Grotesque Grotto offers a contemporary response to the 18th century Bristish fern craze, Pteridomania.
The works pair Australian rain forest settings, resplendent with historically prized plant specimens, with the architectural trends and innovations that were designed to transport, cultivate and promote these select plants as they became separated, both physically and symbolically, from their original landscapes and elevated to cult-like status.
The landscapes are painted from Laura’s own photo studies of Tasmanian rainforests, taken between 2015 and 2020, examining the role Australia’s old growth rainforests have involuntarily played within the broader context of worldwide plant trade and the dire need to protect our remnant rainforests which contain some of the oldest and rarest plant specimens in the world.
As the popularity of collecting exotic plants grew in Europe and around the world, fascinatingly innovative developments were made in building design and engineering to permit these plants to grow in such vastly different environments. The frames of these artwork reference the designs of Victorian era glasshouses and Wardian Cases that have gradually become so aesthetically tied to the fern that one could be forgiven for forgetting just how strange it is to see subtropical rainforest plants growing happily in humid glass boxes on a landscape where temperatures drop and ice sets on the ground.
18th century Pteridomania took horticultural and societal trends in peculiar and fanciful directions, encompassing burgeoning interest in the natural world, acceptance of female inclusive outdoor hobbies and a playful extravagance that was in stark contrast to the stillness and rigidity of the gardens and architecture preceding it.
Grotesque Grotto is a modern interpretation of the excitement and madness of the fern craze. Rather than select specimens being taken from their ecosystem to be cultivated within manmade glasshouses, these landscapes and frames exist symbiotically. The intense beauty of these old growth forests is not dimmed by leaving them intact and their protective framing offers glimpses of the intrigue that surrounded their history.
Full Exhibition Images Here