Sharon Field

What does beauty in botanical art mean? (Part I)


A while back I was with a group of my friends in Sydney who are all experienced guides with the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

We were spending two days on a “gallery crawl” – immersed in art of every type from modern to traditional, from painting to sculpture to installations.

  • As we enjoyed a fine meal one night … and as we indulged in what I call “red wine dreaming”  – we explored the question, “What is it that makes a work of art beautiful?”  What a challenging and interesting discussion we had.

Needless to say we did not come up with a definitive answer!

  • Generally speaking good art will appeal to you. It will be skilful in its execution, and technically adept.
  • The best art has meaning beyond just an image. At its most fundamental, it is an effective combination of concept, vision and mastery of medium. At the very least it will keep you coming back for more. It is likely to stand out in a crowd of other artworks. It will probably dare to be different.

Traditionally, Botanical Art is generally seen by most people to be pretty conservative.

  • It has no shock value.
  • It won’t make a political statement.
  • It won’t provide comment on the human condition.
  • But that does not mean that it can’t have drama, appeal and that most elusive of qualities, beauty (which is something much more than pretty).

Of course not all works of art are intended to be thought-provoking.

  • A purely scientific illustration, for example, won’t necessarily have a deeper meaning, but even this type of art can stand out as beautiful – witness the best of the Margaret Flockton awards, or the work of Arthur Harry Church – these works are designed for scientific purposes, but they are often very beautiful, and they can take your breath away.

So, how do we get our art to that point?

(Sign on to my next blog to read my thoughts on this)


In my diary:

  • 2017: Next Blog What does beauty in botanical art mean? (Part II) (to be posted in July)
  • 2017: Group Exhibition, Four Winds Bermagui Project, Fresh Salt.  This is a creative response by visual artists, poets, musicians and others to eight exquisite estuaries in the far south coast of NSW.  The exhibition will be held in October, at the ANU, Canberra and the Bega Regional Gallery.
  • 2017-2018: My painting of a “Lord Howe Island Fig”, was accepted for a Group Exhibition, Out of the Woods, November, New York, United States of America.  This juried exhibition then travels the United States during 2018.
  • 2018: Artist residency with Studio Maelor, Wales, United Kingdom

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