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The Plant Hunter | Denise Allan

The Plant Hunter | Denise Allan

The Plant Hunter is a collection of beautiful fine art reproductions which are museum quality and expertly printed faithfully to the original paintings by Denise Allan. 

Featuring flowers, weeds and vegetables, initial inspiration came from an edition of De Materia Medica, a multi-volume book on herbal medicine illustrated by the Italian artist and botanist Gherardo Cibo (1512–1600) whose herbal illustrations are set against Italian landscapes (below).

Further inspiration came from the botanical works of Marianne North and her astonishing rooms at Kew, dedicated entirely to North’s work. The framing of Denise’s paintings has also been inspired by these rooms, where the frames are placed close to each other so they almost become a room of panels, creating a kind of church to botany.

(More than 800 remarkable paintings cover the walls of the Marianne North Gallery at Kew)

The plant subjects for Denise Allan’s new collection can be found amongst the wild flora of the Levens Estuary and on the shores of Morecambe Bay. It is part of an ongoing exploration of the flora and fauna found within the landscape surrounding the artist’s home and studio.

On daily walks she collects sketches of sea holly, wild plantain, briar rose and sea pinks, along with specimens that have found their way out of the gardens that edge the shore, such as Chinese foxglove, snowdrops, a lone tulip and a self-seeded kale.

Back in the studio, these sketches of humble flowers are elevated to monumental sculptures set against stormy landscapes with their roots planted into earth. The scale of the specimens places the viewer at an insect’s-eye-view, looking up in awe at these structures.

The works contain astonishing detail; look closely at the bulb of the narcissus or its peeling dried paper-like spathe - it almost crunches.

Any of us who garden, or look closely at plants, will share the artist’s appreciation in the beauty of something as simple as a bolted kale. In Bolted Kale (below) there is a quiet grandeur, a regal column of beautifully painted curled leaves, crowned with a spray of yellow brassica flowers and black seed pods.

Whilst many of the landscapes brood with the promise of an oncoming storm, others such as Sea Holly (below) contain a fresh luminosity. As always, Denise manages to create a tangible atmosphere within her work, as shown in Sea Holly where it feels as though the sun has just appeared after the rain, with a warm mist rising.

Given that the weight and presence of these specimens are as tactile as a three-dimensional object, it is no surprise that Denise Allan studied sculpture as well as painting for her BA Hons. in Fine Art.

Often working with installations within the landscape, her early work was a form of Land Art, but increasingly, over the years, she enjoys bringing her work back into the studio. This interplay between interior and exterior, bringing the outside inside, means that the sense of being situated in the landscape always remains, and is a fascinating development from her early works.




  • Post author
    Caitlin Daw