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The Botanical: Beauty and Peril

6 July – 4 November | FREE

Drawing from the renowned Janet Holmes à Court Collection and the State Art Collection, this major exhibition presents a vivid, involving and sometimes disturbing journey through the diverse representation of the natural world by Australian artists.

From wildflower rooms to bush fire photography, the show both celebrates the natural beauty of landscapes and flora, while raising bracing issues about environmental destruction and the land rights of Australia’s First Peoples.

The exhibition draws from the Gallery's extensive collection of wildflower depictions by Annie Dorrington and Margaret Forrest and features key works of WA's forests such as Revel Cooper's paintings of karri trees and Bella Kelly's south-west landscape.

In dialogue with these 'Arcadia' works, are contemporary works such as Rebecca Dagnall's Paradise #5, Eva Fernandez's Flora Obscura series, Conor O'Brien's compelling photographic work Bushfire and Danie Mellor's Paradise Garden (Different Country, Same Story).

Together, the works present the duality of our relationship with the botanical world. Iconic works by Western Australian and Australian artists including William Robinson, Howard Taylor, Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Fred Williams traverse both sides of the subject, asking us all to pause and consider the consequences of our actions and the imperfect balance between beauty and peril.

A new commission, a panoramic time-based media work by Sohan Ariel Hayes explores how nature and culture have often been perceived as elements that bend to the will of technology and the forces of capital. Taking sections of the Robert Dale panorama A Descriptive Account of the Panoramic View of King George’s Sound Hayes' reimagining of this well-known work brings the panorama to life using weather elements to rearrange figures and re-cast memories, presenting a roll-call of species lost and a picturing of species to come.

By turns immersive, moving and inspiring, the exhibition is designed to stimulate conversations about our botanical world and how we live in it, live with it, and sustain it. A program of public events and participatory experiences has been developed for the exhibition, inviting Western Australians of all ages to get involved and share their views and experiences of nature.

Janet Holmes à Court, Chairman of the Art Gallery of WA Board
“The threat to our natural environment alarms us all, and this exhibition of works I have collected over many decades illustrates dramatically how the Arcadian paradise of Australia, often portrayed by artists, is imperilled by the actions of humans. I am thrilled to realise this special collaboration with AGWA and I’m sure audiences will be struck with wonder but also pause to think about the issues raised by contemporary artists who compellingly expose the dark side of the magical botanical realm.”

Dr Stefano Carboni, AGWA Director
"I am very pleased that the exhibition – the last to open under my directorship – showcases a powerful but little known part of the WA State Collection in conjunction with works from one of WA’s most important private collections. Our symposium Framing Flora: Artists and the Science of Botany (in partnership with the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery) links all the themes of this beautiful and ambitious show, which also spread across diverse partnerships, under the What on Earth initiative, including Kings Park Festival, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Midland Junction Arts Centre and Mundaring Arts Centre. The exhibition in the AGWA galleries, the partnership with other organizations, the strong family and community programme and the artist activations will connect the broader communities through a subject, the Botanical, that is accessible and everyone can enjoy and discuss.”

Melissa Harpley, AGWA Curator of 19th Century Arts | Manager of Collections
"In curating The Botanical there was such a wealth of material in both collections from which to draw, that it made the process very rewarding, but also challenging as we couldn’t include everything. Working across the rich holdings of the two collections has enabled us to select a diverse array of works from many artists whose subject matter reflects our engagement with the natural world. In addition, drawing on historical as well as contemporary works of art has enabled us to take a longer view of that relationship and to chart how attitudes have changed over time."

Laetitia Wilson, Exhibitions Manager, Janet Holmes à Court Collection
"The Botanical: Beauty and Peril is a vision of then and now. From a long gone past of gentle relations with the land we are now confronted with natural beauty - and indeed survival on this planet - as imperilled. This exhibition is a journey through a wildflower revery, lushly forested lands, the richness of indigenous knowledge of the land, the destructiveness of colonial approaches to the land and an exploration of how the natural world in Australia has suffered greatly as a result of human intervention. This journey culminates with the ‘dark botanical’, where we see such images as our country on fire and species lost."

Megan Schlipalius, Collection Registrar, Janet Holmes à Court Collection
"This exhibition is about the fragility of the beautiful natural world. It incorporates both the the dark and the light. I hope people will feel a call to action to protect our environment and biodiversity that is so rich in our South West, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by the immense scale of destruction and the issues confronting people. It’s a highly ambitious exhibition but I feel we couldn’t approach it in another way. We want to do both the artists and the topic justice.”

The Botanical: Beauty and Peril forms part of a wider celebration of the botanical world under the banner What On Earth with events and exhibitions at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Midland Junction Arts Centre, Mundaring Arts Centre and Kings Park Festival.

