‘If I had to identify one broad theme in my work, I would say human nature. The human being is at the centre, with his or her relationship to the natural world.’ Zadok Ben-David
Last week, I attended the press view of the Natural Reserve exhibition in Kew Gardens and got swept up in the wonder of nature. Internationally renowned artist Zadok Ben-David has brought his award-winning work to Kew Gardens – a very big deal for both abstract sculptor and Kew Gardens. Centred on themes of tragedy and hope, the exhibition explores the ever-increasing fragility of our natural world and forces us to think about the relationship between humanity and the natural world.
The exhibition includes Ben-David’s exploration of themes linked to human nature and evolution. This is exhibited with a series of animal and human etchings through the evolutionary process in glass boxes along the walls. Some of the boxes with mirrors echo the same theme as the ‘Blackfield’ installation with their black fronts and colourful backs.
The exhibition includes a stunning 360-degree installation, Blackfield, made up of more than 17,000 steel-etched, hand-painted flowers and trees which cover the gallery floor. Depending on which end you look at the installation, one side appears as a black vision of a burnt forest and the other side has a variety of different coloured flowers, each hand-painted and meticulously positioned on a bed of sand. I felt like I was going from Winter to Spring in a few steps. The miniature silhouettes are based on over 900 different species of plants, but look like a field of wildflowers in the country if you step back from it a little.
Conversation Peace is a video installation featuring images of nature taken from the artist’s recent installations of trees, butterflies, insects and flowers and tells a story of how a peaceful land can easily deteriorate into a futile war. While I admired the installation, I later realised that the man next to me was in fact the artist himself who was later interviewed on camera. Being in the same room as the artist himself and observing his most original installations was a unique experience and it will stay with me for some time.
This landmark exhibition offers groundbreaking perspectives on the natural world and is on from 16 Oct 2021 – 27 March 2022 at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
Book tickets here: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/zadok-ben-david-natural-reserve
Reviewed by Julia Nelson who does marketing and operations for Abundant Art.