A Breath of Fresh Air…The Naturalist Curiosities at London’s Art Exhibitions

Art critic, Alex Hall reviews London’s latest art offerings for Enter Gallery...


Among the Trees - The Hayward Gallery

Some exhibitions demand conversation, analysis and criticism. This exhibition is the opposite. As the director of the Hayward Gallery, Ralph Rugoff said, “One of the great joys of walking in a forest, is you give up any attempt to analyse it... you just enjoy the act of looking.”

Finnish Spruce by Eija-Liisa Ahtila

(Finnish spruce by Eija-Liisa Ahtila)

Among The Trees brings together artwork from 37 artists from around the world, that celebrate and discover our relationship with trees. The exhibition is designed to soothingly overwhelm, with the limits of the space being pushed to capture the magnanimity of the subjects themselves.

Gary Oak Rodney Graham

(Rodney Graham)

The exhibition takes us all over the world, from the forests of the Netherlands to Japanese islands, to explore the artists relationships with trees. What is most notable about the exhibition is the calming effect that it has on the viewer. The pieces are curated carefully with intimate lighting, so that you can glide from piece to piece like a breeze through the branches of a majestic oak.

Wind Moon by Ugo Rondinone

(Wind Moon by Ugo Rondinone)

The work on display is a combination of photography, sculpture and paintings. It is humbling to stand aside a huge sculpture cast from a 2,000 year old olive tree by Ugo Rondinone. Sally Mann’s photography documenting the trees of the deep south highlights a darker, more brutal side to our history.

Myoung Ho Lee

(Myoung Ho Lee)

The conversations to be had around trees and time, how they are living time capsules, silently documenting our existences for thousands of years, are endless. Just as this exhibition inspires dialogue around our current ecological precariousness, human conflict and what gets overlooked in the name of ‘progress’, it also inspires quiet. Like a mental dip in the ocean, it is restorative and hopeful to marvel at the wonder of these beautiful depictions of trees.

Kirsten Everberg

(Kirsten Everberg)

The perfect anecdote to a locked-down summer, tree-gazing at the Hayward Gallery is a balm for the eyes and the soul.


Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi - Somerset House

“I noticed so many artists working with fungi,” said curator Francesca Gavin, “I wanted to learn why.”

'Mushrooms - The Art, Design and Future of Fungi' brings together the work of 40 leading artists to explore and celebrate the oddities of the often overlooked tradition of fungi in art. The exhibition explores our relationship with the planet as we address the evolution of our own personal perception of mushrooms.

Alex Morrison Mushroom Motif

(Mushroom Motif by Alex Morrison)

From objects of superstition and horror in European folklore, mushrooms used to be perceived as the work of witchcraft. They were associated with poison, death and decay. Takashi Murakami’s study of mushrooms depicts them as simultaneously sinister and kawaii. The mushroom is a consistent motif throughout his work as he delves into the post-apocalyptic Japanese psyche.

 Seana Gavin

(Mindful Mushroom by Seana Gavin)

Then began the transition into a symbol of surrealism, as we see with John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice in Wonderland. The playfully surreal work of Seana Gavin features heavily in the exhibition, inspired by visual history and science fiction, she reimagines mushrooms as anthropomorphic figures. Her work is imbued with eerie other-worldliness, halfway between a fairy forest and an alien planet.

Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carol

(Alice in Wonderland illustration by Hume Henderson)

With the rise of amateur botany in 19th Century Britain, a scientific curiosity began to flourish. Beatrice Potter’s self-taught mycology shines through in the intricacy of her work. The detailed examination of fungi in her work underpinned her depiction of nature in her future novels.

 Mushroom city

(Mushroom City by Seana Gavin)

At this present moment, we understand that fungi are closer to animals than plants, with their own methods of communication and underpin all life on earth. In our current state of worldwide ecological precariousness, fungi have been positioned by experts as a hope for environmental renewal.

This exhibition maps the journey that fungi have had in our collective consciousness, from villain, provocateur, to potential saviour of the natural world. This is reflected artistically in the work of some of the most exciting artists of our time. It’s odd and strangely optimistic. If there’s one thing that we can take away from 2020, it might be that there’s beauty and hope to be found in the depths of dirt.

New JanaNicole Botanical Series available at Enter Gallery

Whether you consider yourself a 'Mycophile' (someone who loves mushrooms) or simply someone who just appreciates the beauty of botanicals, JanaNicole's latest series features fungi in all forms and vibrant colour. Check out the full series here.

The Troupe Earth by JanaNicole

 (The Troupe Earth by JanaNicole)

Coming Soon: Jan Hendrix at Kew Gardens

Acclaimed artist Jan Hendrix has been inspired by the fragility of nature to highlight the important role that art can have in campaigning for environmental issues.

“As an artist I don’t create a portrait of the actual situation. I portray landscapes in a way that you can feel the menace, you can feel the drama, and you get a sense of the hidden fragility there.”

He will be exhibiting his paintings celebrating and rallying for the natural world at the beautiful Kew gardens, beginning October 3rd.


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