The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree

The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree

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Eileen Agar / Anni Albers / Josef Albers / Gemma Anderson with Wakefield / Lab and John Dupré / Anna Atkins / Jordan Belson / Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater / Forrest Bess / Karl Blossfeldt / Carol Bove / Kerstin Brätsch / Andrea Büttner / Adam Chodzko / Ithell Colquhoun / Bruce Conner / Das Institut / Mirtha Dermisache / Minnie Evans / Cerith Wyn Evans / Charles Filiger / Giorgio Griffa / Brion Gysin / Ernst Haeckel / Anna Haskel / Friedrich Wilhelm Heine / Tamara Henderson / Channa Horwitz / Textiles by artisans from the Huni Kuin (Kaxinawa) people / Carl Gustav Jung / Hilma af Klint / Joachim Koester / Rachid Koraïchi / Josef Kotzian / Emma Kunz / Yves Laloy / Ghislaine Leung / Linder / Simon Ling / André Masson / John McCracken / Henri Michaux / Matt Mullican / Wolfgang Paalen / Paul Păun / Steve Reinke and James Richards / Edith Rimmington / Daniel Rios Rodriguez / Textiles by artisans from the Shipibo-Conibo people / Penny Slinger / F. Percy Smith / Janet Sobel / Philip Taaffe / Fred Tomaselli / Delfina Muñoz de Toro / Alexander Tovborg / David Tudor / Lee Ufan / Scottie Wilson / Terry Winters / Adolf Wölfli / Anna Zemánková / Henriette Zéphir

Curated by Gina Buenfeld and Martin Clark

The Botanical Mind brings together work by over 60 visionary, surrealist, modern, outsider, indigenous Amazonian and contemporary artists to reveal the ongoing significance of the vegetal kingdom to human life, consciousness and spirituality. Spanning more than 500 years and including historical and ethnographic artefacts, textiles and manuscripts, it looks both backwards and forwards, engaging with various cultures and wisdom-traditions to reappraise the importance of plants to life on this planet.

Many of the works in the show reveal an encoded, vegetal intelligence inherent in plant forms – patterns that can be thought of as blueprints for the natural world. These same designs relate to an ancient metaphysics found across civilisations and through time – characterised by the connected principles of the micro- and macro-cosmos, sacred and fractal geometries, as well as the psychoactive visions induced by mind-manifesting (entheogenic) plant medicines.

The Cosmic Tree is a symbol that appears in numerous religions and mythologies, representing a pathway between worlds that is often also marked by the form of the serpent. The mandala is another universally arising motif that connects us to the universe through the image of a plant. Common to Indian, Japanese, Persian, Mesoamerican and European religions, mandalas are amongst the oldest spiritual symbols and act as aids to meditation, enabling transformative states of consciousness through the focus of the mind. Plants not only symbolise this cosmic axis and transformative potential, they embody it at the core of their being – performing a kind of everyday alchemy, transforming light from the sun into a limitless diversity of shapes, colours, forms and patterns.

Many indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest have co-existed harmoniously with their environments for thousands of years; through an alliance with the forest itself and a way of life that is grounded in ancestral wisdom traditions and practical knowledge. They have developed a system of sacred geometries imbued with cosmological significance, derived in part from their visions and experience with powerful plant medicines, in particular, Ayahuasca. These ­­­kené (designs) are painted directly onto their bodies or reproduced as textiles or beadwork and the exhibition includes artefacts from the Shipibo-Conibo and the Huni Kuin peoples. Artists from the Yawanawá community, who live in Amazonian Brazil, were due to come to London to create an installation in the galleries specially for the show, and share their traditional music. Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are now unable to travel and are isolating in their village[…]

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1 Response to The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree

  1. A fantastic exhibition!

    Liked by 1 person

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