Friday, 18 July 2014

Laurence Hill's 10 metre long composition

I am excited to announce that Laurence Hill will be exhibiting one of his larger works at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art's upcoming show 'Inspiring Kew'. Laurence been devoting a lot of his time and expertise on his own project called Fritillaria Icones - a photographic botanical database which is designed to help with the identification, research and conservation of all Fritillaria species. Admirably, he has made his work available to all who are researching the genus by uploading his images onto an open web based resource. Each image has been set to show both currently accepted diagnostic characters and other morphological and physiological elements that are apparently poorly represented within the existing literature.
Fritillaria Capsules by Laurence Hill ©
These images endeavour to increase understanding of the genus. An essential principle of the project is to keep it simple and accessible, therefore practical, whilst maintaining high image quality. Users are also encouraged to make comments and critique.  

So Kew is lucky in that they will have Laurence Hill’s Fritillaria, A Family Portrait, on display. This piece is a bit different to the database work, as it captures a large number of species from a single genus and groups them in one, very long, continuous image. A whopping total of 80 species will be shown life-sized in a 10 metre long composition. The sequence in which the plants have been represented is apparently based on the most up-to-date genetic research from Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory. This piece is a but different in that it isn't painted, but I think it is a fabulous way of showing the beauty in plants and the sheer diversity present even at genus level.


  1. I think it is bit out of the usual for Kew in that it isn't painted. I do like it though, very much. I love the scale of it too. More info on the linear presentation if you have it please.

    1. It is very unusual and I am glad to see that Kew is broadening the possibilities more and more. I haven't seen the piece yet, but maybe I will pop into the gallery after the change over has finished to see it in all it's glory. There are a number of really important pieces on show for this exhibition and I ought to see them.

  2. I really like this work idea, because it has clarity, and the linnear arrangement can absolutely not be mistaken for a textile design. Its about the plants, and the art does not get in the way. If the very interesting projection is anything to go by one will be able to stand back and compare more in this vista vision than can ever be done from looking at small separate pages. I also really appreciate the inclusion of the bulbs and the root systems. This is a challening aspect to the photographer, to arrange the bulbs and roots as would be natural under ground. For anyone interested in Fritillaria its fabulous, and it will doubtless bring many converts.

    Once the lid was off the box that Rory MeEwen regularly used photographs to paint from, many other artists were prepared to admit that they too used photographs rather than paint from observation, which is good and honest. If botanical artists are already painting from photographs, surely it must therefore be entirely fine to show photographs as works in their own right.

  3. I would like to include a comment made by Laurence in reflection to this post, because a lot of readers seem to be interested in his work as an artist. Since I blogged about his magnum opus Laurence was kind enough to email me his thoughts which I'd like to share as I found them fascinating. I'd also like to point out that what is so amazing about his digital work is the way he is able to give it that painterly effect. The plants don't look like a cut and paste job if you get my drift...

    From my work I hope "you can see the complexity that I have tried to layer into the image while still leaving the image to stand on its own. This is similar to Rachel Pedder-Smith although the narrative and presentation is different. The internet changes the way we interact with botanical images, limitations of space are removed and data becomes move connected.

    My hope is that the Fritillaria image changes the way people engage with botanical illustration but not necessary that they stop painting.

    With best wishes

    I have been fortunate in that Laurence has sent me a PDF that contains some close ups of the big piece. I now feel more able to comment on the work (before I felt a little sketchy as I hadn't seen it full on) and I'm very grateful to Laurence for emailing me. For now I'm going to sleep on it but I'll be back in the morning!