All the Flowers are for Me and Plants of the Qur’ān: two ground-breaking new art exhibitions at Kew Gardens
Saturday 1 April to Sunday 17 September 2023, Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Gardens
Release date: 31 January 2023
- Award-winning artist Anila Quayyum Agha presents two spectacular works, including a UK premiere
- Tandem exhibition Plants of the Qur’ān by Sue Wickison showcases 25 brand-new botanical paintings
- Unique presentation of traditional and contemporary botanical artworks
- Gallery entry included in Kew Gardens general admission; £1 Universal Credit ticket and £9 young person's ticket available
- Press preview Thursday 30 March from 2pm. RSVP to email@example.com
Acclaimed artists Anila Quayyum Agha and Sue Wickison present new work at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Gardens from April 2023.
Exploring themes of faith and cultural exchanges, this tandem exhibition showcases stunning contemporary sculptural work alongside intricate botanical paintings, reflecting the ongoing evolution of art inspired by the natural world.
All the Flowers are for Me
Pakistani-American contemporary artist Anila Quayyum Agha showcases two stunning pieces as part of the exhibition. All the Flowers are for Me takes the shape of a large, laser-cut steel cube suspended from the ceiling and is inspired by patterns used in Islamic art and architecture. Filling the gallery space with elaborate floor-to-ceiling shadow patterns, All the Flowers are for Me creates a unique experience where visitors can become a living, breathing part of the artwork, in an inclusive, sacred space. The work encompasses ideas of cultural connectedness and peaceful co-existence within the context of an increasingly fractious world.
Alongside this will be Stealing Moments (After Morris and Dürer), I and II, a new work which receives its UK premiere at Kew Gardens. Constructed from mirrored stainless steel, this wall-mounted piece is inspired by Great Piece of Turf by the pioneering botanical artist Albrecht Dürer. This watercolour painting from 1503 is widely considered to be one of Dürer’s most realistic nature studies, depicting a variety of wild plants in meticulous detail. Created over 500 years after Dürer’s piece, Stealing Moments demonstrates the constant evolution of botanical art forms, and highlights how traditional botanical painting remains a source of inspiration for contemporary art.
Anila Quayyum Agha says: “As an artist who draws constant inspiration from the beauty, shapes and structures of our precious natural world, I’m delighted to be bringing my work to Kew Gardens for the first time this April. Showcasing All the Flowers are for Me and Stealing Moments (After Morris and Dürer), I and II, in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art will be a very special experience and is one which I’m really looking forward to sharing with visitors. I invite people to take the time to pause and reflect on the themes of the art pieces during their time in the gallery.”
Plants of the Qur’ān
Running simultaneously will be Plants of the Qur’ān, a complimentary exhibition featuring a host of brand-new botanical paintings of plants referenced in the Qur’ān. Travelling to various locations in the Middle East, botanical artist Sue Wickison has illustrated plants including garlic, pomegranate, date palms, henna and flowering desert species. Working alongside Kew scientist Dr Shahina Ghazanfar, Sue has researched, documented, and recorded plants referenced in the Qur’ān, creating 25 new botanical paintings for this exhibition. Highlighting the cultural, agricultural, and botanical significance of a variety of species, the exhibition will allow visitors to engage with these often-everyday plants in new ways, exploring their cultural context alongside their role in modern medicine, as food sources and in gardens around the world.
Sue Wickison adds: “After six years of researching, sourcing and illustrating the many plants which are described in the Qur’ān, it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the culmination of this work with this new exhibition. Having worked as a botanical illustrator at Kew Gardens for almost ten years, I’m really thrilled to be showcasing these new paintings in a place which is very special to me, collaborating with Dr Shahina Ghazanfar on this unique project.”
Maria Devaney, Galleries and Exhibition Leader at RBG Kew continues: “It’s wonderful to be able to welcome these two pioneering artists to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Whist their working styles vary hugely in terms of technique, both share a profound connection to nature, recognising the breadth of inspiration which can be drawn from the world around us.”
Gallery Six will feature an exhibition of works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, celebrating water plants following the naming of Victoria boliviana as new to science in 2022.
At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, we’re dedicated to harnessing the power of plants and fungi to end the extinction crisis and secure a future for all life on Earth. With Kew’s world-leading research, global partnerships and beloved gardens – home to the world’s most diverse collections of plants and fungi – we’re using our trusted voice to shape policy and practice worldwide. As a charity we rely on the critical support of our visitors, not only to sustain the gardens, but to protect global plant and fungal biodiversity for the benefit of our planet and humanity.
Admission to the exhibition is included in a ticket to Kew Gardens. Pre-booking online offers the best value visit.
