What do botanical paintings make you do?
What is your first reaction?
Do you think about the information in the image or do you tilt your head and think, “I wonder how long that took them!”
I suppose it depends on where you’re coming from and your disposition at the time. Let’s pick another example. Let’s pretend the image before you comes from an area of science that has nothing to do with plants.
When you see an image relaying information about a topic you know nothing about, what is your first reaction?
The role images play in science communication is the subject of Eye on Biology by Maura Flannery (1988). In her article, Flannery (1988) discusses the visual aspects of biology and makes a case for incorporating visual experiences in biology to enhance student learning. She cites the work of biologists, psychologists and other scholars who believe that learning in biology requires time for both visual and mental reflection.
When I read Flannery’s article, what resonated with me the most is the notion of “thought styles”. Flannery (1988) writes that biologist Ludwig Fleck, who coined this phrase, agreed with the other scholars that images “influence thought”, but he then went on to say that images also reflect “the ‘thought style’ of the science at that time” (Flannery, 1988).
“Thought style” is a discipline’s way of presenting itself based on the “intellectual mood” (Flannery, 1988) of its members. This notion of “thought styles” made me think of Niki Simpson’s composite illustrations. Could her images be a new “mood” in botanical art?
Flannery (1988) quotes artist, Gyorgy Kepes who, when discussing the latest in imaging technology (c.1956) stated:
This new range of perception will bring us more than factual information, it will bring us new sensory experiences, enriching our vision… helping us to dissipate old ways of seeing by lifting the visual barrier between inside and outside.
Couldn’t the same be said about the “new range of perception” generated by Niki Simpson’s digitally created botanical illustrations?
Many of you read Niki’s interview during this past holiday week, so I thought it a great opportunity to ask…
- What type of sensory experiences do Niki’s images provoke?
- Do they enrich your vision of plants?
- Do they help you understand plants?
- Could the work of Niki Simpson be a new “thought style” in botanical art or is it just photography?
Tell us what you’re thinking.
Flannery, Maura. 1988. Eye on biology. The American Biology Teacher. 50(5): 300-303.