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'Blooming Amazing': This bronze sculpture exhibition celebrates the new season

The new exhibition Blooming Amazing runs at Everard Read in Johannesburg until 16 September

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By Edwain Steenkamp | August 23, 2023 | Art

As the last gusts of winter blow through Johannesburg, Nic Bladen - the global rock star of botanical art - has turned his hand to sculpt endemic flowering plants many South Africans will know, or even have in their own gardens. The brilliant bronzes in this new collection are a sign that spring is just around the corner in the City of Gold.

‘Clivia Miniata Hybrid’ by Nic Bladen. Image: Supplied

“This much anticipated assemblage is very much a celebration of flowering plants that you may come across along the way on a walk”, says Everard Read Chairman, Mark Read. That walk might be into the hills around Kommetjie, outside Cape Town, where Bladen is based, but you are just as likely to spot the budding Crassulas, Clivias and Ericas that this master caster has conjured in a meander around your own suburb. Floral fundis and those simply appreciative of beautiful blooms will find equal enjoyment in this bronze bounty.

‘Watsonia Meriana’ by Nic Bladen. Image: Supplied

Bladen’s spectacularly crafted sculptures are part alchemy, part fanatical technical brilliance. It is a devotion to the natural world as well as his artistic wizardry that have put these metal manifestations of plant matter into a class of their own when it comes to botanical art. This new collection is no different. Were it not for the powdery, metallic sheen of the pieces, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a complete, real-life plant, suspended from root to tip.

Over decades, Bladen has produced botanical sculptures based on biomes, reserves, regions, plant families and the likes. Here he has changed tack, concentrating on ‘garden’ plants – the samples he cast coming from nurseries.

‘Rushia Mariana’ by Nic Bladen. Image: Supplied
‘Pelargonium Sidiodes’ by Nic Bladen. Image: Supplied
‘Limonium Perezii’ by Nic Bladen. Image: Supplied

Typically, the Cape Town artist sources the samples to work from by harvesting complete plants or cuttings from the wild or collecting nursery plants. As he puts it, “I have different relationships with these three methods of obtaining the precious plant-matter”.

Collecting from nurseries seems an easy fix, but it comes with a particular complexity for Bladen. “It has a transactional element in it for me", he says. "The plant has not yet made contact with the earth in which it will flourish. It is in a holding space and is only slightly easier for me to apply the bronzing process to. Here, they are usually relatively unblemished in their prime, and put onto the nursery floor just as that species starts flowering”. The creative process might have its tensions, but the result is artwork set to delight Joburgers.

Blooming Amazing’ runs at Everard Read in Johannesburg until 16 September 2023.

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