Quiet Revolutions: Patricia Swannell - Kazuhito Takadoi

Quiet Revolutions: Patricia Swannell - Kazuhito Takadoi

10 November - 3 December 2016

Subtle innovations breaking through the conventions of the genre and the social setting are the common theme of ‘Quiet Revolutions’. Patricia Swannell and Kazuhito Takadoi’s works seek new ways to explore botanical subjects.

Botanical painting has long been relegated to the category of a minor genre, disparaged as ‘illustration’ and ‘decoration’. This is in spite of glorious expressive works by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh and Georgia O’ Keeffe. It has traditionally been viewed primarily as a highly skilled, but seemly, an occupation for women, conducted within the domestic sphere.

Patricia Swannell has been inspired by decorous historical women artists who made quiet but ground-breaking work within these constraints. Maria Merian (1647-1717), Mary Delany (1700 -1788), and Marianne North (1830 -1890) created bodies of work that challenged this orthodoxy. We recognise these works today as innovative breakthroughs – in sensitive, accurate environmental observations; the use of unconventional, but expressive materials; and the creation of transporting installations. With small innovations, these artists -all starting work at a mature age with a wealth of life experience- broke through the constraints of their times, the constraints of expectations, and the boundaries of the domestic and social world in which they learned to thrive. Thinking of these women, Patricia uses the circle as a symbol as well as a motif, defining what is within, what is outside and what has been breached.

Swannell’s Colour Notes series, brings together in a 'spotlight' the careful dry brush illustrations, juxtaposed against a matt black background in a densely hung collection. It is a sort of meditation on these three extraordinary women, innovators in their time, working within restrictive social conventions, to create enduring works of art. My Horizon series pays respect to these inspiring women, who created a new awareness and enduring legacies.

Similarly Kazuhito Takadoi subverts tradition as a man working in a traditionally female genre, sewing images with botanic specimens, grasses and twigs, with the circle returning again and again as a motif. In his new Nai series (Missing), empty circles appear, a space of void becomes manifest. This landscape of rich grass embroidered circles, many covered in gold leaf, emphasises the emptiness of a few round negative spaces. Kazuhito’s interest in shadows adds an important dimension to his grass, wood and twig sculptures, “As the light changes or the point of view is moved, so the shadows will create a new perspective.”

Inspired by the rich woodland surrounding his birthplace of Nagoya, Japan, Kazuhito Takadoi grows and hand picks grasses, leaves and twigs from his garden, sowing each blade through the paper. As the grasses dry and mature they embark on a subtle colour shift, comparative to seasonal change. Ka