For more information or images, please contact the Press Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections and scientific expertise in plant and fungal diversity, conservation, and sustainable development in the UK and around the globe. Kew’s scientists and partners lead the way in the fight against biodiversity loss and finding nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, aided by five key scientific priorities outlined in Kew’s Science Strategy 2021-2025. Kew Gardens is also a major international and top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of historic, landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden and ‘living laboratory’, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to the Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world and a safeguard against the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. RBG Kew received approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needs to support RBG Kew’s vital scientific and educational work comes from donors, memberships and commercial activity including ticket sales. For tickets, please visit www.kew.org/kew-gardens/visit-kew-gardens/tickets. In the first six months since implementing a new accessibility scheme for those in receipt of Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Legacy Benefits, Kew has welcomed over 20,000 visitors with £1 tickets.
About Anila Quayyum Agha
Anila Quayyum Agha (b. Lahore, Pakistan) received her BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore and an MFA from the University of North Texas. Major solo shows include the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas; Columbia Art Museum in South Carolina; Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, Maryland, National Sculpture Museum in Valladolid, Spain, The Dallas Contemporary Art Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Florida, Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh, and the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. For the 2019 Venice Biennial, Agha was included in a collateral event, She Persists, with 22 contemporary feminist artists. Agha has received the Efroymson Art Fellowship, Cincinnati Art Museum’s 2017 Schiele Prize, the DeHaan Artist of Distinction Award twice (2018 & 2021) and the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors award in 2019. Agha’s 2014 ArtPrize entry, titled "Intersections", earned the Public Vote Grand Prize and split the Juried Grand Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
She is the recipient of numerous grants from Indiana University like the New Frontiers Exploratory grant. For her creative research, Agha, was awarded the highest research honor by Indiana University in 2016 titled Glenn W. Irwin Research Scholar Award. In 2020, Agha received an Endowed Chair position titled Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta University in Georgia, as well as the prestigious Smithsonian Fellowship in the arts for 2021 and worked with both SAAM and AAA in Washington DC in May 2022. Her work has been collected by both institutions and private collectors nationally and internationally.
About Sue Wickison
Sue Wickison, born and brought up in Sierra Leone, has always had a passion for plants, preferring to travel to observe them in their natural habitat to ensure accuracy and authenticity when recording the minute details and colour nuances. Sue received her BA Honours in Scientific Illustration from Middlesex University before working at the Kew Herbarium for almost 10 years, illustrating Grasses, Legumes and Orchids for various Kew publications. A Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship enabled Sue to travel to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific to collect and record Orchids for Kew books. During her varied career, Sue has recorded plants used for slope stabilization in Nepal and the use of plants for the Forestry Department in Vanuatu for an ethnobotanical book. She has also travelled to an extremely isolated mountain area of Lesotho in Southern Africa to record one of the smallest and rarest waterlilies. Field trips into remote areas over a year enabled Sue to capture in minute detail, the complicated symbiotic relationship between two critically endangered, endemic species in New Zealand, Dactalanthus taylorii and the short tailed bat Mystacina tuberculate. The large full life cycle painting is in the Auckland Museum collection.
Sue’s artwork is featured in private and public collections globally, most notably The UK Royal Collection, Shirley Sherwood Collection, The Hunt Institute and the Auckland Museum. Sue’s awards include: Royal Horticulture Society Gold medal and multiple Society of Botanical Artist (UK) awards. Travel has been essential for Sue to visit remote areas in the UAE and Oman, to observe how the plants have been grown for generations, to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of her work for ‘Plants of the Qur’an, History and Culture’..
About the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
Located at Kew Gardens in London, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the world’s first display space dedicated solely to this genre. Since it was opened in 2008 by Sir David Attenborough, the gallery has held over 50 exhibitions, welcomed more than a million visitors, and become the hub of the worldwide renaissance of botanical art. Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE studied botany at Oxford University before starting the Shirley Sherwood Collection in 1990. Thirty years on, the Collection includes over 1,000 paintings and drawings, representing the work of over 300 contemporary botanical artists from 36 countries around the world. The collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been a huge success, with the gallery showcasing a huge diversity of botanical art, raising the profile of the genre and the plants it portrays. Its walls have seen paintings by renowned artists such as Margaret Mee and Rory McEwen, and collections from Brazil, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and the USA. As well as displaying pieces from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, the gallery hosts a roster of genre-pushing exhibitions by independent artists. Recent examples include the intricate graphite drawings of the UK’s oldest oak trees by Mark Frith, an immersive installation by British artist Rebecca Louise Law, and sculptures by Dale Chihuly and David Nash. In 2020/21 it hosted Paradise Lost by Jan Hendrix, and continues to explore ideas that question humans’ relationship with the natural world, drawing upon RBG Kew’s own collections and vital scientific research.