Juicy black fruits wait to be plucked, while across the room seeds are sprouting, flowers blossom, and rot away into decay. As we inch closer to the annual Chelsea Flower Show, an exhibition of plants in two dimensions, as art has opened at the nearby Saatchi Gallery.
Several large rooms in the Saatchi have been filled with the shortlisted and winning entries in the RHS’s annual competitions for the best artworks and photos, and the small captions next to them show just how much work goes into creating these artworks.
It’s a mix therefore of art and science, and the science of art, as representations of plants is as much about making the plants look appealing, as they are scientifically accurate. As the captions explain, scientific representation is not reproducing the plant exactly as it is in front of the artist, but interpreting how it appears in order to show off the plant to its fullest extent so that someone looking at the painting can understand the plant it shows.
There are plants that have been painted at different stages of their life, others that had to be removed from the ground to show their roots. Elsewhere seeds frozen in time at the moment of coming alive.
A set of watercolours exploring the folklore of plants could almost be a set of Christmas cards, being decorated with calligraphy as well as the paintings of the plants.
The paintings, mostly watercolours, but not all, and a third room looks at a very different style of presenting plants in art – the art of photography. This is a very dramatic shift in style, not just because of the technique, but the colours are vastly richer than the watercolours that came before.
The display here is wider-ranging as well, away from individual plants and towards landscapes and even greenhouses as collections.
As an exhibition, it can be looked at either for its visual appeal, or if you get up close, as a triumph of the artist’s skill at capturing minute details in perfection.
You can book tickets from here.