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Janet Holmes à Court talks about art and a new exhibition on at AGWA, ‘The Botanical: Beauty and Peril’

The Botanical: Beauty and Peril is the latest exhibition on at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA). While works are encased in an obviously built-up environment, they explore more of the wild outdoors: that is, the outside botanical world and the threats that assail it.

The exhibition draws from many of patron Janet Holmes à Court’s collection of vivid works along with works from AGWA’s collection, each an alternative representation of the beauty of Australian plant life and the dangers imposed on it.

‘Ophelia’ by Anne MacDonald, C-type prints on paper (1993).

Those dangers (ie: the ‘peril’ part in the title) include climate change, natural disasters – such as bush fires, land abuse and, going right back, colonisation itself.

The exhibition is primarily designed to stimulate conversation about our botanical world: how we live in it, and how we may have to cope without much of it some day.

“It starts with what we are calling ‘Botanica Arcadia,” says Laetitia Wilson, one of the exhibition’s key curators. “That’s the more scientific botanical illustrations… It then goes into forested lands, and you go through the beauty of nature before you hit land use and exploitation and the destruction of nature.”

‘Bush fire dreaming’ by Maxie Tjampitjinpa (detail), synthetic polymer paint on canvas (1994).

From wildflower installations to bush fire photography, the exhibit celebrates both the natural beauty of landscapes and plants, and raises bracing issues about environmental destruction and the land rights of Australia’s First Peoples.

Flavidus by Eva Fernandez Anigozanthos, wildflower installation (2011).

An avid supporter of the arts, Holmes à Court told Cream magazine the exhibition is as much about seeing the continuation of important works on display at AGWA as it is about enlightening patrons toward notions of eco-conciousness.

“I have lots of organisations I support, but right now I’d like [Western Australians] to focus on AGWA for a while, because there are many things that need doing here,” said Holmes à Court.

“The building hasn’t had very much maintenance for quite some time. Storage is a huge problem here. We have three galleries which we’re not able to use for exhibitions because they are being used for storage.”

[Play the audio below to hear Cream’s chat with Janet Holmes à Court.]

The issue of lack of space at the gallery gives us even more reason to enjoy The Botanical: Beauty and Peril while we can. By turns immersive, stimulating, moving and inspiring, the exhibition is primarily designed to stimulate conversation about our botanical world: how we live in it, and how we may have to cope without much of it some day.

Antonino Tati

 

‘The Botanical: Beauty and Peril’ is on at the Art Gallery of WA until November 4, 2019. Entry is free. The exhibition draws from the renowned Janet Holmes à Court Collection and the AGWA Collection.

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