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Ana Benavides | Beatrice Hasell-McCosh | Edward Hongyi Jia | Holly Mills | Margaret R Thompson | Minyoung Kim \ Yiwei Xu

Presented in collaboration with Matilda Liu

Botanical motifs and mark-making are often closely linked as symbolic languages through which painters make sense of the natural world and explore interconnectedness. By interpreting and understanding naturally occurring patterns, movements, and designs in the universe, artists frequently draw from nature ways to construct their own visual environments and systems of knowledge.

The Voynich Manuscript exemplifies the convergence of these elements in the creation of an original visual and philosophical system. Discovered in 1992 by rare books dealer Wilfred Voynich, the Voynich Manuscript is a 15th-century book comprised of illustrations of imaginary plants, flowers, astrological charts, and an undeciphered text. Despite its beauty, imagination, and intricacy, the manuscript's purpose and translation remain elusive, posing a critical question about the role of all art as individualistic scripts of each and every artists’ personal experience and creative vision. By bridging thought and form, seemingly nonsensical marks and haphazard shapes can develop into new systems of meaning, with an inherent order independent of and irrelevant to external legibility.

As each generation of artists challenges the boundaries of mark-making and imagination, the notion of artists' ownership of their marks and symbols finds concise recognition in art critic Kirk Varnedoe's defense of Cy Twombly:

"One could say that any child could make a drawing like Twombly only in the sense that any fool with a hammer could fragment sculptures as Rodin did, or any house painter could spatter paint as well as Pollock. In none of these cases would it be true. In each case, the art lies not so much in the finesse of the individual mark, but in the orchestration of a previously uncodified set of personal 'rules' about where to act and where not, how far to go and when to stop, in such a way that the cumulative courtship of seeming chaos defines an original, hybrid kind of order, which in turn illuminates a complex sense of human experience not voiced or left marginal in previous art."

Using the Voynich Manuscript and Varnedoe's text as a starting point, this group exhibition brings together seven emerging painters whose practices engage with botanical motifs and mark-making processes to create their own worlds. Titled 'Secret Gardens’, the show examines how each artist, through a unique system of gestural strokes and material alchemy, manifests the connections between the earthly and astral, the inner and the outer, and the natural and the fantastical. Featuring both abstract and figurative approaches, these artists find in their individual embrace of chaos and botanical imagination an original form of order—a secret garden to which only they hold the keys.


8 June - 1 July 2023


Beatrice Hasell-McCosh (b.1990, London, UK) Lives and works in London, UK. Beatrice Hasell-McCosh‘s work uses natural form as the lens to explore emotional themes, identity linked to place and human connection. Drawing is vital to her practise and she uses closely observed studies made from life to make large- scale paintings back in her studio. Beatrice works as much from memory as from the studies and, in playing with scale, the focus of importance gives way (from direct figurative representation) to a flattened abstraction of those shapes with aesthetic choices relating to composition, texture and gestural use of colour taking on the primary importance. With a degree in English and Classics reading widely around a subject is central to her practise. The titles of each large work cite the disparate elements of this research from literature to pop culture, song lyrics, politics and art historical links.

Ana Benavides (b.1996, Monterrey, Mexico) Lives and works in London, UK. Benavides experiments and creating works with emotional, spiritual and energetic intensity. “Being born and raised in Mexico, biodiversity has been part of my life. I am deeply inspired by nature and I am constantly translating the energy and emotion when being in these magical places. My compositions are created through gestural brush marks,using my body, that are intuitively constructed and emotionally charged. I use a free setting process to capture and materialize intensity and feelings I experiment in my daily life. Physical texture is also an important part of my practice, It enables me to evoke primal emotional response and to translate the atmosphere of certain scenes”.

