convert those attendees into sales!
It was also lovely to see Shirley Sherwood (and Rachel) at the Private View, although maybe a bit busy last night for a proper look round!
WHAT MISSING THIS YEAR
I lament the absence of a virtual exhibition. It's my belief that virtual exhibitions are what has generated more international interaction in relation to various botanical art exhibitions. They enable those who may enter to see the standard of the work.
Also interactive virtual exhibitions can be very successful at generating online sales. Other exhibitions in these galleries start online at least a week before the exhibition in the gallery and have usually generated sales by the time it opens. It also helps those who visit an exhibition and then wish they'd bought a painting they liked!
Plus we've all got used to online exhibitions and now expect them!
I gather there may be changes in the offing which might resolve this issue for next year.
I lament the fact that the catalogue
I'd also love to see GM added to artists' names as it has in the past. There are a LOT of RHS Gold Medal Winners on the walls of this exhibition but this is not recognised in the catalogue. I was walking round recognising them but I'm guessing few others were.
Scope and quality of the botanical artwork
Below I comment on:
While artwork has been very effectively themed according to colour in the past, this year there was more of an emphasis on the plants. Hence we had:
I noticed that there was a great deal more complexity - and consequently work - in many of the artworks in the exhibition.
While there are some fairly simple renditions of botanical subject matter, there seemed to me to be less, in percentage terms, compared to previous exhibitions.
If standards continue to improve, I think this particular factor of complexity (or "challenge"?) might become a key differentiating factors in the selection of exhibits for future exhibitions. Think of it along the lines of what makes an RHS Exhibit a Gold Medal winning one as opposed to one of the lesser metals. It's very often to do with the amount of work done to compose and create a complex piece of artwork - as well as the quality of botanical observation and artwork which results.
That said there's always room for smaller simpler artworks which create more affordable artwork for some collectors.
Exhibits include watercolour, oil, gouache, acrylic, graphite, colour pencil artwork, as well as hand pulled original prints, sculpture and jewellery.
I'll be commenting more on media used when I turn my attention to the Excellence Awards. I might even do a count up to generate a better understanding of the range of media used. However it's worth commenting one a few matters.
As always, some of the best watercolour painting - in a technical sense - that I see in the Mall Galleries comes from those in this exhibition who paint in watercolour.
It was very much the same as always this year. Standards are very high with some superlative work on show.
I was very pleased to see that we're seeing a wider range of printmaking techniques used and selected for this exhibition.
It was also good to see a wider range of media generally.
I came across plants created from embroidered silk fabric and thread and placed under a glass dome - which was very definitely a new one on me! Although the two works by Emma Saunders didn't win, they both got onto the shortlist for my Making A Mark Award.
Plantae 2023: Exhibition Details
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Past posts about SBA Annual Exhibitions (2006-2023)
Posts prior to 2017 were posted on Making A Mark - my first art blog
2023 - Plantae 2023
2022 - Plantae 2022 (when I was recovering from surgery - and this was my first exhibition outing!)
2021 - Plantae 2021 (2nd Pandemic / Virtual Exhibition)
2020 - Plantae 2020 (1st Pandemic / Virtual Exhibition)
2019 - Plantae
2018 - no exhibition
2017 - Changing Seasons
2016 - Shape, Pattern and Structure
2015 - In Pursuit of Plants
2014 - The Botanical Garden
2013 - The Language of Flowers
2012 - Botanical Celebration
2011 - The World of Plants
2010 - The Silver Jubilee
2009 - Flowers and Gardens
2008 - the Botanical Palette
2007 -Flowers and Gardens
BAA Visitors so far....
since April 2015
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