Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Margaret Flockton Award, 2014

This year's entries for the Margaret Flockton Award for Scientific Botanical Art, on show at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, are attracting well-deserved attention from the general public.
Botanical artists from 10 countries have contributed works for judging. This year's winner, Lucy Smith of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, can finally rest easy as she has achieved her long-held ambition of winning the award, which is generously sponsored by the Maple-Brown family. Lucy Smith drew Nepenthes petiolata, a pitcher plant from the Philippines.

Award Curators Lesley Elkan & Catherine Wardrop, both Botanic Gardens Trust Botanical Illustrators, have done an excellent job of mounting a first-class, well-lit display of 33 works within the heritage space of the Maiden Theatre. Lesley Elkan was also one of this year's judges, along with Louisa Murray (Flora Botanist) & Karen Wilson (Senior Research Scientist). Catherine Wardrop's succinct description of the award greets viewers as they enter the room:
Unique among international art prizes, this award focuses exclusively on contemporary scientific botanical illustration, as distinct from botanical art.

To produce the work, illustrators create an accurate drawing that will accompany the taxonomic description of the plant, highlighting all of the distinctive features of the species. Taxonomic illustration is usually published in scientific journals as highly detailed black and white drawings primarily undertaken in pen and ink, more rarely in pencil.

Although the specifications of botanical illustration are strict, these selected works display a fascinating diversity of interpretation and expression while keeping absolute scientific accuracy at their core.

The award is judged on the following broad criteria:
1. Accurate interpretation and portrayal of the plant characters and diagnostic features highlighted in the botanical description
2.Technical merit
3. Artistic merit
4. Composition
5. Reproducibility

Today the specialty art form of scientific botanical illustration maintains its essential role at the interface of science and visual communication. With entries received from all over the globe, contemporary illustrations such as those exhibited in the Margaret Flockton Award continue to translate the complex science into a precise and meaningful visual medium for everyone to interpret.

Many of the works had been sold by the end of the first week of the exhibition, when I made a second visit with my mother Julia Woodhouse. Margaret was my mother's great-aunt and first art teacher, and I too remember Margaret (Aunt Mog) as a tiny little old lady. My forthcoming book 'A Fragrant Memory' will tell Margaret's impressive life story.

The Margaret Flockton Award exhibition closes on 15 June 2014 and it's well worth making the trip to this iconic part of Sydney to view it. Free entry. Once inside the Royal Botanic Gardens, just look for the signposts to the Maiden Theatre (on the Art Gallery of NSW side of the Gardens).

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