Best Bogus Botanical Garden


24 March - 13 April 2017
Heliumcowboy, Bäckerbreitergang 75, 20355 Hamburg, Germany 

‘The Best Bogus Botanical Garden’ is a group exhibition curated by emerging London-based curators Rosie Jenkins, Eline Verstegen and Chiara Villa, postgraduates from the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design and Whitechapel Gallery, featuring works by Hamburg and international artists who explore humans’ engagement with nature.

“Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, ‘Greenery’ symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.”

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute describes here the meaning of 15-0343, better known as “Greenery”, or also Pantone’s colour of the year 2017. Arguably, their choice is not a surprising one, given that almost daily articles are published that relate to a heavily promoted nearly biophilic lifestyle. These articles might be seen in response to the growing awareness of our burgeoning disconnection from nature. Our “urban-induced alienation”, fostered by a massive digitization and a sound understanding of ecological challenges, has led to an idealisation of the natural world as a place soon to be lost where one can find refuge from daily distresses and rediscover one’s self and place in the world.

Although nature has been considered the preeminent bourgeois escapist cure since centuries, the “back-to-nature revival” in contemporary popular culture is remarkable. The exhibition The Best Bogus Botanical Garden then aims to foreground art practices that explore this shifting relationship humans have with nature. More specifically, the participating artists Giovanni Castell (GER), Lisa Creagh (UK), Sakir Gökçebag (TUR), Janaina Mello Landini (BRA), Liz Orton (UK), Jens Rausch (GER), Maren Simon (GER), Katie Spragg (UK), and Sadie Weis (USA) simulate the very nature we have become distanced from, either by manipulating organic elements in new forms, or by inventing their own materials. To further enhance the illusory character of the works of art, the exhibition is designed to be a fully immersive environment.

The Best Bogus Botanical Garden will transformed the white cube gallery space into a botanical garden, completely artificial, or bogus, in the sense that it will not contain any living organism: either its elements will be artworks, or they will be fake decor pieces. By devising the exhibition design as such, the curators are aware they are placing themselves on the slippery slope of creating something. However, they do not even pretend to act as artists. They realize they have chosen a definitely idiosyncratic approach to the exhibition, believing that this bold stage-setting and play with modes of display will not only provoke discussions about the undermining of the artist’s and/or curator’s position, but will also provide a unique way of looking at the artworks. In this sense they wish to evoke, through the staging of a fictional environment, the embodied atmosphere (in Gernot Böhme’s interpretation of the concept) of a botanical garden, whilst at the same time they are aware of and playing with the notion of the construction itself.

Participating artists: Giovanni Castell (GER), Lisa Creagh (UK), Sakir Gökçebag (TUR), Janaina Mello Landini (BRA), Liz Orton (UK), Jens Rausch (GER), Maren Simon (GER), Katie Spragg (UK), and Sadie Weis (USA).
In uenced by digitization, urbanism and ecological awareness, human ways of relating to the natural environment have changed significantly throughout recent years. As a response to this condition a vast amount of contemporary artists have started to investigate this changing relationship by simulating the very nature we have become disconnected from. The Best Bogus Botanical Garden then aims to look at art practices that seem to recreate nature, either by manipulating organic elements in new forms, or by inventing their own materials. To further enhance the illusion of the simulacra, the exhibition takes the experimental form of an immersive environment, literally transforming the white cube gallery space into an artificial botanical garden.

The use of virtual means to recreate nature is a common feature among Hamburg-based artist Giovanni Castell and London-based artists Lisa Creagh and Liz Orton. Similar to Giovanni Castell’s ‘In Lucem Edere’ series, where he grows entirely artificial ecosystems through the use of virtual programs, are Lisa Creagh’s works from ‘The Instant Garden’. The use of digital imaging allows the artist to transform mundane photographs of industrially grown flowers into intricate oral patterns that are reminiscent of ancient Persian rugs. A less visible display of digital manipulation characterises Liz Orton’s photographic series ‘Splitters and Lumpers’. Still, the digital isolation of the cross-section shots of the archives at Kew Gardens’ Herbarium, plays a central role in underlining the interconnection between systematic knowledge and natural growth.

