16 October 2020

Paradise Lost: Exhibition highlights

The must-see pieces of Jan Hendrix's new exhibition at Kew Gardens.

By Ellen McHale

Jan Hendrix exhibition

Paradise Lost is the first UK solo exhibition by Dutch-born, Mexico-based visual artist Jan Hendrix.

The show explores Jan's response to the transformation of Kamay Botany Bay, in Sydney, Australia.

Kamay Botany Bay acquired its name thanks to the huge number of plants recorded and collected there in 1770 by European botanists Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. 

Inspired by this expedition, Jan explores how the landscape has changed in 250 years. Once teeming with life, it is now unrecognisable. 

We've rounded up the highlight pieces from this thought-provoking exhibition. 

Herbarium sheets 

The first part of the exhibition is a series of herbarium sheets, printing plates and watercolours of the original plants collected in 1770. 

While researching at the Natural History Museum, Jan came across this amazing historical material. 

It became the starting point for his own collection of works, exploring how the landscape has transformed since then. 

Accompanying the herbarium specimens are Jan's silver leaf prints, which are a contemporary interpretation of the species found in 1770. 

Mirror Pavilion

At the centre of the show is a glistening mirrored pavilion.

Built in the fashion of a folly, the sculpture is made of stainless steel.

It has been water-jet cut to create intricate details in the outer and inner layers, inspired by the leaves of endemic Australian plants Banksia serrata and Banksia solandri. 

Jan Hendrix exhibition
Jan Hendrix exhibition © Roger Wooldridge

Tapestry 

This beautiful tapestry, named 'The Remains', has been woven in a mix of silk, wool and chenille.

It was woven in the tradition of the jacquard loom. This technique allows the artist and the weaver to reproduce the smallest detail of a drawing.

A theme throughout the exhibition is the destruction of nature. The tapestry depicts a broken-down landscape that is fragile and has suffered at the hands of humans. 

Today, Kamay Botany Bay is an airport, a container port, an oil depot, a desalination plant for seawater and a suburb of Sydney. Approximately 5% of the original landscape is still intact on the coastline, but sadly that's all that's left.

Jan Hendrix exhibition
Jan Hendrix exhibition © Roger Wooldridge

Watercolours 

These beautiful watercolours are painted on the last two chapters of Paradise Lost by Milton.

When Banks visited Botany Bay in the 18th century, he collected and pressed plants on the pages of a book called Notes upon the twelve books of Paradise Lost published by Joseph Addison. These sheets are preserved at the Natural History Museum. 

Jan was inspired by these sheets to name the exhibition Paradise Lost, which encapsulated the idea of destruction of what was once a pristine landscape. 

Experience this thought-provoking exhibition for yourself at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, until 14 March 2021. 

Watercolours by Jan Hendrix
Paradise Lost by John Milton, Book XI and Book XII, 2019 20 watercolour and letterpress on wove paper
The Remains, study for a tapestry, 2019 by Jan Hendrix

See the exhibition

Until 14th March, see the exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

More about the exhibition

Read & watch