Judith Van Heeren’s new exhibition of natural history paintings, Sea Garden, is at Murray White Room in Melbourne’s CBD until May 5 .
Sea Garden was partly inspired by the 1769 painting Sea Plumes, Lithophytes and Shells by Anne Vallayer-Coster in the Louvre.
“The painting is just so exquisitely painted and full of mystery and intrigue. At that time I imagined the oceans as being unbelievably alive, and that image just stayed with me,” Van Heeren said in an artist’s statement.
“What this painting has is a jewel-like preciousness so I wanted these new paintings to embody that preciousness, being like encrusted jewels.”
The Dutch-born Van Heeren’s work continues her paintings of the natural world and the way it is represented, but this show specifically draws on time the artist spent diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
“I wanted to paint the beauty and also the fragility of this part of the world – these sea gardens under the surface of the ocean – that the majority of people have never seen and maybe never will see. I wanted to paint it in all its glory but also to capture it as fraught with tension,” says Van Heeren.
“By giving this subject my time, giving it my sensitivity, I want to make it enticing and beautiful. When you paint something, rather than rendering it on a digital screen, it takes a long time. I wanted to imbue these works with a sense of that mysterious process.”