The inventiveness to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary is taken to the extreme in the installation art of Turkish-born but Hamburg-based artist Sakir Gökçebag and Brazilian artist Janaina Mello Landini. While Gökçebag gives common objects a new existence by combining and rearranging different materials, Landini reproduces nature’s organic shapes through the manipulation of strings, threads and ropes. Gökçebag’s ‘Untitled’ by undermining the intrinsic identity of the buckets as containers, shows an unexpected af nity to Landini’s ‘Ciclotrama’, where the precarious position of the hanging ropes emulates the eeting state of our environment.

Remaining faithful to traditional media, German-born artists Jens Rausch and Maren Simon and London- based artist Katie Spragg do not refrain to offer unexpected twists in the execution of their works. As an attempt to reach “the forest within us”, Rausch uses experimental compositions and techniques to produce oil paintings that express a more intimate approach with the materiality of the canvas. This interest in materiality is particularly tangible in Simon’s ‘Findings’ series, where the addition of granulated salt on the works’ painted surface is complemented by the quasi-performative act of tracing, tracking and marking the sheet of paper with ink and acrylic. While using a more naturalistic approach, Spragg’s reinvention of the ceramic medium is comparable to previous explorative practices. Playing with our own idealized image of the wilderness, the artist’s sculptures from the series ‘Turfs’ represent a crystallized nature emerging from human memory and fantasies of alternative ecosystems.

The fascination with natural elements is exacerbated in the work of Berlin-based artist Sadie Weis, who uses nature’s own means as the starting point of her practice. Through submerging plants, owers and geodes in an unique mixture of water and chemicals, Weis creates intricate sculptures that explore organic processes of natural growth and decay. The works included in this exhibition are prime examples of the artist’s exploration into the fragility and ephemerality of natural organisms.

For more detailed information about the artists, curators, and venue, please visit the website.

Exhibition: The Best Bogus Botanical Garden
Dates: 24 March – 13 April 2017

About the gallery:

Heliumcowboy is an established commercial gallery, founded in 2002 by owner and artist Jörg Heikhaus. The gallery's aim has been to support contemporary artists, and it has built up a strong reputation in pioneering urban art, showing Boris Hoppek and Victor Castillo amongst others. However, disregarding traditional art boundaries and exhibition conventions are crucial aspects of its programme, and have made it one of the most edgy galleries in Hamburg.


Rosie Jenkins
(b. 1991, Oxford) is a London-based artist and curator. She received her BA (Hons) in Photography from Falmouth University and has since been developing work. She has gained professional experience working at Smiths Row (Bury St Edmunds), Fix Photo Festival (London) and Lacey Contemporary (London). She is currently working on a collaborative cinematic project. Last year, she co- curated the exhibition “Concrete Matters”, at Bank Space Gallery (London).

Eline Verstegen (b. 1991, Antwerp) is a London-based curator. She received her MA in History (University of Antwerp) and was a successful graduate of Sotheby’s Institute of Art summer school “Contemporary Art in London”. She gained professional experience working at the Rubenianum (Antwerp), Artefact Festival (Leuven), The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice), and HORST (Leuven). She is currently involved with the visual arts magazine Tique | art paper. Last year, she co-curated the exhibition “Concrete Matters”, at Bank Space Gallery (London).

Chiara Villa (b. 1994, Rome) is a London-based artist and curator. She received her BA in History of Art from UCL and she gained further academic knowledge by attending summer and evening courses on contemporary art and the art market at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. She has gained professional experience working at Sprovieri Gallery (London), Ronchini Gallery (London), and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice). She is currently working on her art production. Last year, she co-curated the exhibition “Concrete Matters”, at Bank Space Gallery (London).


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© Lisa Creagh 2019