Diversity and beauty of Chile is celebrated in remarkable new art exhibition

A selection of 50 specially-commissioned unique watercolour paintings shows the remarkable beauty and diversity of plants native to Chile in a new exhibition at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). On view at the John Hope Gateway from Saturday, October 10, the paintings also attest to the skill of three award-winning artists from Turkey - Gülnur Ekşi, Işık Güner and Hülya Korkmaz - and highlight the important research and conservation work undertaken by RBGE.

The paintings - commissioned for the decade-long RBGE project Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile - provide a taste of the richness of Chile’s forested habitats. Some of the most iconic and important woodlands and temperate forests in the world, these areas are under great environmental pressure.  The exhibition provides an explanation about why organisations such as RBGE are fighting against time to conserve these natural resources and protect the services they provide for the survival of humankind.

The stunning, award-winning, artworks range from iconic Chilean species such as the monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) to less well known gems, including the southern beech tree (Nothofagus alessandrii). True to the discipline of botanical art, each painting accurately depicts dissections of flowers and fruits and together the collection makes an important contribution to the legacy of botanical illustration in Chile.  

The exhibition will be accompanied by a film narrating the story of the10-year project that brought together an international band of illustrators and authors and culminated in a ground-breaking publication drawing on decades of experience working with Chilean plants to construct a succinct, non-technical, text providing details relating to distribution, habitat, conservation, cultivation and ethnobotanical uses of these species.

Martin Gardner, who heads-up the RBGE-based International Conifer Conservation Programme has worked in Chile for 30 years explained: “This exhibition - and the extended collection of paintings in the accompanying book - represents the labour and observations of three highly-talented artists who have painstakingly and accurately recorded the most minute details to bring alive the beautiful plant life from an intriguing and fascinating part of the world.

“It provides a fantastic opportunity for our visitors to see the links between botanical art, science, horticulture and education – four disciplines for which the 345-year-old institution is world-renowned”.

Speaking on behalf of the artists, Gülnur Ekşi added:  “For all the artists from Turkey, who have been involved in this unique project, it has given us an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate our painting skills with an inspiring group of plants from a remarkable part of the world”.

Outlining the importance of the exhibition, RBGE Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE added: “This is the most exciting botanical art project undertaken by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in decades. Behind these magnificent water colours is the extensive programme of field work undertaken in collaboration with our Chilean colleagues, underpinning conservation work on the endangered flora of this beautiful part of the world”.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)