Kew Gardens to host exhibitions exploring Islamic culture

All The Flowers Are For Me and Plants Of The Qur’an will open on April 1 at the botanical gardens in London.

Naomi Clarke
Friday 31 March 2023 11:35 BST
A visitor admires the title piece All The Flowers Are For Me by Anila Quayyum Agha, a large, suspended steel cube casting shadow patterns across the walls, at a preview for All The Flowers Are For Me and Plants Of The Qur’an, two new exhibitions at Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, at Kew Gardens in Richmond, south west London. (Jonathan Brady/PA)
A visitor admires the title piece All The Flowers Are For Me by Anila Quayyum Agha, a large, suspended steel cube casting shadow patterns across the walls, at a preview for All The Flowers Are For Me and Plants Of The Qur’an, two new exhibitions at Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, at Kew Gardens in Richmond, south west London. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Kew Gardens is hosting two spring exhibitions by female artists which reference designs and plants significant in Islamic culture.

All The Flowers Are For Me by Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha and Plants Of The Qur’an by botanical artist Sue Wickison will open on April 1 at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in London.

Agha’s exhibition showcases contemporary steel sculptures including a large light box suspended from the gallery ceiling.

It features patterns inspired by Islamic art and architecture, with designs projected throughout the gallery space as shadows to allow visitors to become a “living, breathing part of the artwork”.

Alongside this will be Stolen Moment Bouquet I and II, which will mark its UK premiere at Kew.

Constructed from mirrored stainless steel, this wall-mounted piece is inspired by Albrecht Durer’s watercolour Great Piece Of Turf, painted in 1503.

Agha said: “As an artist who draws constant inspiration from the beauty, shapes and structures of our precious natural world, I’m delighted to be bringing my work to Kew Gardens for the first time this April.

“Showcasing All The Flowers Are For Me and Stolen Moment Bouquet I and II in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery Of Botanical Art will be a very special experience and is one which I’m really looking forward to sharing with visitors.

“I invite people to take the time to pause and reflect on the themes of the art pieces during their time in the gallery.”

Wickison’s exhibition features 25 new botanical paintings of plants mentioned in the Islamic holy book The Koran (also known as Qur’an).

The collection aims to “highlight the cultural, agricultural, and botanical significance of a variety of species” to allow visitors to “engage with often-everyday plants in new ways, exploring their cultural context alongside their role in modern medicine, as food sources and in gardens around the world”.

Wickison said: “After six years of researching, sourcing and illustrating the many plants which are described in the Koran, it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the culmination of this work with this new exhibition.

“Having worked as a botanical illustrator at Kew Gardens for almost 10 years, I’m really thrilled to be showcasing these new paintings in a place which is very special to me, collaborating with Dr Shahina Ghazanfar on this unique project.”

Maria Devaney, galleries and exhibition leader at RBG Kew, added: “It’s wonderful to be able to welcome these two pioneering artists to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery Of Botanical Art.

“Whist their working styles vary hugely in terms of technique, both share a profound connection to nature, recognising the breadth of inspiration which can be drawn from the world around us.”

All The Flowers Are For Me and Plants Of The Qur’an are on show from Saturday April 1 to Sunday September 17.

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