heliumcowboy artspace is delighted to present ‘The Best Bogus Botanical Garden’, a group exhibition curated by emerging London-based curators Rosie Jenkins, Eline Verstegen and Chiara Villa, postgraduates from the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design and Whitechapel Gallery, featuring works by Hamburg and international artists who explore humans’ engagement with nature.
Participating artists: Giovanni Castell (GER), Lisa Creagh (UK), Sakir Gökçebag (TUR), Janaina
Mello Landini (BRA), Liz Orton (UK), Jens Rausch (GER), Maren Simon (GER), Katie Spragg (UK), and Sadie Weis (USA).
Influenced by digitization, urbanism and ecological awareness, human ways of relating to the natural environment have changed significantly throughout recent years. As a response to this condition a vast amount of contemporary artists have started to investigate this changing relationship by simulating the very nature we have become disconnected from. The Best Bogus Botanical Garden then aims to look at art practices that seem to recreate nature, either by manipulating organic elements in new forms, or by inventing their own materials. To further enhance the illusion of the simulacra, the exhibition takes the experimental form of an immersive environment, literally transforming the white cube gallery space into an artificial botanical garden.
The use of virtual means to recreate nature is a common feature among Hamburg-based artist Giovanni Castell and London-based artists Lisa Creagh and Liz Orton. Similar to Giovanni Castell’s ‘In Lucem Edere’ series, where he grows entirely artificial ecosystems through the use of virtual programs, are Lisa Creagh’s works from ‘The Instant Garden’. The use of digital imaging allows the artist to transform mundane photographs of industrially grown flowers into intricate floral patterns that are reminiscent of ancient Persian rugs. A less visible display of digital manipulation characterises Liz Orton’s photographic series ‘Splitters and Lumpers’. Still, the digital isolation of the cross-section shots of the archives at Kew Gardens’ Herbarium, plays a central role in underlining the interconnection between systematic knowledge and natural growth.
The inventiveness to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary is taken to the extreme in the installation art of Turkish-born but Hamburg-based artist Sakir Gökçebag and Brazilian artist Janaina Mello Landini. While Gökçebag gives common objects a new existence by combining and rearranging different materials, Landini reproduces nature’s organic shapes through the manipulation of strings, threads and ropes. Gökçebag’s ‘Untitled’ by undermining the intrinsic identity of the buckets as containers, shows an unexpected affinity to Landini’s ‘Ciclotrama’, where the precarious position of the hanging ropes emulates the fleeting state of our environment.
Remaining faithful to traditional media, German-born artists Jens Rausch and Maren Simon and Londonbased artist Katie Spragg do not refrain to offer unexpected twists in the execution of their works. As an attempt to reach “the forest within us”, Rausch uses experimental compositions and techniques to
produce oil paintings that express a more intimate approach with the materiality of the canvas. This
interest in materiality is particularly tangible in Simon’s ‘Findings’ series, where the addition of granulated salt on the works’ painted surface is complemented by the quasi-performative act of tracing, tracking and marking the sheet of paper with ink and acrylic. While using a more naturalistic approach, Spragg’s reinvention of the ceramic medium is comparable to previous explorative practices. Playing with our own idealized image of the wilderness, the artist’s sculptures from the series ‘Turfs’ represent a crystallized nature emerging from human memory and fantasies of alternative ecosystems.
The fascination with natural elements is exacerbated in the work of Berlin-based artist Sadie Weis,
who uses nature’s own means as the starting point of her practice. Through submerging plants, flowers
and geodes in an unique mixture of water and chemicals, Weis creates intricate sculptures that explore
organic processes of natural growth and decay. The works included in this exhibition are prime examples
of the artist’s exploration into the fragility and ephemerality of natural organisms.
The Best Bogus Botanical Garden is curated by Rosie Jenkins, Eline Verstegen, and Chiara Villa, three
postgraduates from the MA Curating the Contemporary, organized jointly by the Sir John Cass Faculty
of Art, Architecture and Design of London Metropolitan University and Whitechapel Gallery.