The Botanical: Beauty and Peril is on display at AGWA, 6 July – 4 November 2019.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Art Gallery of WA and the Janet Holmes à Court Collection.


AGWA After-Hours | The Botanical: Beauty and Peril
6-7.30pm, Wednesday 10 July
$30 AGWA Members | $37.50 General

An exclusive after-hours talk and tour. Includes a glass of wine on arrival.

Gin Tasting with Archie Rose Distilling Co.
Saturday 6 July | Ticketed

Symposium | Framing Flora: Artists and the Science of Botany
1-4pm, Friday 19 & Saturday 20 July
$10+bf AGWA Members, LWAG Friends, Concession | $15+bf General
Venues: Art Gallery of WA (Fri), Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery (Sat)

The wildflower season in Western Australia puts a spotlight on the State’s botanical riches, their special place on Country and the threat humans now pose to them. Hear from the curators, artists and botanists involved in bringing you an array of botanical and environment-themed exhibitions and events in 2019.

Introductory Speaker | Friday
Professor Stephen Hopper AC, Professor of Biodiversity, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, UWA Albany (CENRM) and School of Biological Sciences

Introductory Speaker | Saturday
Professor Ann Elias, Associate Professor, History and Theory of Contemporary Global Art, Department of Art History, University of Sydney

Other speakers include Professor Kingsley Dixon, Vicki Laurie, Laetitia Wilson, Gemma Weston Philippa Nikulinsky, Susie Vickery and Jude van der Merwe.

Climate Change Panel Discussion | How do we save the world?
2-3pm, Saturday 3 August | FREE
Hear what the next generation of decision-makers has to say about climate change. Hear from members of the AGWA Pulse Advisory Panel.

AGWA & Kings Park Synchronised Guided Tours and Walks
11am-3pm, Thursday, Friday & Saturday throughout September | FREE, bookings required
Discover the richness of botanical art and our relationship with the natural world through a Wesfarmers Arts Guided Tour with an AGWA Voluntary Gallery Guide.

Climate Change Long Table Discussion
3.30-5pm, Saturday 5 October | FREE
Artists have a place in climate change action in Australia. Sharing a provocation instead of food, we invite thought-leaders and involved citizens to a seat at the table to discuss climate change, expanding on themes in the exhibition Beauty and Peril in which Australian artists document and question human activity and the destruction of the environment.



Children's Voices
Look out for children’s labels created by City Beach Primary School students through HOT (Higher Order Thinking) Art workshops, a pilot project amplifying children's voices in gallery spaces.

Birds of Beauty and Peril
All ages | FREE
Join us in The Botanical activity area after your visit and draw a magnificent winged beauty or a frightening flight of feathers in response to the exhibition.

Conversations with Rain
1-3pm, Saturday 6 July | FREE, bookings required
An all-ages creative exploration of our relationship with rain and the environment through memory, senses and imagination. Lead by AGWA's Artist Educator, Lilly Blue.

During The Botanical exhibition visit the Imagination Room and contribute to Conversations with Rain, a project exploring poetic responses to weather and our relationship to the environment and climate change.

School Holiday Activity
Dancing With Rain: Workshop with Artist Marnie Orr
11am-12.30pm, Wednesday 10, Thursday 11, Friday 12, Wednesday 17, Thursday 18, & Friday 19 July | $10 a head
Explore rain through an immersive experience with contemporary artist Marnie Orr. In this workshop, you will engage with creative thinking, movement and art installations.

Esther McDowell Yabini Kickett
Kaalak Minditj Kaalak (Home Sick Home) Launch
1-2pm, Saturday 13 July | FREE
Join AGWA for the launch of Esther McDowell/Yabini Kickett’s Artist Activation Home Sick Home, and hear about her 6-month journey and collaboration with AGWA audiences. Esther developed a multi-media work of art exploring the endemic flora of Perth and connection to Country as part of the Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley exhibition.

10.30am-12pm, 17 Wednesday | $15 (includes tour and morning tea)
Parents with bubs get together for a mid-week art outing. Tour The Botanical with a Voluntary Gallery Guide, followed by coffee, cake and conversation in the Imagination Room. Prams/baby carriers and babies up to one-year-old welcome. Baby change facilities available.

Flowers in Focus
As part of the 2019 Kings Park Festival, the popular Flowers in Focus amateur photography competition is back!

Upload your best photograph of a magical Western Australian wildflower to kingsparkfestival.com.au for your chance to share in some fantastic prizes from AGWA and Kings Park Botanic Garden.

Entries open 10 June 2019 and the winning works will be on display during the 2019 Kings Park Festival.

For more information, interviews and imagery please contact Tanya Sticca on 9492 6692 or email tanya.sticca@artgallery.wa.gov.au

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Saturday, July 06 – Monday, November 04


Art Gallery of WA
Perth Cultural Centre, Roe St
Perth, Western Australia


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