Botanicals by design

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The Arts NSW / NAVA Artists’ Grant Program assists Bathurst visual artist Kim Bagot-Hiller to present a new botanical inspired exhibition the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

The ‘Point of Difference’ exhibition opens in April and features around 30 artworks of plants and flowers – focussing on grevilleas, hakeas and eucalypts. The works draw on plants in the Burrendong Botanic Garden and Arboretum near Wellington NSW where Kim has been artist in residence since last year.

Kim is assisted in presenting this exhibition through a newly won grant from Arts NSW and National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), one of just ten such grants awarded last week across the state.

The exhibition brings together Kim Bagot-Hiller’s background as an environmental scientist with her new career as a visual artist. Even as a science student (she studied Environmental Science then Spatial Information Systems at university) she admits she spent most of her time in botany drawing the plants: “Instead of photocopying diagrams I drew them. I spent 98% of my time drawing and I loved drawing from the microscope,” Kim said. “You learn more if you draw it and drawing was a learning mechanism for me in botany.”

Around 12 years ago she took up art seriously. “I jumped in at the deep end at a Mitchell Summer School with [botanical artist] Barbara Duckworth… I ended up drawing a pineapple lily,” Kim Bagot-Hiller recalls. In 2014 she studied a Diploma of Visual Arts at TAFE in Orange with tutors Heather Vallance, Bridgit Thompson and acclaimed Australian printmaker Tim Winters. She also took a master class at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney in botanic drawing.

Kim Bagot-Hiller now specialises in printmaking and illustrative techniques. This, she says allows her to cross the boundaries of art and science. She says she loves printmaking because “there is still quite a sciencey aspect to it.” The work is not “pure botanical illustration”, instead the prints take a more free-flowing form.

Artworks for Kim’s National Botanic Gardens exhibition are made in drypoint etching on Perspex and aluminium copper sulphate aquatint (which looks like watercolour paint when finished).  Kim has been experimenting with a combination of both techniques along with graphite rendering and prints onto speciality papers, sometimes handmade.  She begins each work by sketching before the meticulous process of transferring the image to plates and making prints. The aluminium plates can take up to 14 hours each to produce (the Perspex plates take up to 12 hours).

Kim has previously exhibited at Grenfell Art Gallery (2016) and Rosebank Gallery and Guesthouse Millthorpe (2016). She’ll exhibit in Atherton (Queensland) in September 2017 and at Wellington (NSW) Springfest in 2017.  Her current ‘day job’ is at Mayfield Garden, drawing and etching plant images onto stone tiles.

This year Kim returns to university to study a Masters in Creative Practice (through CSU Wagga) where she’ll be looking at the bridge between science and art.

National Botanic Gardens’ Bathurst connection

Canberra’s National Botanic Gardens have their own historical connection to Bathurst. Prime Minister Ben Chifley, a Bathurst local – and coincidently Kim’s grandmother’s uncle – planted one of the first trees at the Gardens (alongside the then director of Kew Gardens in England). The tree itself was not a success – it was later moved and did not survive. A photo of the occasion does survive in the Gardens’ archives.

‘Point of Difference’ can be seen at the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra April 19 – May 21.

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