Edge of the Sea Exhibition opens

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibiton

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibition

Edge of the Sea exhibition of my original seaweed pressings and new giclee prints opens 3rd Oct and runs until the 30th Oct at Hangar Art Gallery, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW (tel: 01620 850 946).

I will be at the gallery today, Sat, 3rd Oct from 12 noon – 4pm. Stop by for a glass of wine and see the show!

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Edge of the Sea

Edge of the Sea inviteNew exhibition going up this week – my first selling one – at Hangar Framing & Art, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW.

Show will include original pressings and new giclee prints of lovely lacy Rhodophyta and some big green kelps.

Please come along and join me at the opening on Sat, 3rd Oct, 12-4pm to see the show and have a glass of wine.

Anna Atkins’ Cyanotypes

Anna Atkins - cyanotypeI was lucky enough to see the exquisite exhibition of Anna Atkins’ seaweed cyanotypes at the Stills Gallery in Edinburgh in May.

The exhibition’s purpose was to explore the history and art of photography, and the small inner room of the gallery was devoted to a collection of original images from her seminal work British Algae; Cyanotype Impressions (1843), the first book to be illustrated by photography.

Anna Atkins was one of those quite amazing women known affectionately as the Seaweed Sisterhood – a group of both trained and self-taught botanists and phycologists who collectively classified and catalogued the seaweeds of the British coast in the mid-1800’s. Anna, in printing and publishing her book, also established the first use of photography for scientific illustration.

Her cyanotypes are very simple juxtapositions of blue and white, illustrating the shape and form of her botanical collection but with a lovely sense of artistry, harmony and balance.  The work goes well beyond a scientific recording and evokes a sense of the aesthetic appreciation so often at the heart of collectors’ work of that era.

Sara's cyanotypes

Sara’s cyanotypes

I had a go at creating some cyanotypes of my own pressings in a short workshop held in the darkrooms of the gallery.  Not in the same league as Anna’s, but a pleasure to experience her process and thinking in creating this wonderful body of work.

Final weekend of Sea Flora Exhibition

Photo by Serge Jak

Photo by Serge Jak

This weekend marks the end of my first exhibition at the Gateway Gallery of the RBGE. Many thanks to all at the Botanics, especially curator Kirsty White, who have made this show such a success.  A big thank you too to Kate Eden for joining me in our talk on Victorian seaweed collectors on the 13 June, to BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme for their support, and to all those who came along to see the show and wrote lovely comments in the guest book.

Many of the pressings both on paper and in acrylic are now for sale – if you are interested, please send me an email through the Contact page.

Sea Flora acrylics - photo by Serge Jak

Sea Flora acrylics – photo by Serge Jak

 

Seaweed art

William Kilburn's seaweed fabric design, circa 1788

William Kilburn’s seaweed fabric design, circa 1788

Oh! Call us not weeds, but flowers
of the sea,
For lovely, and gay and bright-
tinted are we!
Our blush is as deep as the rose
of thy bowers –
Then call us not weeds, we are
Ocean’s gay flowers.

from Mary Matilda Howard’s, “Ocean flowers and their teachings” (1846)

Pink and green feathery branches and floating tendrils spin from a central arrangement of coral, periwinkle and seaweed to form the central motif of William Kilburn’s classic textile designs for frocks of the 18th century. Weaving organic forms of foliage, flowers and roots his courtly compositions presaged the naturalistic designs of William Morris by a century, but are oddly familiar to those of us who delight in early Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston.

Kilburn (1745-1818), born in Dublin, worked as a botanical illustrator for William Curtis on the Flora Londiniensis, his adherence to authenticity rooted in the new science of botany just at the moment when Linnaeus was devising his monumental classification system. Kilburn later started his own printing company creating fabrics that captured the growing fascination for natural history and craze for gathering and collecting seaweeds. In fact more than twenty of his textile designs in the V&A’s archives have British seaweeds at the centre of his compositions.

Anna Atkins cyanotype of Laminaria digitata, circa 1853

Anna Atkins cyanotype of Laminaria digitata, circa 1853

A generation later, Anna Atkins (1799 – 1871), a trained botanist, explored the use of photography to create her exquisite cyanotype photogenic ‘drawings’ of seaweeds, using a cameraless technique introduced to her by William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel. She published three volumes Photographs of British Algae starting in 1843 and completing the set in 1853, leading the way for photography in scientific illustration. She was one of several well-known Victorian women seaweed collectors, together with Amelia Griffiths (1768-1858) and Margaret Gatty (1809-1873) – whose work is still treasured in the collection of the University of St Andrews.

Matisse_Seaweed

 

In 1941 Henri Matisse (born 1869) started his “vie seconde” and his celebrated artistic period of painting with scissors – cutting freeform shapes of colourful painted paper into organic shapes and composing rhythmic improvisations. He was “taking a closed space of reduced proportions and, through a play of light and colours alone, conferring infinite dimensions on it”.  In 1947 he began the design for the beautiful stained glass window of La Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, based on motifs of seaweed and coral   In this vibrant late period of his life he created over 20 collages, many now on view in the masterful show at the Tate Modern.

Julia Lohmann_Oki Naganode, 2013

Julia Lohmann_Oki Naganode, 2013

More recently, Julia Lohmann, a German designer became head of the Department of Seaweed at the V&A, exploring new techniques of crafting objects from kelps. Her stunning pieces are both art and product design, from huge installations to elegant benches and lamp shades.

Lastly, I recently visited the stunning stained glass show ‘Beyond the Object’, by Dale Chihuly (American, 1941), at the Halcyon Gallery on New Bond Street. The light and shadow effects are mesmerising, a dreamlike sensation of floating beneath stilled chromatic waves of organic forms diffusing the colour and light of a electric rockpool.

Dale Chihuly from 'Beyond the Object', Halcyon Gallery, 2014

Dale Chihuly from ‘Beyond the Object’, Halcyon Gallery, 2014