Margaret R. Thompson ( b. 1990, Washington D.C., USA)
Lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thompson earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Visual Arts at Eckerd College with a concentration in Latin American and socio-cultural anthropology. Filtering reality through her own mythology, she weaves synesthetic responses to poetry, explorations of ritual, and a reverence to the natural world into small to large narrative paintings. Her paintings are made of oil, wax, raw pigment, and varied surfaces depict fantastical worlds where the spirit reigns. The subjects in Margarets paintings live between our physical realm and spaces beyond the categories of known experience. Enigmatic beings, like phantoms, protect boxes holding mysteries, transmute potions into Spring, tell stories in a half deity half bird body, and are birthed from shells to the sound of harp music. Elements mingle to make medicine to heal tired hearts. Wild reeds frame scenes alluding to the divine order of nature. Margarets work is a meditation on the mystery and possibilities of our collective life force. Having lived in and constantly in awe of the coastlines of Northern California, the jungle of Mexico’s Yucatan, and the high desert of New Mexico, she makes art that asks us to appreciate the magic of creation. Her paintings have been exhibited in California, Texas, New Mexico, London, Scotland, and Tel Aviv, with forthcoming shows in Montreal, London, Greece, New York, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Minyoung Kim (b. 1989, Seoul, South Korea). Lives and works in London, UK. Minyoung Kim works on unstretched canvas and is often dazzled by dreamlike images, ideals and anthropomorphic tendencies portrayed in social media, movies and animations. In particular, how many are underpinned or inspired by oral or written language such as myths, folktales, fairy tales, and poetry. Rather than presenting an obvious story, Kim’s works often depict scenes of suspended magic realism, with layers of symbols, mythical references, and jokes By pairing fairy-tale characters with suggestions of uncertainty or violence, Kim presents what she calls a “creepy-cute’ atmosphere, challenging the viewer to discover hidden meanings behind coded images.

Edward Hongyi Jia (b. 1996, Shandong, China) Lives and works in London, UK. Edward Hongyi Jia’s practice revolve around three directions: his personal life experience, the individual and collective and the relationship between nature and artificialness. From his time as a professional Discus breeder
back home in China, Edward became fascinated with the idea of ornamental fishes as a product of human selective breeding for purely aesthetic reasons as an exemplification of the dichotomy of natural/artificialness. These fishes who have lost their survival abilities in the wildness, transformed into mere recreational and aesthetic purposed products, could only survive in artificial environments. The inclusion of geometrical structures within his canvases is a signifier of the fish tanks and water circulation systems. Here, the contrast between artificialness and the natural landscape is depicted, resembling not only the inherent properties of aquariums but also a certain degree of the disillusionment he feels towards his past.

Holly Mills (b. 1990, London, UK) Lives and works in London. Holly Mills creates tactile mixed-media paintings and drawings that viscerally explore both memory and text. Repeated motifs form part of an alt-language that evokes both the physical and emotional experience of place. Often working with pressed flowers, glue, and natural resin, experimentation with various material transformations is central to Mill’s practice.

Yiwei Xu (b.1990, Jiangsu, China). Live and works in London, UK . After finishing the Drawing Year at Royal Drawing School in 2021, Yiwei started her practice journey from doing observational drawings with mixed-media. Her artworks are rooted from natural forms which she finds in city gardens, river sides, canals, lakes and community green fields - places where people can escape easily from the hustle and bustle.
Yiwei has two studios, one of them is the outdoors. Getting outside is very healing and triggers other sensations like hearing, touching, smelling, sense of time and space, etc. She enjoys the process of her mindset being connected and reformed by these conditions. She admires and appreciates the unsettling nature, and celebrates the non-stop variation and movements which constantly show off the energy of life by breaking and reshaping. The concept of breaking and reshaping gives the artist an open-mind and affects the way of making artworks. The honest and genuine respect for what Yiwei sees, feels and imagines has been linked up and translated as an imagery of abstraction, which allows a freedom of breaking rules and lets the answer open between likeness and inscrutability.

Ana Benavides | Beatrice Hasell-McCosh | Edward Hongyi Jia | Holly Mills | Margaret R Thompson | Minyoung Kim \ Yiwei Xu
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