Family: Rosaceae. (Rubus parviflorus) Thimbleberry 40x30 C-print $4200. Laara Cermen

Family: Rosaceae. (Rubus parviflorus) Thimbleberry 40x30 C-print $4200. Laara Cermen

Two artists, two very different views of nature

The Smithers Art Gallery is currently exhibiting a unique collection by a Lower Mainland artist, who has creating a digital herbarium of the lifecycle of British Columbian wild plant species.

“This body of work is a modern interpretation of the millenia-old art of botanical image-making,” says Laara Cermen.

Traditionally herbariums were collections of plant specimens in their various stages of lifecyle, dried and mounted on paper for scientific study.

Cermen is capturing her collection using a regular flatbed office scanner, which gives the images a bold presentation.

“The images have an extremely narrow depth of field and low luminosity, making the subject appear to be floating in a black void of space, creating a feeling akin to a memento mori,” a statement accompanying the exhibition reads.

In her artist’s statement Cermen pays tribute to traditional Indigenous knowledge and laments the loss of that in modern society.

“These hyper-detailed, macro photographs of common British Columbia wild flora are my attempt to reconcile my disconnection from the natural world around me and to learn about the environment that I live in,” she said.

The exhibition, entitled “Flora’s Song,” also explores the interesection of science and art. This is achieved in a number of ways, but most intriguingly in piece of music (“Flora’s Song No. 1 in C Major”) composed from a DNA sequence of two invasive plant species, creeping buttercup and brown knapweed.

The artist even built a music box that plays the composition when a visitor to the gallery gently cranks the handle.

Accompanying Cermen in the gallery this month is Maryanne Wettlaufer, an artist who paints stylized landscapes of Haida Gwaii inspired by “both the raw and wild landscape as well as the Haida people who continue to live connected to the land.”

The paintings in her exhibition “Neighbor’s by Nature” in the mini-gallery are unmistakable as landscapes, but with a colourful and dynamic flair.

“In my art I push beyond the representational depiction of a scene to include a glimpse of the energy in the emotion of my connection to a place,” she says in her artist statement.

The two exhibitions continue until May 7.

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