‘Exploring Botany. Botanical Art in the 21st Century’ at the Manggha Museum for Japanese Art and Technology in Krakow, Poland is the exhibition that celebrates botanical art, planned until 28th February 2021. The exhibition features over 30 invited contemporary botanical artists from Japan and Europe, as well as works by old masters from Japan and the western world. This is the Poland’s first exhibition, showcasing the phenomenon of today’s botanical art, both European and Japanese, showing works by modern-day artists in the context of the artworks of old masters of botanical illustration, Basilius Besler, Crispijn van de Passe the Younger, Jacob Hoefnagel, Emanuel Sweert, Elizabeth Blackwell, and above all Maria Sibylla Merian.
These are complemented by Hiroshige’s and Watanabe Seitei’s ‘pictures of flowers and birds’, which engage in surprising visual and narrative dialogue with the European works. As the curator, Anna Król, said: ‘The idea of this inspiring exhibition came from Sylvia Peter, a curator, essayist, and artist creating suggestive images of nature. In twenty-first-century Polish art, plants are usually a permanent fixture in the artist’s atelier, or a component of still lifes, often saturated with complex symbolic meanings. And though it would be hard to find in Poland artists involved in the modern-day botanical art that continues the tradition of early modern plant illustration featured in herbals and florilegia, without a doubt there is a profound, original reflection on nature and botany to be found e.g. in the works of a circle of young female artists, graduates of Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts. Our exhibition includes works by some of them. Katarzyna Makieła-Organisty paints with tenderness both ‘ugly creatures’ and beautiful ones, either in watercolours or egg tempera. The combined presentation of Edyta Dufaj’s photographic project and Kamila Piazza’s sculptural project touches on the fundamental relations between man and nature, man and wildlife, man and trees. The same subject, though through a different form, is rendered by Justyna Stoszek’s seemingly fairy-tale-like, disconcerting sylvan compositions, while a feeling of apprehension and menace are visualized by Łukasz Huculak’s Heliotropes. The computer Garden from Bożka Rydlewska’s New Botany series, a knowing reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Karolina Kowalska’s Creatures conjure up a world that is surprisingly akin to the imagery of Maria Sibylla Merian’s work. The series Senses: Water and Leaves, Water and Lilies created by Iwona Ornatowska-Semkowicz in the spring of 2020 is the artist’s response to the pandemic, specifically to the related confinement – an outcry to summon the saving power of nature.’