The RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show: What To Expect

By Wendyrosie Scott

3 weeks ago

The show is running at the Saatchi Gallery until 7 July


For flower and art lovers, photography and plant addicts, and especially any ‘armchair gardener’, the RHS Botanical Art & Photography show at the Saatchi Gallery is a stunner with a stellar standard, says Wendyrosie Scott. Here’s a recap.

Review: The RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show

At the Saatchi’s RHS Botanical Art & Photography show, you can witness an artist’s rendering of a flower so intricate it could translate as obsessive, and photography with such hyper-real detail you can almost feel the silky tactility of the furred foliage. Add a fragrant teaser in the form of a small display by Clive Christian’s Aroma Fusion Technology and uncover a sensual show with an aesthetic that transports the viewer into the plant world to explore at leisure.

From Art’s Elite To Diverse Aesthete

Given the RHS’ association with regency, it can also carry a sense of stuffiness or elitism. However, the charity is consciously and determinedly casting its branches ever wider with more experimental and inclusive work. Strategically exhibiting at the boldly innovative Saatchi Gallery also engenders high expectations; with 23 world-class botanical artists and 18 photographers in the UK, Italy, Portugal, Romania, the USA, South Africa, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Japan, it’s not difficult to be buoyed by it all.

Medals

The show’s ‘People’s Choice’ award is new this year, enabling visitors to vote alongside medals in Gold, Silver-Gilt and Bronze; ‘Best in Show’; and Bests in Botanical Artwork, Art Exhibit and Portfolio Photography Exhibit. The judges consider aesthetic appeal, scientific accuracy and technique, with the RHS art curator Charlotte Brooks stating: ‘We are seeing artists and photographers not only demonstrate incredible technical skill in capturing their chosen subjects but a greater emphasis on the retelling of that plant’s story. Whether external factors (climate change or extreme weather conditions, for example, as well as contribution to the local ecosystem) or the artist’s more personal interactions with it, they include those found in the wild, in our domestic gardens and even in urban settings.’

Pink flowers by Lynn Uptin

Richea Alpina by Lynn Uptin for the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show 2024

A Breathtaking Breadth Of Work

Judging would have been an unenviable task given individuals’ credentials, which, united, provide a wallop of talent. Notable artists include Yumi Ohara (who was awarded a Silver medal) with her Japanese Cherry Blossom, which took a different approach to its more often overly romanticised depiction. Also worthy of a mention is Maria Lombardi (who won Gold), with her exquisite expressions and moving narrative entitled Tillandsia Daughters of the Wind, alongside Ann Saward’s astonishing Sarracenias (Bronze winner), Yuko Saito’s Celosias (Gold) and Lynn Uptin’s sophisticated work (Gold). 

Notable photographers include Annie Macintyre (Gold) and her dramatic depictions; Richard Milton (Silver) with his magnetic black and white images akin to O)ld Masters; Andrea Jones’s transportive imagery (Gold); and Mark Lunns enchanting Wood Recyclers (Silver Gilt). Not to mention Vanda Ralevska’s images of snow covered foliage witha resultant filigree effect (Gold) and macro photographer Barry Webb with his spectacular World of Slime (Gold).

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Spirituality In Nature

An ethereal collection which remains with me is the work of photographic artist Libby Ellis (Silver-Gilt), who eloquently combines a sense of serenity and joy – no easy feat. ‘Miraculum’ presented a black-and-white series amid many colours, conveying the ingenuity and utter beauty of botanicals, and even before knowing its title, the word miraculous came to mind. In an age of AI, digitisation and editing tools overkill, the raw purity of photography impressed me with its quiet knowing and reverence. Ellis refreshingly allowed for the viewer’s interpretation instead of overt dictation and description, enabling the work to speak for itself.

The Botanical Art & Photography show contributes to a long legacy of botanical art collecting and display by the RHS, complementing their Lindley Collections of over 30,000 botanical paintings and heritage photographs. Such notable work supports a rather British sensibility which celebrates a love of plants in all their scientific and creative forms. To share this sentiment across continents brings a wondrous feeling of connection.

The RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show (Supported by Clive Christian Perfume) is running from 15 June to 7 July 2024 at the Saatchi Gallery, Kings Rd, London. rhs.org.uk

Images courtesy of the RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show