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Susannah Blaxill

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Extract from: "Digging up treasures: Kew shows off plant pictures in new gallery," by Mark Brown, arts correspondent for The Guardian, Thursday April 17 2008

"Back in the gallery, Sherwood is admiring Australian artist Susannah Blaxill's superbly intense painting of a common beetroot. 'She really is considered one of the very, very best. It took her months to do this painting, months. She said her family never wanted to eat beetroot ever again.'" (view online)

Press Release
The Canberra Times from Monday January 30th, 2006. (in pdf - download acrobat)


Reviews

Botanica 2005
Extract From "Flower power flourishes on canvas," by Jane Albert. The Australian, FRI 06 MAY 2005, Page 008

"Botanic art has moved away from being purely scientific illustrated work," Allen said. "People are painting flowers now, putting the emphasis on the flowers' beauty. And the bolder works are making people realise botanic art can be a bit different."

Botanica 2005, which opens in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney today, features a number of artists whose work is exhibited and collected internationally.

"Some, like Susannah Blaxill's charcoal Pepper and Pear, are striking in their sensuality. Quaint, pretty flowers they are not."

"It's a little world we're slowly educating people about," she said. "There's such an awareness of the environment that people are focusing on plants and the environment around them. And artists like Susannah Blaxill are really pushing the boundaries."


Extract From The Weekend Australian December 15 and 16, 2002. By Michael Reid. Lecturer at The College of Fine Art. University of NSW, Australia.

"Occasionally as I stumble around the Art World, I come across an artist's work that brings me up short and throws a clear light on the qualities that make significant art."

"As a painter, Blaxill takes ordinary produce and elevates it, with extraordinary skill, to the extraordinary. In effect, art overtakes science, for as concerned as Blaxill is with getting her botanical subjects correct, she is fascinated as an artist by the colours and forms of plant growth and decay. She is inspired by the perfection of imperfection and in Blaxill's work I notice for the first time the beauty to be found in the decaying process."

"There is an extraordinary complexity within the simplicity of the subject matter and that is the gift which commands the viewer to look again."

"What makes Blaxill an outstanding artist... is that she compels the viewer to see the everyday in a new way... The good and the great have always had this capacity to take the obvious and infuse it with all the wonder of creative discovery. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Fred Williams, Brett Whitley and Rosalie Gascoigne did it and William Robinson does it as well."


Extract from "Country Life Magazine", 1992. A review of Susannah Blaxill Solo exhibition at Spink, London. By Polly Chiapetta, Editor of "Apollo".

"Fruit and vegetable paintings - so familiar, so decorative, so unthreatening - take on a new and unexpected life in the watercolours of Susannah Blaxill, and are raised above the recherché genre of botanical illustration to become almost portraiture."

"Painted with a botanist's eye and an artist's visual sensibility, the isolated images start out from their black or white backgrounds and demand to be seen afresh; but we are not used to seeing ordinary vegetables presented in such an idealised and brazen way, and it is subtly disquieting. One almost wants to blush and avert one's gaze. Susannah Blaxill is - extraordinarily for so accomplished a draughtsman - self taught: her skills come from many years of painting and observing paintings by other artists ... she has been able to choose the subject matter that excites and stimulates her personal will to create art, and has concentrated on it with a dedication that any medieval monk illuminating a manuscript would have done well to emulate."

"...her pictures are not the result of an overriding interest in the subject coupled with a happy facility with the paint brush, but of an almost mischievous desire to celebrate ordinariness."

"It is the visual interest in natural decay that the artist seeks out, preferring it to the supermarket-fresh, cling-wrapped perfection and symmetry of much of the produce we buy, and it is this fascination with age that makes her work so arresting."

"Susannah Blaxill is a subversive in the world of produce paintings, creating works that redefine the genre. She resists the label of botanical painter because, despite her distinguished record in the botanical art establishment, she sees herself more as artist than illustrator, and is concerned that her works should not be regarded as decorative, nor put to ornamental uses in the way that seems to have been the fate of many 18th century botanical prints."

"The first aspect to cause the viewer to catch his breath - the delicacy of execution - is in danger at times of distracting his attention from the more painterly concerns of compositions of spatial relations. In this, the artist, for all her historical references, is resolutely of the present and deliberately uses the spacing and grouping of the objects to create a frisson of visual tension."

What is particularly arresting is the spare dignity with which the subjects (one is almost to describe them as sitters) are presented. Their isolation in space deprives them of the kind of human context in which we usually see fruit and vegetables ... and forces us to look at them on their own terms"


Extract from: "Contemporary Botanical Artists". Pub. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1996. By Dr Shirley Sherwood.

"(Susannah Blaxill) is a very detailed and meticulous artist whose flowers, fruit and vegetables seem to float in space. She applies layer upon layer of watercolour, using very fine brushes, and achieves an almost startling intensity, clear edged and dramatic. A beautiful painting of Pears, is reproduced on the cover of the catalogue for the Hunt Institute's 7th International Exhibition".

"I believe she is one of today's best botanical artists and an example of Australia's depth of quality in this field".


Extract from: "A Passion for Plants". Cassel and Co., 2002. By Dr Shirley Sherwood.

"... some contemporary artists are going much further than echoing the triumphs of the past. They are painting new interpretations of familiar subjects, so that I will never be able to see a humble beetroot again without thinking of Susannah Blaxill's amazing portrait. (Her) renowned study, one of the most exciting vegetable portraits of today... appeared on the front page of the New York Times art section whilst on exhibition in that city. (It) is so notable that virtually every exhibition curator has chosen it when I have shown it around the world. There is no doubt that she is one of the great contemporary botanical artists."


Extract from: Introduction to the Catalogue for first Solo Show in London. 1991. By Hugh Johnson.

"I was almost startled by my first sight of Susannah Blaxill's painting. Her crispness of vision is matched by a technique that intensifies every image. First rate artists make you revise your own vision of reality; Susannah Blaxill brings you a violet or a wizened pear with an authority that forces you to see it with fresh eyes".


Publications and Articles

  • "Contemporary Botanical Artists, The Shirley Sherwood Collection" by Shirley Sherwood, Published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1996.
  • "A Passion for Plants, Contemporary Botanical Masterworks" by Shirley Sherwood, Published by Cassel and Co, 2001
  • "Our Famous Unknown" Weekend Australian 15 and 16 December, 2001
  • "The Cook and the Painter", The Weekend Australian Magazine 19 and 20 October, 2002
  • New York Times, USA
  • The Economist, UK 1994
  • Country Life Magazine, UK
  • Belle Magazine, Australia
  • House and Garden, UK
  • Highlife Magazine, Australia
  • "A New Flowering: 1000 Years of Botantical Art", by Shirley Sherwood, published by The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, U.K., 2005
  • The Canberra Times, January 30th, 2006
  • The Art of Plant Evolution, by W. John Cress and Shirley Sherwood, Key Publishing, 2009.
  • Treasures of Botanical Art: Icons from the Shirley Sherwood and Kew Collections, by Shirley Sherwood and Martin Rix, KewPublishing, 2009
  • Botanical Art into the Third Millenium, Edizioni ETS, 2013
  • Rory McEwen: The Colours of Reality, Kew Publications, 2014


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© 2005 - 2012 Susannah Blaxill
susannah@blaxill.com
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