This exhibition has passed
This exhibition features works by 14 artists and art collectives drawn from five centuries and includes masterpieces of biological illustration in watercolour as well as highly provocative contemporary art in a variety of media. Together these illuminate our shifting understanding of the forces that shape the natural world and our understanding of our own place in it.
The exhibition is underpinned by Systema Naturae, Carl Linnaeus’s revolutionary and seminal book about the intricate flora and fauna of our planet. His classification system inspired some of the best illustrators in art history, whose depictions of the diversity of plants and animals navigated the territory where art and science meet. This exhibition explores the legacy of biological illumination, an art form traditionally developed in the pre-photographic era using watercolour media. Watercolour was the medium of choice because its convenience made it appropriate for artists to take with them into the field for making direct studies from nature. One goal for the exhibition is to make note of the philosophical reach that is linked to biological illuminations while we celebrate the aesthetic value of the watercolours themselves.
The historical works are presented in dialogue with modern art that profoundly portrays the great challenges of our time. The contemporary artists in this exhibition reflect a profound shift in perspective in philosophically provocative and conceptual ways. Some evoke the spectre of extinction, but instead of reductively conjuring visions of a hell-scape, their work expresses more personal meditations on multiple alternative trajectories for ideas that generate holistic thinking. Some present more poetic responses to the legacy of Linnaeus and the collecting practices of early naturalists, while others hold up a mirror to our tendency to run away from acknowledging our problems that are caused by everyday human addictions.
Participating artists: The Rudbeck Family (17th–18th century), Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706–1783), John James Audubon (1785–1851), Magnus & Wilhelm von Wright (1805–1868 & 1810–1887), Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), Walton Ford (b. 1960), Mark Dion (b. 1961), Christine Ödlund (b.1963), Astrid Svangren (b. 1972), Carlos Amorales (b. 1970), Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg (b. 1978 & 1978) and the art collective teamLab (founded in 2001)
We preserve the works
Some works in the historical section of the exhibition are several hundred years old. This means that they are very fragile. The fact that they are being exhibited at The Nordic Watercolour Museum is a unique event that has required extensive preparations. For conservation reasons, some of the works may only be displayed for shorter periods of time. Some works will therefore have to be replaced during the course of the exhibition, while a few can only be seen until week 30 2023. The artists and works affected by this are Barbara Regina Dietzsch and Maria Sibylla Merian. By Dietzsch, 15 paintings will be exchanged for 15 others between 12–13 July. Among Merian's works, one painting will be replaced, one page of the book alternated, and seven paintings will be replaced with wallpaper.
In other words, the exhibition will change during the period it is on display. Pay us a visit both at the beginning and at the end of the summer (annual card is included in the entrance fee).
This exhibition features works by a handful of art history’s most acclaimed biological illustrators spanning the 17th through 20th centuries. Their work has long been recognized for both the artistry and influence of their artistic achievement. Sometimes, these works have been central to breakthroughs in the development of scientific theory. For example, works by the family Rudbeck and Maria Sibylla Merian inspired Carl Linneaus, which in turn provided a critical foundation for Charles Darwin’s postulation of evolution. John James Audubon has become emblematic of the conservation movement in the United States. Works by Barbara Regina Dietzsch, on the other hand, have been principally appreciated for their exquisite aesthetic qualities, both during her lifetime and today. Ernst Haeckel is respected for both his contributions to understanding ecology and for his dazzling renderings of sea life that were pivotal in the development of Art Nouveau. Just as the von Wright brother’s illustrated volumes, Haeckel’s work is still popular as posters. Classical artists: The Rudbeck Family (17th–18th century), Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706–1783), John James Audubon (1785–1851), Magnus & Wilhelm von Wright (1805–1868 & 1810–1887), Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919)
The exhibition features the work of contemporary artists who delve the legacy of classical traditions of biological illustration. Christine Ödlund take the contributions of Carl Linnaeus and Ernst Haeckel as her muses. Sometimes, the responses are poetic, as for example Astrid Svangren’s meditative installation from the bees’ perspective. Mexican artist Carlos Amorales balances personal and political motivations in his installation, inspired by a family memory while suggesting entomological mounting on a catastrophic scale. Nathalie Djurberg’s and Hans Berg’s installations with birds elicit tragicomical emotions with theatrical lighting, mirrors and pills that evoke confrontational reflections about our own roles and responsibilities. In the case of American artists Mark Dion and Walton Ford, their works incorporate ironic acknowledgement of our moment of mass extinction. A major installation of four works by the art collective teamLab use botanical and animal imagery derived from Asian art and philosophy to tell stories of the cycles of death and renewal. Seeing teamLab internationally helps foreground the potential for changing things up by embedding non-Western cultural perspectives, as each culture has different stories about the earth and its animals. Contemporary artists: Walton Ford (b. 1960), Mark Dion (b. 1961), Christine Ödlund (b.1963), Astrid Svangren (b. 1972), Carlos Amorales (b. 1970), Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg (b. 1978 & 1978), art collective teamLab (founded in 2001)