3 artists represented in the Royal Botanic Gardens as part of this year’s 17th Biennale of Sydney.
Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, located in the heart of the city, offer an abundance of flora and natural life framed by dramatic views of Sydney Harbour. Take the Vittoria Biennale ArtWalk and discover three iconic works on the theme of “threatened and threatening nature”
Choi Jeong Hwa – “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
Choi Jeong-Hwa is South Korea’s leading pop artist, as well as an architect and furniture designer. He is a maker of big installations using bright, cheery colours. He has made a massive statue of a horse made of plastic flowers, has wrapped buildings in colourful ribbons, and stacked plastic bowls into massive teetering towers
Over a pond in the Botanic Gardens he has installed a four-metre clear plastic lotus flower that inflates and deflates every minute. All of Choi’s works “honour the beauty of nature, and the need for imagination when living in urban cultures with a diminishing natural aesthetic”.
To see a video of this installation from the Royal Botannic Gardens Sydney pls click ” here ”
In between two sails of the Opera House he has installed a 10-metre high “germ” made from 20,000 green plastic baskets. “It’s a kind of celebration of the incredible beauty of everyday utensils,” said Biennale artistic director David Elliott. “He’s into visceral expression through the colour and organic form of objects, which intervene in familiar spaces.”The artist says he likes the shock value of fluorescent colours. “Bright colours are forbidden in the world. It’s irony. My works look bright, but the meaning is not bright.”
Janet Lawrence has created “Waiting – A Medicinal Garden for Ailing Plants.”
Janet Lawrence described the piece as a sickbay for fragile plants, and wants it to remind us (in a playful way) of the threats to nature and the urgency to act. Like the others, it fits nicely within the specific botanic garden theme of Threatened and Threatening Nature.
Born 1947 in Sydney, Australia / Lives and works in Sydney
In paintings, sculptures, site-specific installations, photography and architectural interventions, Janet Laurence has examined the hybridity of natural and built environments, with a deft transformation of materials that recalls alchemy.
Ideas of nature, science, history, transformation and memory are explored with poetic and thoughtful sensibility and profound ecological understanding. Waiting – A Medicinal Garden for Ailing Plants (2010) is a site-specific medicinal garden that continues her investigation of threatened environments within the framework of the metaphor of medicine. It takes the form of a built structure echoing the glasshouses and mazes that can be found in botanic gardens. Laurence has created here a space of revival and resuscitation – a sickbay for fragile plants. Using glass and mirrored stainless steel, this sanatorium for flora is a playful addition to the gardens with the real intent of amplifying the concerns and urgency of threats to our physical habitat.
Fiona Hall has created … “The Barbarians at the Gate” ,
Born 1953 Sydney Australia / Lives and works in Adelaide, Australia
Fiona Hall is best known for works that transform ordinary, everyday materials into organic forms with both a historical and contemporary relevance. They are characterised by their intricate construction and thematic resonance with issues of globalisation, ecology an natural history.The site-specific installation, Gate of beehives, painted in military camouflage patterns associated with different countries, into the Royal Botanic Gardens – as foreign objects analogous to the shipping in of people during early colonial times. To allude further to the sprawl of human and botanic traffic around the world, each hive is given a new, stylised ‘roof’ to reference its country.
In this complex work, the artist creates a microcosm of the colonial-era nation-building processes of introducing people, plants and animals into foreign habitats, forever changing the ecology of a particular place. Feelings of paranoia follow as the foreign becomes ‘the nation’ while, as before, ‘the barbarians are at the gate’
Fiona also wants us to think about the traffic of people and plants around the world by adding a roof to some of the hives reflecting different countries and cultures. And take note of the sandbags from various trading partners.
BTW 2 of the artists already have pieces in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain – Fiona Hall’s Mrs Macquarie’s Folly above the Australian Rockery and Janet Lawrence’s Veil of Trees in the middle of the road loop on the way to Mrs Macquaries Point.
Choi Jeong Hwa was born in 1961, Seoul, He is renowned for his inflatable sculptures and constructions using mass-produced plastic products, and re-presented found or borrowed objects. While much of his work can be interpreted as communicating concerns about waste, consumer society, globalisation and other contemporary issues, the artist consciously avoids such discussion. Rather, he celebrates the peculiar beauty of synthetic materials and everyday objects with flippant lightness and deliberate ambiguity of purpose.
An enormous transparent vinyl bloom, Clear lotus magnificently inflates and opens, before deflating to sprawl dejectedly on the ground. Then the cycle begins again. The stylised sculpture has elegantly fluted petals with a central clumping of tentacle-like anthers. In Buddhist art the auspicious lotus rises from swampy waters to bloom pure and exquisite, despite its often filthy origins. Although not a practising Buddhist, Choi grew up in a devout family and has a strong understanding of religious philosophy and symbolism.
When discussing a much earlier inflatable flower sculpture, the multicoloured and variegated Super flower 1995, he referred to the capacity of the lotus to remain untainted by its genesis as a source of inspiration. Still, the lotus blooms only briefly before the petals blacken around the edges and fall off, leaving a dry pod and woody stem. Choi’s flowers, however, and Clear lotus in particular, continually bounce back, as pristine, plump and sparkling as the first time their petals opened.
An active contributor to the development of the Korean contemporary art scene in the early 1990s, Choi is also a designer of interiors, furniture and architecture. He began his career as a painter but soon abandoned it for installation, video and sculpture. Among his best-known works is The death of the robot—about being irritated 1995. The orange blow-up robot struggles to get up from the ground but, worn down by the effort, is repeatedly thwarted. According to the artist ‘the work had its start in a personal feeling of powerlessness. What’s most important is the contradiction between this apparent human vulnerability or failing in something that embodies supreme technological advancement.’
Many of Choi’s recent gigantic inflatables are floral in form and, like Clear lotus, created in monochrome: either in bright single colours or in black, white or transparent plastics. His lotuses in particular have attracted considerable attention following the appearance of Dragon flower, a white bloom displayed in a garden setting outside the Korean pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Although the artist is not easily drawn on the meaning behind his sculptures, about his floral works he has said: ‘I feel strange when I see a real tree or flower. Nature, as such, is so rare in Korea these days, that I’m actually afraid when I encounter it. I’m afraid of the “real”. Maybe all I can deal with is an idea of nature, immune to destruction, so I make an artificial one to look at and enjoy.’
Melanie Eastburn / Curator, Asian Art / National Gallery of Australia, Canberra