Landmark exhibition to explore the fragility of the natural world: Paradise Lost by Jan Hendrix
From 4 April to 20 September 2020
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Release date: 2 October 2019
Paradise Lost will be the first UK solo exhibition by Dutch-born, Mexico-based visual artist Jan Hendrix. The landmark show at Kew Gardens, featuring new works in a number of mediums, will convey the artist’s response to the transformation of a particular landscape known as Botany Bay, in Sydney, Australia.
Botany Bay was once beautiful and pristine, teaming with endemic flora and fauna. It acquired its name thanks to the huge number of plants that were recorded and collected there in 1770 by European botanists sailing on the HMS Endeavour voyage to the South Pacific. The botanists, Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, collected hundreds of cuttings at the bay and along the Endeavour River in Queensland. They pressed each specimen within the loosely bound uncut pages of a 1719 book, Notes on Paradise Lost, by English writer Joseph Addison.
Today, almost 250 years later, Botany Bay is virtually unrecognisable from that which the explorers found in 1770. Now, that landscape has been replaced by the suburbs of Sydney, an airport, a container port and an oil depot.
Paradise Lost will explore both the beauty and fragility of the natural world and its deterioration to make way for contemporary human existence. The historical material, collected by Banks and his companions, is the starting point from which Jan Hendrix has created a collection of beautiful and thought provoking art.
A vast monochrome tapestry will evoke the dynamic texture and beauty of an Australian landscape that may no longer exist, or that right now is endangered or is being destroyed by fire. A large-scale mirrored pavilion will form the centrepiece of the show, its intricate metallic form inspired by two plant species named after Banks and Solander, Banksia serrata and Banksia solandri. The immersive exhibition will also feature a striking series of silkscreen prints on silver leaf, enamel plates and other works besides, including a moving image work created by filmmaker Michael Leggett, in collaboration with Hendrix.
The show will begin with vitrines displaying some of the original historical material, on loan to Kew from the Natural History Museum, London. This will include botanical sketches, made at the time by artist Sydney Parkinson, and some of the plants collected by Banks and Solander collected at Botany Bay.
Maria Devaney, Galleries and Exhibitions Leader at RBG Kew says:
“This incredible exhibition by Jan Hendrix will highlight the devasting impact that we have as human beings on the planet - by using the example of Botany Bay and how it was irrevocably changed after 1770.
Through the prism of contemporary art, the exhibition at Kew will also draw attention to work of Joseph Banks. Today, Banks is relatively unknown, yet he was a hugely important figure in the advancement of the natural sciences. He later went on to be Kew’s first unofficial director under whose oversight the Gardens flourished as a centre of botanical research and exploration.
Hendrix’s long-standing interest in the life and work of Banks coupled with his passion for plants and nature lays the foundation for what promises to be a ground-breaking exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery.”
A book to accompany the exhibition will be published by Kew Publishing, with texts by Dawn Ades, Deborah Ely and Michael Leggett.
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 as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.3 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrates its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.
About Jan Hendrix: Hendrix was born in the Netherlands in 1949, he has lived in Mexico City since 1978. His works range from artist’s books, print editions, enamel installations, etched glass, and paintings, to large-scale architectural projects. He has held an average of three to four exhibitions a year since 2000 In recent years he has collaborated with numerous architects and is currently working on the façade of the new Mexican Museum in San Francisco. In 2019 Tierra Firme – was presented at MUAC, Mexico City until September 22nd and will be presented in the Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Holland, from November 24th 2019 to April 26, 2020, and the Museo Espacio, Aguascalientes, from December 5th 2019 to May 3rd, 2020.
His work is featured in public and private collections around the world. Collaborations with book authors include Seamus Heaney, Gabriel García Márquez, Paolo Ruffilli, Bert Schierbeek and Homero Aridjis.
In 2012, Jan Hendrix was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest Mexican award given to foreigners for his work in art and architecture. In 2019 he was made a Knight of the Order of Oranje-Nassau by the Royal House of the Netherlands.
For enquiries relating to Jan Hendrix’s practice please contact:
Vikki Nelson, +44 (0) 7788 284274 / VikkilovettnelsonProjects@gmail.com